I’m afraid I am not the right woman for this job, this work of writing, of a little anti domestic violence awareness. You see I am not quiet, I have no interest in making other people feel comfortable. I will speak my mind and I do it loudly and firmly. I will not be swayed from unpopular opinions, but hope to exercise my right to free speech whilst not being hateful or hurtful. That said, I have no energy to pamper or speak gently. I will not edit myself or my opinions to make other people feel more comfortable, I am happy to agree to disagree, but I will include myself in discussions which concern me, I will not be shut out or silenced. I will not be told to be quiet, to be calmer, to be less me. I wont be told this by anyone, no matter how reasonable you feel that request to be. I’ve survived too much, I am too tired to be pleasing to those around me. I did not survive by being nice. I have been quiet in order to save my life. I will not be quiet now.
People (other women more so than males, in my unscientific experience) infantilize female survivors. By survivors I mean women who have suffered either domestic violence, addiction, or the physical and emotional pain of surviving sex work. They talk about us, and discuss us as problems, and do not involve us in discussions or solutions. We are not seen as viable leaders, not encouraged or facilitated in becoming leaders in the movement, we are shut out of the attempts to fix the issues which have blighted our lives. These are issues in which we are experts by virtue of experience. Invariably I have been talked down to, not held as equal by anyone in any position of power over me, and by a a few who presume such status. I will not tolerate it, nor suffer marginalization calmly or quietly, and nobody has the right to demand that I do.
After all if women like me are treated like equals, despite the disaster playing itself out in our lives, then we are just like YOU. Then there is nothing that makes women like me, survivors and victims, any different to you, and that means you could end up like me. You could end up with your home lost, your liberty threatened, your legs broken, your ears deafened by blows to the head, your left eye turning slightly inwards and blurring your vision because you once got hit so hard with a piece of chair he did some real damage to your sight. You could too, end up in a shelter while he sits in your nice house, you too could be cut off from money and property, and denied a divorce. As long as you talk down to me, as long as you edit me, and tell me not to be quite so angry, not so emotional, not to have an opinion, then you can separate yourselves. You can put yourselves above me, and thus insure the sanctity of your own safety. It is just another way some people blame women for men’s violence and abuses. I’m not a real woman you tell me. I’ve had other people tell me I’m not really a lesbian, that I cannot have the label which I desire because in the past I have slept with men, and so others seek to define me by their hang ups and needs. I do not seek to define myself by the men around me, or the women for that matter, and how they react to me: I cannot afford to. Ask me what the word is on my lips from the moment I wake to the moment I rest, the word that cost me so much, and left me with nowhere stable to live, no money, no life, and I’ll tell you that word is freedom. All I seek in life is room to own who I am after all is said and done. I try and channel the punk riot grrrl of my youth and tell myself I don’t care, but the truth is I do, and other’s judgement hurts.
I’ve spoken recently about domestic violence with a variety of people who are not survivors, and been alarmed by calls for victims to name and shame their attackers. It is all well and good to demand abusers are named, but spare a thought for the victims. If you name the abuser, you tell the world that the woman was hit, and hurt and raped. You publicize her suffering, and thus put her in more danger. Men do not like their violence being publicized, and guess who they take it out on? Yes, the woman they already victimized and hurt. Survivors build their new lives and their safety on anonymity. Victims of men do not owe other women publicizing these men who hurt. The legal system needs to quietly and anonymously remove these men from society until they are rehabilitated.
And I do believe violent men can be rehabilitated. I don’t want to believe this is possible. It is not comfortable for me. I want them punished. I want them locked up and the key thrown away, but as long as we punish and judge and censure and do not understand, my sisters will continue to suffer and die. To protect women, we need to understand and find ways to help men who hurt, find other outlets for their anger and fists. We need to identify and support these men before they hurt women.
Let’s not be squeamish about who is doing the hurting, and who is being hurt in domestic violence. It is men who overwhelmingly, almost exclusively beat and kill women. I will not tolerate obfuscating of this basic truth.
I won’t hide my pain: while some of my sisters are playing Princess, trying to be Queen of some man’s world and celebrating that success, here I am fighting simply for autonomy over my own body, to be queen of the realm of my own flesh. It should be a given, right? To say what happens to your body and within it, and why and when and where. I tell you, and I do not care to do it gently, that this is not reality down here with the rest of us. In my world a woman can be raped in broad daylight, on some sunny afternoon, and people walk on by. Not me. Not me. I won’t be quiet, I won’t do what I need to in order to have a Quiet Life, I don’t turn my head. I look fear in the eye and tell Him to fuck off.
See my life has not been like other luckier and more privileged women. I survived childhood abuse. I went from there into drugs to numb the existential pain of simply surviving what had happened to me. I was bright, I had some academic success, but life kept trying to claw me back, to cut me down to size. And I became angry.
I get told to edit my anger. To speak softer, to be nicer, to be more sympathetic, and I do so for loved ones in my day to day interactions with them, but when I go to war – to war in words and in unfair legalities, and the experience which conspired to break my body and soul, I will not be quiet. I will not be a ‘real woman’, You can stick your rules and expectations of femininity and stereotypes of feminine propriety, they are all just bars and chains to me. I survived, and I will not be nice now I am emerging from the darkness of being abused. I will not conform to indulgent femininity, other women can do as they wish, but it is not for me, and I will not have it demanded of me. I do not owe anyone around me reassurance or comfort or the fake sense that everything is ok. I will not fluffily indulge other people. I take the blows of dissent and judgement, and I expect those around me allow me my opinion, even if it differs from how they see life around them. This modern world demands homogeny, conformity, and I simply don’t fit into those neat required categories, and why should I?
So that brings me around to why I write. I write for me. I write because I can and I want to. Because my husband is not around to say I can’t, and I have electricity and space and the emotional fortitude to do so. I write because I want to. So tell me I am full of shit, tell me that I am wrong, but don’t ever tell me to be quieter, or calmer or nicer. You have no right and I am out of patience for being edited or for editing myself.