[Warning: article deals with partner abuse]
I wrote this a couple weeks back when the hashtag #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou peaked. I kept this in my draft folder for a while, but now I feel ready to share my experience..
A provocative hashtag emerged across various social media outlets, immediately catching my attention via shared links on my Facebook newsfeed. Created by Zahira Kelly under the handle @bad_dominicana, her hashtag #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou opens the conversation on emotional abuse. The Office on Women’s Health states that emotional abuse are attempts to scare, isolate, or control you, expanding the definition of partner abuse beyond the physical.
Countless others have expressed their own messages, some which revived unpleasant, scarring memories of my past serious relationship. They’ve inspired me to come forward. Here’s a handful:
#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but he makes you feel guilty for spending time with family and friends instead of with him.
#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but he grabs your phone from you to check your call history and pictures to see if you’ve been going behind his back.
#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but he forbids you from contacting your male friends.
#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but he takes advantage of your kindness to the point where you can’t stop apologizing (as if apologies aren’t common enough in Japanese culture).
#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but he becomes visibly upset when you don’t want to kiss him back… but you do anyway to prevent further conflict.
#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but he manipulates your emotions by yelling at you over the phone one day, yet begging for forgiveness a few days later.
#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but he threatens to run away when you say you want to end the relationship.
#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but he threatens to commit suicide as a tactic to stay with him.
Since I shared the link with my friends with a bit of my commentary last night, I can’t stop thinking about what happened nearly five years ago, and where I’m at now. I’ve come a long way since those darker months in my teenage years.
Around this time five years ago, the red flags started becoming more obvious, much to my obliviousness. I was hanging out with my friend, who I consider my older brother. Like most teenagers in our suburban hometown, we drove up and down the paved streets with stops at Del Taco and Target.
While driving around, I told my friend we should stop by the house of my then-boyfriend “Jake” to wish him good luck for his upcoming AP Biology exam. I was very aware that Jake had told me not to contact him until he was done, but I at least wanted to give him my words of encouragement.
Pretty thoughtful gesture, right? So I called Jake on my speed dial.
He scolded me as soon as he picked up, his shaking voice ringing in my ear: “Didn’t I tell you not to call me until my exam was over?!”
“I just want to stop by and wish you good luck since I’m in the area [near his house]…”
“Can’t you see I’m studying for my exam tomorrow? Why don’t you listen to me?”
I apologized over and over, and immediately pressed the red end-call button. My friend, sitting in the driver’s seat, looked over to me and saw that I was tearing up. He patted my head as a way cheer me up and told me, “What a jerk. You should really break up with him. You deserve better.”
Of course Jake begged me for his forgiveness when I was upset and sad at him for how he treated me days before. Of course I didn’t know any better and gave him another chance. Probably a hundredth chance. My friend that day and so many others expressed their concerns for a while, yet I dismissed it as fights that arise from dating someone for over a year. Even worse, I dismissed my own self-esteem, blaming myself for setting off the volatile, unpredictable rage within my ex. The more I spent time with him, the more I hated myself for not being good enough for him.
None of this is easy to talk about. Unfortunately, this is only one of the many episodes when I was in denial of emotional abuse. I still can’t the words to fully articulate what I experienced back then, how I felt back then, and how I feel now.
I send my love to the people who have experienced intimate partner abuse in their lives.
For those seeking help/support/resources, contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline – available 24/7, no judgment, no fees.