A southern girl in the Pacific Northwest

I could not be more serious when I say that I am posting this link with a trigger warning. It is an essay about domestic violence.

This is not the kind of thing I usually share, but it is so beautifully written, and it illustrates with extraordinary simplicty just how complex violent relationships are, and how hard it is to leave.

It Will Look Like A Sunset by Kelly Sundberg

I have never been a victim of DV, but once, at the end of our relationship, in the midst of a terrible argument, I shoved my then-partner hard enough that she stumbled backward, kocked over the vaccuum cleanier, and fell to the ground. I ran from the house and when I came back hours later, I begged for her forgiveness and promised I would never do anything like that again.

And I never have. I had never before that moment struck someone in anger, and I never have since. I learned about coping skills and tools to manage frustration and anger. I do not harm myself or others, but I will never ever forget that I did that, and it took many many many years of therapy to forgive myself for it. More importantly, I will never forget the look on her face.

We talked about it seriously years later and she said she was not traumatized. “Please don’t torture yourself with this,” she said. “That’s not who you are, it’s not who you were, it was a momentary abberation in the middle of a terrible time. I don’t even think about that – I had forgotten until you brought it up.”

I feel a deep sense of shame even writing about it here. I do not consider myself an abusive person – I didn’t know I had it in me to use physical force against someone I loved. But then, I don’t think abusers think of themselves AS abusers. They believe the person they are beating makes them do it. I didn’t think SBR made me push her down. I reacted to what she was saying in a violent way because I simply could not process what was going on. I don’t know if there’s a difference, at the core.

My mother used corporal punishment on my sister and I, and because of that, I always have taken such care not to let the feeling of helpless rage and frustration grow within me, lest I forget how to vent appropriately. I go to therapy. I write. I read. I run. I stay conscious. I educate myself about mental health & well-being, and I have a vast toolbox of ways in which to cope with tough times. I did not have children, just in case I recycled what I had learned from my own upbringing.

But I read an essay like this, and… while I know at the marrow of my being that I will never use physical force against another person except to defend myself, it makes me sick to know that at one point I did. In the essay, the woman describes that the first time her husband used force against her, he shoved her against a wall. What if I had never gotten help? What if I hadn’t seen that darkness and decided then and there that under no circumstances was that ever coming out again? I wonder if I have a rotten place inside me that if I quit caring would come roaring out to destroy the people I love. I don’t know if that’s possible, and it doesn’t FEEL true, but I wonder all the same.

I like to believe that it was a situation I simply wasn’t equipped to handle in any other way. Now that I have the tools to cope with difficulties, I no longer lash out to hurt when I am hurt. But who knows.

I welcome your comments, but I’m going to screen them, and this entry is filtered.

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