Today’s word: Choice

Today's word: choiceI chose to marry my ex-husband.

I did not choose for him to hurt me.

I get really, really tired of people — most of whom are uneducated about domestic violence — saying that it was my choice to “let him” hurt me or continue to hurt me.

That is so far from reality, it’s hard to even know how to respond.

Domestic violence is not like alcoholism, for example. There, it does seem to me that certain people “enable” the alcoholic’s behavior by their actions.

DV is completely different. There is no “letting” or “choosing” or “enabling.” The actions of the abuser put the victim into a persistent state of trauma, which then proceeds to get worse over time.

Even if you’ve never been the victim of an abusive person, you’ve most likely experienced something you would label as “traumatic.” Let’s say, you were in a car accident, or you witnessed a crime, or whatever it might be.

How did you feel afterward? Picture that moment, and put yourself back there, right now.

  • How do you feel?
  • Do you feel safe?
  • Do you feel like yourself?
  • How is your mind working? Is it clear or fuzzy?
  • Do you know what you’re doing or saying, for sure?
  • Are you shaking?
  • Do you feel like you’re going to be sick?
  • Do you feel afraid?

Multiply those feelings by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you’ll have some idea of what a DV victim experiences with an abuser.

Was it your choice to have that car accident? Using the same logic a lot of people do with DV, they would say, Well, it was your choice to get into the car, even though you were reasonably certain the car was working properly and you knew how to drive it. And you also were pretty sure where you were going; you even had directions.

I made the choice to marry that guy.

I did not choose for him to hurt me.

He hurt me. That was his choice.

After the first incident, the trauma was already in place and doing its thing: clouding my mind, making me shaky, setting my life on a course I did not choose. I left when I felt reasonably sure it was safe to do so, though clearly I risked my life during that process. Every woman (I’m generalizing) does when she finally does leave.

I still struggle with choice, every single hour of every single day. I’m never completely sure if the trauma is behind a choice I’m making, or if my real self is behind the choice. If I’m totally honest, I’d say it’s probably about 60-40 or maybe even 70-30 right now, and the trauma is winning.

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