What happens when women speak up, speak up about abuse and control, start afresh, move on, create a happy life for themselves and their children?
I will tell you what happens. The abusive partner fears losing control and takes steps to punish the woman for moving on and for daring to speak up for other women, against abuse. He threatens. He tries to manipulate the children. he generates fear in the woman, he implies possible legal action, so much so that she almost stops speaking up. For herself, and for others.
Why can’t he move on? She ponders.
And – Maybe I should stop speaking about women and abuse because, you know, he is causing trouble. Again.
Let me start with the first question. Why can’t he move on? To understand this one has to understand the mind of those who manipulate and control and abuse.
Step one involves the angry partner refuting the claim of abuse. ‘I wasn’t violent’ is a common refrain. But, as Lundy Bancroft writes in Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men:
“Physical aggression by a man toward his partner is abuse, even if it happens only once. If he raises a fist; punches a hole in the wall; throws things at you; blocks your way; restrains you; grabs, pushes, or pokes you; or threatens to hurt you, that’s physical abuse. He is creating fear and using your need for physical freedom and safety as a way to control you.”
Step two reminds the woman of why, exactly, he can’t let go. They, the abusers, see their partners (yes, even ex-partners) and their children (especially their children) as possessions.The abuser become almost crazy at the thought of losing control over the woman – or, if it seems that they have lost control, they become almost crazy at the thought of losing control over their children. (Although, who am I fooling with the ‘almost’. Seriously.). Children become a weapon in the fight against the woman, a fight always couched in terms of ‘justice’ and ‘charity’.
The third step allows the woman to separate the rhetoric from the truth. She comes to see that he never lets go because (in some families) he uses religious language, and the misguided support of some in the church, as a weapon. It is a misuse of such religious language, of course.
An understanding of the initial question (Why can’t he let go?) does not always help with the next question the woman asks. Should she stop speaking up about abuse, since he may use the speaking up in retribution?
The choice is hers, and hers alone. But I am reminded of a history of silencing people and groups who have suffered, the don’t-rock-the-boat mentality, and how, in the end, that doesn’t serve to help women like me. Or the woman of this narrative.
To speak up is to raise awareness. To name abuse, for those who are able, for those who are safe (for safety of women and children is of prime importance) is to give it less power.
And to continue to speak up, even when threatened or when someone tries to silence you, takes courage.
It, the speaking up, is not for everyone. There are concerns for mental and physical health and protection. But for some (for me) it is both a necessity and a virtue