I used to consider abuse as something that wasn’t part of my life. I saw it in the news, films and read about it in papers. Abuse to me was extreme: extreme cases of violence, beheadings, bombings, attacks, rapes, fighting, shootings, stabbings, war, domestic violence, shouting, swearing and attacking people, someone physically self-harming or cutting themselves. Never once did I consider that abuse – which we all normalise and make okay, which we turn a blind eye to daily – is in all our lives.
I have not hated abuse enough to say absolutely no to it any way, shape or form, be it in how I treat myself or what I accept from others.
I have abused myself in many ways, such as choosing negative thoughts about myself, putting myself down, choosing abusive relationships and staying in them, eating and drinking foods that are harming to my body, drinking alcohol – a known poison to our bodies – staying out till the early hours of the morning, not going to bed when I was tired, not resting when I needed to rest, not listening to my body, my truth, deeply disregarding myself, playing down my light, giving up when things get tough, being nice, having no true purpose, pleasing other people, not speaking up, not saying what needed to be said, reacting to life, being emotional, indulging, seeking drama and blaming myself, fighting my light, creating problems when there are none, sabotaging my awareness and avoiding responsibility.
All this to keep me, I would say, separated from others, being an individual and away from the true purpose of why I am here – to feel deeply where people are at and to live in a way where I do not accept any form of abuse, zero, none at all, and by that living way inspire others to do the same: to reflect to people that there is another way to live.
I was and still am at times abusive towards others from lack of understanding, judging people or needing them to be a certain way, creating drama or complications, giving up or withdrawing. I am aware of what abuse is now, and am working on my things, and on not allowing any abuse into my life – zero, none whatsoever.
In the past two years I have been on the receiving end of sexual abuse, one an online case where I was sexually harassed with vile and disgusting messages from someone I knew on the social media platform Facebook. I reported this to the police, and in turn through the amazing work of the police and myself in standing up and saying no to abuse, this person was arrested and charged with a sexual offence.
More recently I experienced a physical sexual abuse where I was getting a dress taken up, and the tailor put his hand up my skirt and pressed it against my pubic area, pants and legs when there was absolutely no reason for him to do this. When I reported it to the manager they didn’t care, like it was no big deal. I reported this to the police, and again this person was arrested but because there was no evidence, he denied it, one person’s word against another, so no case will come of it, but the incident will be held on record, so if there is ever another report of this, mine will be there to support it.
For me, reporting these instances was not only about saying no to the energy of abuse for myself and my body, but this choice was for everyone to be able to say no to abuse. This was about truth, and not allowing a behaviour that is not loving to come through anyone.
If we don’t reflect that there is another way to live, then who is going to?
But what really struck me was how many people – both women and men, people who you think would be supportive, such as some police officers, professionals and people you know – turn a blind eye to abuse like this, with comments such as: “He didn’t mean it,” “Just get your dress,” “Don’t go back to the shop.” Very few people had the same feelings as me, although there were two people who were very supportive – my partner and one amazing policeman who during our conversation quoted Einstein:
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” (1)
But before I was able to stand up and say no to abuse in its many ways, shapes and forms, not just the above, I had to say no to abusing myself. I had to get clear and re-define what abuse actually is. To be absolutely honest I still am re-defining what is abusive every day.
We cannot just go to the extremes of abuse, as this normalises all the so called day-to-day abuse we say is not abuse, such as the incident above, and lets us ‘get away with it’: for example, in how we treat each other in our own homes, with our families, partners, ourselves, those people we say we care about a lot. This can be through a touch, a tone of voice, being ignored or spoken to in a way that is not love.
Abuse is anything that is not love. Simple.
The truth is we have normalised abuse into different levels of so called acceptable abuse in our lives every single day: fighting in families, friendships and private relationships is par for the course, just something we do, even joke about with friends. Where there is any form of dis-harmony there is abuse: a person who walks through the door abusing their partner when they ignore them, people bringing home ‘stuff’ from the office and taking it out on those in the home who have nothing to do with it, the fights with colleagues, the stress, taking out our unhappiness and misery on family, friends, or partners. Just as a tone of voice can be abusive without even raising it, so can a touch which is not gentle, or someone not dealing with their anger and bringing it to a relationship.
As a child growing up, we would never dream or say this is the kind of life or relationships I want, or how I want the world to be. So, what makes us settle for less… what makes us accept, choose and allow abuse in our lives? Do we care enough about how much people suffer to live in a different way, or are we happy with our comfort and indulgences in life?
There is no middle ground for abuse, the “Oh that’s okay because they didn’t hit me or them” – no grey scale or differentiation of any kind, not allowing abuse to continue, not tolerating it, making excuses for it, and turning a blind eye to it. It is only once we choose to get very real and absolutely honest that we are willing to be open, truthful, understanding, and accept seeing abuse in this way – let’s face it, the world is very loveless. Only then can we start to heal the abuse we have created. The abuse we knowingly chose to do to ourselves and each other leaves an aftermath of emotional pain, hurts and trauma which we carry in our bodies.
Until we all take responsibility for loving ourselves deeply, which naturally leads to our truly loving and not harming another, there will always be abuse in this world.
By Anon, 40, UK
- Goodreads.com. (2018). A quote by Albert Einstein. [online] Available at: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/29875-the-world-is-a-dangerous-place-to-live-not-because [Accessed 27 May 2018].