Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

The Fling

Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

The Fling

Article excerpt

This story is about being tortured. It's about living every second of every minute of every day in fear of the man that you thought you loved. It's about the man you thought loved you manipulating you into believing that the way he is treating you has something to do with you. That if you just love him enough, are supportive enough, are nice enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, smart enough, lovable enough, he will stop doing what he's doing. You don't believe you deserve what he's doing to you, but you do believe that if you act differently he might go back to being the kind, loving man he was when you first met. It's about how you feel and what you do when he denigrates you and calls you "stupid" and "bitch" and "whore" and "cunt." When he threatens you, when he threatens to get you fired or to hurt the people you love or to beat you so badly that you bleed. So badly that even your father won't recognize you. When he pokes you and prods you and pinches you and drags you by the hair, and when he shoves you and punches you and slaps you across the face. When he rapes you and bashes your head against the floor until you lose consciousness and then rapes you some more.

It's about being so afraid and so beaten down and so full of despair that you hope he'll kill you. And when you find that you've survived another day you come up with an alternative because you don't think you can endure another minute of his shit until he does kill you. You begin to think about jumping off a bridge and hanging yourself and shooting yourself in the head. But you're not a masochist. You don't really want to die. You want to live. You just want him to treat you with love and respect. But that never happens. At least not for very long. And when he starts in on you again, you just know that it will never end, and that he won't ever let you get away. You search your brain desperately to try to figure out what he wants from you at that moment. How he wants you to act, what he wants you to say, because you know if you don t get it right, he s going to hurt you. You know you can never get it right, but you just want to get through the next several minutes with the least possible damage. You act in ways that are brutally humiliating, hoping that you're at least close, and sometimes he s feeling merciful or he s had a good day, and he lets you go with a pat on the butt and a "that's a good girl." But more often he continues until you end up down in that deep abyss where you spend most of your time. It's about the contradiction of ruminating about killing yourself or about him killing you every second of every minute of every hour that he's not around, and finding desperate ways to survive when he is around. It's about being tortured by someone you thought you loved.

I was battered from the age of twenty-six to twenty-nine. I wasn't the kind of woman most people picture when they picture a battered woman. When I finally told someone close to me that I'd been battered, he explained to me, "That doesn't usually happen to women like you." It was an awful thing to say. I was looking for empathy from him, and what he gave me was an accusation. But his belief that battering only happens to certain "kinds" of women is, I think, a common one. I think when most people picture a battered woman they picture someone who is very poor, or "uneducated," or whose father is an alcoholic or a batterer or a sexual abuser. While it does happen more often to women who are vulnerable because they lack resources because of poverty or racism or language barriers or being undocumented, having resources isn't always enough.

When people picture a battered woman, they usually picture someone who is different from me. I certainly never imagined that it would happen to me. But I don't think any woman can imagine it. It's unfathomable. Even if you come from a world full of violence, you think, "I would never stay with a man who hit me. I would run away." And if you have never experienced much violence, as I had not, you think, simply, "Impossible! …

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