8 Things I Learned About Abusers

So, I’ve been having a really cleansing convo with my BFF today about the abusive relationship I was in many years ago.

I struggle with wanting to say the name of the man who abused, raped, and stalked teenage me. I struggle with the fact that if I open up too much about it all, there is victim-blaming sure to follow. I don’t need that. I’ve hurt enough. I wish our legal system was set up to validate and protect. If it that was true, I’d scream his name from the rooftops.

I have never been able to do anything to protect other girls he might’ve preyed upon. But after all these years, I long to do something.

So this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to tell you the eight things I know about abuse in intimate relationships. I don’t know if this will help anyone. But it has helped me to write it.

A quick note before we dive in. I know that all abusers are male and not males are abusers. I don’t care. I use male pronouns in this piece because most abusers are male and not all men but yes all women. And if you have come here wanting to defend masculinity you are missing the point and this is not for you.

1. Your abuser will devote themselves to you with the intensity of a thousand suns. This person will often present themselves as the answer to every insecurity you’ve ever had. All the things the other boys don’t like about you? He LOVES those things. He buys you gifts that have long backstories about how thoughtful he is and how perfect this item is for you. He wants to be near you all the time and call you and be with you. He thinks of nothing and no one else. He will show up in the rain and stop eating if you don’t call him. You feel like you are worshiped and therefore are so cherished. This is a deceit. You are his quarry and he loves you in the same way Ahab loved that fucking whale. It is his life’s obsession to ensnare you. You are not a person to him. See what happens if you don’t want that gift, and refuse it because it’s too expensive or something you don’t need. See what happens if you want to spend the day with your family or girlfriends and don’t call him to check in three times. He loves who he needs you to be, not who you are. I promise.

2. Your abuser plans way more than you realize. He has targeted you among other potential prey. This comes in the guise of him telling you you’re not like other girls or women he’s met. You’re so incredibly special. And you are, but not in the way he should mean that. He means you’ve got the right constellation of traits that he is the expert at hunting. You’re a gazelle among zebras. And today, he plans to bag himself a gazelle. The things you realize after the fact that you don’t know about him? That’s not by chance. He never wanted you to know. He’s a great secret keeper. And when things do leak, like he’s not the age he said, or that car isn’t actually his, it’s always because he was ‘too scared’ to be truthful because you’re just so good and wonderful and he wanted to be worthy of you. This is horseshit. This is him distracting you from deceit into comforting him. He intends this.

3. Your abuser can’t live without you. He will stop eating or threaten suicide or display depressive traits when you begin to distance. When this doesn’t work, he will resort to threats and intimidation. And he will remind you that he was the only one who ever saw you as lovable or special. Good luck finding anyone else to love shitty garbage pile you. Now he’s the special one. And you would be a fool to let him get away. There is no life or love without him. But he doesn’t love you. He just doesn’t like to lose.

4. Your abuser believes that they are somehow exceptional. They are better than everyone else in some way. They have better tastes, they are smarter, they are outside the rules in one or more areas. They’re a maverick. And they’ve chosen you, so now you’re exceptional as their chosen partner. What an honor. They will also never see their behavior as abusive. As an exceptional being they are used to being misunderstood by everyone. In the end, if you reject them and name them for what they are, they will be disgusted with how mundane you turned out to be.

5. Your abuser will push boundaries early. From the first meeting or date, you will notice something. Often it’s something really small. They overstep a boundary, maybe even a small social boundary. For some people this is a mere gaffe. For this person it is the beginning of everything. They are the last to leave the party at your place despite you yawning and saying you need to go to bed. They ignore social cues and press their agenda. They’re not in love at first sight. They’re not awkward. They’re testing you.

6. Your abuser hates your friends and family. But only because they don’t get him or want to rob you of this amazing love with which he’s showered you. He will drive a wedge between you by alternating being angry/jealous to playing the victim of your loved ones’ supposedly unwarranted concern (and eventual hostility). This is not jealousy on his part, or an inability to share. This is a calculated move. He is a hunter and he is separating you from your pack.

7. Because your abuser hates to lose, they will do all in their power to destroy you when it’s over. If it’s clear he cannot win this time, he will try everything he can to take something away from this hunt. Even if it’s just your self-esteem and dignity. He cannot walk away empty-handed. He will say every vile thing you’ve ever been afraid might be true about yourself. He is a worm-tongue. Do not believe what he says.

8. Your abuser is unlikely to face repercussions for his predation. This is not your responsibility. Pursuing justice for yourself must be weighed against broken systems that enable these predators in the first place. The system that made him is usually unable to mete out justice for his crimes. This will likely make you angry. Use that anger to fuel your survival, which is a radical and defiant act. Do not allow him to dominate the narrative you make of this part of your life. Your story is something no one can take from you. Not even the most skilled hunter.

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