I was in a relationship for many years where whenever I asked for any assistance, albeit with finances, chores, or emotional support, I was told that I was abusive and a burden and responsible for causing his depression by “being such a bitch.”

I was told that even bringing up the topic of sex or attempting seduction more than once or twice a week was sexual coercion and attempted rape and that I was guilty of repeated habitual sexual assault by baring my breasts unprompted or touching him without invitation to do so – despite the fact that he would often initiate encounters by touching me without asking (which I’ll admit I didn’t mind as we were together for quite some time, 10 years all told). Still by his words, I was guilty of sexual abuse.

As a survivor of childhood and adolescent abuse, it’s a word I don’t take lightly. When he’d say it, it’d stop me dead in my tracks from doing whatever it was he’d object to, I’d go into crisis mode, cry, apologize, sputter. I feel like the accusations that I was abusing him were used to manipulate me, to avoid whatever it was he didn’t want to do, to give him all the control and me all the guilt for everything that was wrong about our relationship.

And it happened so gradually, built up over the years, that I never knew, not until I entered counseling and relayed my experiences.

I find it futile to try to distill abuse into a formula to obtain a concise snapshot of what all it entails. There are as many forms and patterns of abuse as there are people. Abuse is a process, rather than an exact recipe – much in the same way every cancer is different because it arises from each of us, distinctly virulent, borne of the unique organism that spawned it.

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  1. You want to make a clear distinction between a voluntary D/s relationship that from the outside might be imagined to be ‘abuse’–between that and the actual, genuine abuse you have suffered involuntarily. Have I got your point here?

  2. Hmm… I can see how that follows, and I agree with your statement.

    This essay was actually a comment I left on a friend’s essay on Fetlife. He was attempting to deconstruct abuse by saying that it occurred when a boundary was crossed, and then the individual’s feelings were invalidated when they brought it to the attention of the boundary crosser. While that’s one way in which someone can be mistreated, I didn’t feel it addressed the full spectrum.

    And I started ruminating on his essay – and realized that abuse is very complicated.

    For example, I’m not 100% positive I wasn’t abusing my ex. While it’s very easy for me to listen to friends, my therapist, etc, when they say that it was a false charge for manipulation sake, part of me wonders still. Was I an abusive spouse?

    But then I kind of go back to the cancer analogy – and I know that when there’s a disease present in a relationship, it matters far less whose fault it is and more that you get treatment promptly – and my ex refused to go to therapy with me or go to therapy on his own to deal with his depression.

    So I’m not sure quite what my point was, and you know, that’s probably my least favorite part about me as a writer, blogger, etc – a lot of times, I don’t have a “point.” I don’t know quite what I want to say – I just say something that feels true.

  3. Oh, hell, ‘points’ are for English teachers and highly overrated. Essays are meant to be explorations of thought, feeling, and experience, not train rides to some pre-ticketed station.

    I tried to rephrase what you said… because I am, after all, an English teacher!

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