I don’t really know what it says about me, but one of the things that bothered me the most while I was in the midst of an abusive relationship was that everyone assumed I was stupid. Of course my abuser thought I was stupid. He thought I was dumb enough to believe his lies. That I was too dense to understand what kind of situation I was in. Gullible enough to fall for the most obvious attempts at gaslighting. To his mind, there was no other explanation for my staying other than me being mind-numbingly vapid. One of his favorite passive-aggressive insults was “You’re a smart girl, Sash, why don’t you use your brain?” Because, fuck you, that’s why.
As if that weren’t bad enough, he was hardly the only one. My mother never believed I was the sharpest tack. Some of her lies were so glaringly obvious, it was insulting, even at a young age. From the ages of 10 to 13, I watched my father slowly dying and my mother insisted that it was utterly mysterious and no one had any clue what was going on. My father had been ill for my entire life. And thus started my legacy of being assumed to be a moron.
It’s really no wonder that this trend continued into my adult life. G thought I was stupid, and he convinced his friends the same. Once, one of his bandmates brought two girls to my house to have sex with my husband while I was home. As if I would be totally oblivious to the goings-on in my own home. Seriously, what the fuck, man? What. The. Fuck.
The day that I finally lost my shit over this assumption of my unintelligence was, unfortunately, in the grocery store. The girlfriend of one of G’s coworkers cornered me in the frozen food section to inform me that G was using drugs and sleeping around. I wanted to laugh in her face. For Christ’s sake, did she really think I didn’t know? What did she expect me to do, break down sobbing next to the chicken cutlets? Not my style, honey. Not even close. But of course, she wasn’t telling me out of the goodness of her soul, she was telling me because she believed that poor, stupid me couldn’t figure out what was going on without her breaking it down to me. Trust me on this. Someone who cares for your wellbeing doesn’t lay earth-shattering news on you in the middle of Walmart, okay? They at least have the decency to take you for coffee.
It didn’t take me but a moment to recognize her true purpose was to humiliate me, not to save me. And I was pissed. I mean, pissed. I was standing in the grocery store with my then-three-year-old daughter, I couldn’t afford to completely flip out or give any details to this nosy woman. I summoned every ounce of arrogance in my body, looked down my nose at her, and hissed, “Honey, I know exactly what my husband does.” I turned on my heel, and walked away with my head held so high it’s a wonder my neck didn’t snap.
Let me tell you one thing, I’d rather be known as a cold-hearted bitch than a shame-filled little mouse. I was not about to feel ashamed and embarrassed over something that was completely out of my control. Never, in my eight years of that situation, did I ever feel responsible for his bad behavior. I felt responsibility for his safety, at times staying just so I could watch over him so he didn’t cut himself to deep, or go without food. But his cheating, his rage, his drug use? Not my responsibility. No amount of screaming, ultimatums, guilt trips, was ever going to make him stop doing those things, and I knew it. I was never one of those abused women who believed if she could just be perfect, do everything right, keep everything spotless, that everything would be ok. I knew that if I followed all the “rules” he’d just come up with new ones- without telling me- and rage over my inability to follow them.
I never hesitated to admit what was going on in my life, because I had no reason to be ashamed. And I still don’t. And neither does any person who has ever experienced Domestic Violence. You are not stupid. Your reasons for staying aren’t stupid. It’s okay if no one else understands. Brilliant, educated women (and men) sometimes end up in abusive relationships. It’s not because you’re dumb, it’s because your abuser is sick. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel less than for enduring what you have. You have a strength they’ll never know. Own it. Tell your story. I sure as hell am.
I am a survivor of eight years of domestic violence, trying to find my voice through writing in the hopes that my story may help someone else. For now, I’m publishing my memoirs as stand-alone stories. If this post resonated with you, please give it a 💚 so that others may have the chance to see it.