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It Could Happen to You

woman being verbally abused

This started out as a comment on someone’s FB post, but I felt it deserved its own place on my blog.

Abusers don’t look like abusers when we meet them. They are charming, caring, attentive, and literally disarming. Until you’re in deep with them. Until the cost of getting out is high and damn near impossible.

Many of us who’ve been abused by a partner swore we would never be a victim of abuse. We’re smart. We’re educated. We’re socially aware. It would never happen to us.

And then it did. As with the boiled frog, the danger and warning signs were subtle. Because we are kind. Because we are forgiving. And then we began to question ourselves and double-guess our judgements. He played on our emotions, our fears, our insecurities. But so subtly it didn’t set off our radar.

And then it got ugly. And we though it was our fault. We thought we deserved it. If we had only done this better. Why didn’t I think to do that? If we just got our shit together, he’d treat us better. And we had already isolated ourselves from friends, from family, from resources. We were trapped.

After I came out as trans around 1990 in Conyers, GA, I lost everything. My family, my friends, my marriage, my church, my home. All of society wanted to crush me and kill me. And then this man, this self-proclaimed trans ally, this charming, kind man offered me love, treated me like a human being, and offered me a home. And I said yes. And the trap snapped shut.

I survived two suicide attempts because of my abusive ex-husband. And no one said, “Hey, Dharma, this guy’s a loser. You can do better.” They were all charmed by him too. He was only abusive to me.

And he was not my first abuser. My mother was. If you look up examples of gaslighting, it was like my mother’s playbook. She fucked with my head for decades.

So the next time you hear a victim of abuse tell their story, and you think how could they let that happen to them? How could they be so stupid or naive? Why would they have to go to some place like Reddit to understand that their partner is abusive? Remember, it could happen to you. No matter how smart you are. No matter how educated and streetwise you are. It could happen.

Stop blaming victims and start being there for them.

I’m not pointing any fingers with this post. Just letting you know, it could happen to you. No matter if you’re gay, straight, or bi; regardless of race, education, or any other demographic.

Not every victim’s story has a happy ending. But mine did. I got out. I got help. I got better. And eventually met an amazing woman who is not an abuser. And we’ve been happily married for 23 years.