I was driving home from a blog event the other day when I heard a segment on the radio about domestic abuse. I’m a domestic abuse survivor, so it is a topic that is very close to my heart and one that I feel is important to bring to the forefront of conversation. Listening to the segment made me think about how the people who have gone through abuse are often portrayed as victims, but I’m not a domestic abuse victim. I’m a survivor and survivors are strong. So this is a letter of thanks to my abuser, because without you I would not have become strong.
I was raised by strong women who believe women should be equal to their male counterparts in all aspects, socially, academically, economically and politically. They don’t agree with men being given a different set of rules because they were born with different body parts to them. I was taught to express myself freely, to educate myself, choose a life I wanted and be the best at that life as I could be, whether that be as a homemaker, on the corporate ladder or both. I was taught that I am equal.
You didn’t like that I put myself as your equal though and you had to beat me down until I was merely a shell of who I had been. You lost your temper because my friend had sent me a text asking if I wanted to join her in a local bar and I agreed without running it by you first. You stripped me of my clothes and threw me into the street in my underwear to shame me. To make me feel uncomfortable in my own skin, until you deemed I was punished enough and allowed me to get dressed.
You smashed my friend’s car and left me with bruises because he had given me a lift to your friend’s wedding. You didn’t seem to care that he had actually just begun a relationship with another of my close friends and wanted some advice from me about her favourite flower before their first big date. All you saw was a woman questioning your male dominance and your claim to me. How very archaic of you.
You made me question my intelligence and belittled my successes. You laughed as my unconditional university offers rolled in… all five of them. You told me how naïve it was that I could attend an established and highly ranked university. You felt the idea of me becoming more educated than you weakened your position, so you took it upon yourself to tell me how I would fail and never hold a degree.
You made me feel ashamed for approaching relationships in the same way so many men do, as you do. You called me a ‘slut’, a ‘whore’ a ‘tramp’ for engaging in casual relationships prior to meeting you, because the thought of a woman holding power of her own body without fear of judgement baffled you. All the while you felt it acceptable for you – a man – to do the same, not only prior to meeting me, but also during the course of our relationship. You deemed that acceptable because you believe men to be the more dominant and powerful gender. How very archaic of you.
But as a woman grown. As a survivor of your torment and abuse, I see how much I terrified you. A woman nearly 10 years your junior pushing for a social agenda that saw equality among the sexes, that threatened your dominance, your very place in this world. How very dare I.
How dare I be ambitious enough to work through the education system, allowing myself to become far more educated than you. How dare I allow myself friendships with the opposite sex and be valued enough to be included in their discussions and have my opinion taken into account. How dare I be confident and powerful enough within myself to declare autonomy of my own body and engage in casual relationships without fear of social oppression which would declare me ‘unmarriable’. How dare I do the same as you, a man! How dare I, a woman put myself as your equal and not your inferior. How dare I!
But despite your best efforts to beat me down, put me in what you deemed as ‘my place’. Despite your best efforts to shatter my self belief, my self esteem and lower my self worth. I wanted to thank you, because you in all your insecure weakness made me stronger. Oh not at first of course, at first I was merely a shell of who I had been, but over time I healed. Over time I rebuilt myself, who I was and what I stood for. Because of you beating me down both physically and emotionally, I began to see how many double standards there are in regards to women in our society. Because of you I began to see the unfairness of how women are treated. Because of you I became a feminist. Because of you, I will make sure my sons never become like you. Because of you I will make sure if I am ever graced with daughters they will know they are equal to their male counterparts and not their inferior. Because of you I worked harder and made certain I graduated from university holding a degree. Because of you I made sure that in every relationship I have found myself in since you, I have been seen as equal. Because of you… I became strong.