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.