I found nothing in my abuser. Now in myself I’m finding a voice.

By ZUBIA HASAN | September 20, 2018

When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. (22)

I don't know how to write this. I have been wanting to write it for a very long time, but there's always something wrong with the words that flow – at some point it was that I wasn't ready – still too close to the problem to write about it. Then, I was too emotional, too unstable. And at every point there was something or the other that prevented me from writing.

But really, I think the reason I have not written about this is because I am afraid. I am afraid that if I write about emotional abuse I will once again portray myself as a victim – something I have wanted to run away from all my life. But I guess the truth is I am a victim – but I am not weak, I am not vulnerable. 

I am a victim but I am also a survivor. I am a victim but I am not to be pitied because pity is disempowering, pity takes away the complexity of my identity. I am a victim but that is not all I am – I am an activist, I am a writer, I am strong and I am in control. I am a woman who was abused, but I am also a woman with a voice and I will raise it higher than his screams for control and power.

The day I sat in the same room as the person who emotionally abused me for a year, I learned a thing or two.

I learned that wounds don't disappear, they heal but sometimes they bleed. They form an itchy scab and sometimes things like being in the same room as the person who emotionally abused me makes me scratch it a little. Just a little, but it’s enough to remind me of the pain that once was and enough to be grateful that its not there anymore.

I learned that his smile never left his face, his lips never stopped moving, his teeth never stopped showing. He was completely okay. I learnt that his eyes were as unremorseful as ever. I saw it – the beady glare behind the horn-rimmed glasses adamant to say no no no. to shame me, to take away my experience, to silence myself  and my voice.

I learned that I’m not going to get over the anger or the hurt. I learnt that my first instinct was to stand up and yell. It was to expose him. It was to scream and shout and tell him all that he had done. It was to ask him to confess his sins. It was to force him to apologize. As if it could mean anything. As if responsibility would do anything. I don't know what punishment I wanted, I don't know what punishment would suffice, I don't know what suffering would have been enough, but at the very least I wanted him to suffer the way I suffered.

I learned that closure has different meanings for different people. For me closure was accepting how he had trapped me, how insidiously he had played the game. For me closure was admitting to myself that the abuse had, after all, happened – that it wasn't my fault. It was acknowledging that he would never accept responsibility, he would never apologize. But that’s okay. I am not looking at him for healing. He cannot smooth over the cracks he caused.

I learned that darkness never really looks dark in the first place. For some people he will still be the friend they laughed with, the friend who bought them food, the friend who slept over that one time, the friend who liked that particular music. And if that person is a friend then he is an individual with far more complexities than one brush wielded by one girl can paint wholly black. 

For them their friend cannot perpetrate abuse because they have never witnessed it themselves. If I could extract evidence from my thoughts and memories, if I could lay them down on the ground, if I could paint the world with my mind, if I could show them somehow that I’m not lying, I would do so. 

But I can’t, and so I have to accept that I have nothing to show those who don’t believe me. I also have to accept that their belief or lack thereof does not define me or my story. My truth will be my truth and I will stick to it.

I learned that as a society we treat emotional abuse as something that straddles the grey line between okay and not okay. Calling your girlfriend a slut is not okay, but making her feel guilty for your mistakes is just a personality flaw. Slapping her is definitely not okay – but making her feel worthless is. Yelling slurs at her is not okay – but telling her you’ll leave if she ever fights with you about something that’s wrong is fine. Silencing her is okay. Manipulating her is okay. Taking her voice and her control is all okay.

All okay. So why do I remember the time during our relationship as one of the darkest times of my life? Why do I remember waking up in the middle of the night crying? Why do I remember wanting to end it but being unable to do so, because he was good that one time and that should make up for all the times he wasn’t? Why do I remember being scared of him? Why do I remember him having this power over me? Why do I remember feeling trapped? Why?

Am I crazy? Am I wrong? Are my emotions false?

I learned a lot of things being in the same room as my abuser.

But the thing I learned most of all is this: abuse has a way of changing reality so that you believe that it’s your fault. Abusive people have a way of distorting perception so that it is your fault.

I’m sorry. I wanted this to be beautiful and poetic and touching. But there's nothing poetic about pain. There's nothing beautiful about abuse. There’s just a perpetual rawness and an anger that plagues you. I refuse to be a damsel in distress because while I may be in distress, I will never be a fucking damsel.

I am a goddamn knight. I am shielded in an armour of woman steel. And I will fight for myself and for others wronged by a man till my very last breath. My pen will be my sword and my ink will be fuel because I will write, and I will write and I will write.

I looked at my abuser hoping to learn a thing or two, but I found nothing. I'm looking at myself now, and I’m finding so much. I'm going to embrace this anger and this rawness. I may not ever find justice for myself, but I’m finding a voice. And I’m going to raise it so so high.

No more hiding. No more fear. Because never another battered woman. Never another battered woman. Never another battered woman.

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