I woke up this morning to the sounds of the trash collectors dragging the recycle bins up the stairs, looked over to the little bunch of flowers that the kid bought me when I got back from the hospital, and decided they needed more water. It was 5.30am. Got up, used the bathroom, filled the little watering can, padded over to the window, topped up the water and went and got dressed. I am better at relaxing than I used to be. I used to sleep in my clothes, ready for the attack that was going to happen, or the shake down by people that were going to move me and my family on, out of the parking lot, or the campground or rest area we were parked up in overnight, trying to sleep. I did the same in the shelter, sleep fully dressed, in case I needed to deal with trouble in the form of people. Trouble is best dealt with in jeans and a teeshirt, bra on, socks on, boots on. Trouble is generally more troublesome in pajamas.
There were certain campgrounds, where if we still had days left on the maximum two weeks we could spend there, and were fully paid up, that I would relax a little. These were places so far out of the way, so isolated and quiet and peaceful, that me, the kids, a few deer and wild turkey, bunnies, lizards and raccoons were not going to be bothered by me in pjs. I would walk to the outside bathroom or shower in thong sandals and my walmart pjs and wander back, through the trees, getting unfortunately stung by poison ivy and learning a few lessons about why sandals are not a good idea on a trail. Away from all humans, nothing anyone could legitimately and reasonably complain to me about, fully paid up, and tucked out of the way I finally felt safe. I finally felt safe when I was as far away from humanity as possible. This has not changed much.
I do manage to not jump up and get dressed nowadays, at least most of the time. I still feel like I should. I still get that feeling in my chest that I need to get dressed, get ready, be ready be aware all the time. Sundays feel as if this pressure is reduced. People have a day off from being assholes on Sunday, generally. As long as my husband doesn’t know where I am, I am ok. At least on Sunday. I have managed to relax enough to just about stay perched on my bed, feet under the covers, music on, but not too loudly, one headphone in only, so I can hear what is going on around me. Being deaf to the outside world is danger. My glasses go on as soon as I am awake. I get up, look out the windows, check all the doors, peek into my son’s room if the door is open, or at least listen out for anything out of the ordinary, and then make a cup of tea.
The world has proved to me how violent and dangerous it is. It has proved to me it wants to take me down. The courts proved to me that DARVO is a thing. Any official organization, even those who are meant to be able to identify and protect from abuse, deny, attack, and reverse the victim and the offender. I used to believe, absolutely that I was defective. They made me fear other people and detest myself. I always knew I was in the right, that I was the victim, but came to believe that no other motherfucker could see that, and that no one else was on my side. Not only that it made me believe that I was utterly alone, that no body saw or appreciated my survival, that everyone hated me for surviving, and that the world was on my husband’s side, and not mine. After the actions of the court, this was a totally reasonable, evidence and fact-based understanding of reality.
When Ruth came into my life, one of the first things I said to her was “If I tell you what I have done, you will hate me, and I love you as a friend and don’t want you to hate me.” (or words to that effect). Her opinion of me mattered. I was solid in my belief I had done the right thing, the only thing, and I was happy I had survived and protected my children to the best of my ability, but absolutely thought there was no way on earth that she would see it that way. After all, even the courts took the bastard’s side, right? When I told her, she was utterly perplexed. Of course she was on my side. I think I was more stunned than she was. I still wait for the day when my sister of my heart, my best friend (that I didn’t give birth to) turns around and says “Actually, Sis. You are an asshole.” Living waiting for the axe to fall, even waiting for my son to turn round and hate me for living, for surviving, for protecting, is excruciating. I look at my son’s kind sweet face, his beautiful gentle eyes, and see he loves me so much. Despite all his obvious gratitude and adoration, I am still so damaged I worry that in years to come, he will hate me.
How dare a court system, a system of official trained people do this to me? I fight against the damage, I swim against a tide of hatred and attempts to destroy me and my family, and break through. I know deep down that I am loved, and that there are few (precious few, but few) people who are on my damn side in all of this, but still I am so traumatized by the abuse and then reabuse of the court and the officials surrounding them, that they removed my ability to feel safely loved. That is perhaps the cruelest thing of all.
Of course, my abuser, Mr Charming is an expert in DARVO tactics, but he doesn’t see the need for them as much nowadays. He goes with a “yes I hit you, but I have changed now. I am better. I am different. Come home.” He tries to make me feel, during these unavoidable interactions, that I overreact. He paints himself as ‘not too bad’, claims that I am ‘impossible’, that I am ‘difficult’, and ‘bad too’, and that he has been through therapy, and the therapist has told him that I am also to blame, and that he is not totally at fault. He refuses to divorce me and during these telephone meetings with his son, that he mainly uses to torture me, treats me as if I am crazy and just need to ‘go home’. Bitch, I am home. I am home and safe. I put my PJ’s on to sleep. I make tea, and when my hands shake like they do a lot nowadays, I can sit quietly and wait for them to stop. I go to sleep stoned because it is safer to me not so alert, and because I have driven myself into the ground with exhaustion.
I am so absolutely exhausted, so totally terrified over such a long period of time, and still not absolutely safe. I still have very practical worries that affect my day to day existence. I am not able to heal, because the nightmare is not over. Not totally. I am safer, but not up on high dry ground. Every single time I trusted someone in power to help me, someone official, they ended up screwing me over. Why? Because the patriarchy controls the systems, because straight women who are not kick ass feminists like my best friend Ruthie, tend to fawn over men and compete for male approval, and are handmaidens and facilitators of their sister’s agony and subjugation. I can’t win that way.
I can’t win within the system. I saw that straight out the gate. I saw other women throw themselves on ‘the right way’, the ‘legal way’, the Big Machine of THE LAW, and get ground up like hamburger meat. I saw the kindest, most vulnerable women of my generation, and those before me, and to me frank, those after too, lemming-like try the same old working with the system, secure in their belief that the law works blindfolded and impartially, without knowledge of the DARVO hell that was headed their way, and lose. I watched them lose their children. I watched them lose their homes. I watched them lose their nationality. I watched them lose their minds. I kept up on various outlets where abused women gathered, or women just gathered to support other women who were also in international marriages, and saw the same old shit play out time and time again.
I thought to myself, well, this is not for me. I don’t blame any person who wants to do things the ‘right way’, who wants to bet that she is a good enough victim with enough evidence and that the court will see she is so blameless and so very much abused and then (and this is the kicker my friends) give a shit that she is being abused and so are her children, and won’t make excuses for her attacker. I don’t blame them. But fucking hell, my friends, a lot of them sure do blame me for not playing that damn game.
It is not in my mental make up to work within a system that is trying to destroy me. I am naturally anarchistic. Chaotic neutral. A cockroach. I survive. It is what I have always done since I was being abused as a child. I was trained for this life under the fist of the patriarchy since I slipped into this world female. I got unlucky. I was a cuckoo in a racist nest of vipers that detested me. I was used to being hated from the get go. I read yet another story of an abused women losing her children and being deported, because she went through the courts for a divorce and custody, like she was told was the ‘right thing to do’, and made up my mind that I would not submit, and I would not co operate. Not then, not now, not ever. I would fight against that which was trying to unfairly destroy me, when I was the real victim and my abuser, the male held all the cards and was abusing me physically, sexually, emotionally, mentally, financially, in every way he could summon up in his damned arsenal of abuse.
I am not expecting the system to change. I am not expecting the patriarchy to give up it’s horrendous hold on justice. Look at the Amber Heard mess: clear evidence that abused women cannot win. After all, if we win, then how are the men going to keep control? I will not get justice, I can merely avoid it’s unjust sway for as long as possible. Justice is not justice, it is a mode of control for the rich, powerful male, and yes, mostly white, men who hold the reins of this world that is burning up in war and famine and disease. Japan is an overwhelmingly monoracial society. My privilege got checked in along with my bags when I entered Narita airport. I was female. I was gaijin. I was expected to submit. Well, I sure showed the system. And I am pretty sure the system, if I make enough noise, if it identifies me as a rebel and a runaway will sure crack down on my freedom loving ways.
Perhaps there is a natural justice. Maybe there is an inclination of this world towards good and just and decent. I am not holding out much hope. I leave hope to those who love me, and there are a few. I can count on the fingers of one hand the people that believe in me, that see the injustice and that I know well enough to trust. I am sure there are more out there that I don’t know well enough to trust, and never will, because I am too damaged to let myself be that vulnerable, or too wise, perhaps. Perhaps I will hold out and eventually win the right to live and be left alone to do so quietly, happily, prosperously with my son, and a few friends who tolerate what the damage has done to me.
I know I am not an easy woman to be around. I went through a period recently where I flirted with the possibility of being sexless, neither male nor female, not straight or lesbian, just ‘queer’ and ‘non binary’. I was so damn tired of this game of paternalistic cat and mouse that I wanted out. Obviously I couldn’t discuss it with my more feminist friends, who would have justly and rightly told me to get a grip. I couldn’t really talk it over anywhere. I just sat there and picked apart why, and I now have the answer. PTSD, the DARVO tactics that were employed against me because I am female and a survivor and the need to escape that damage in order to live with myself comfortably, and the constant stream of ‘if you don’t fit in, you must make yourself do so.’ Being a woman, being a lesbian, being a survivor is hard, because society makes it hard, but there is only one way to live, and that is being true to myself.
I am over it. I can’t run from the anxiety or the justifiable fear. I can’t escape the judgement of society, nor the attempts of the patriarchy to destroy me. All I can do is fight them head on. All I can do is say, this is me, and I don’t care if YOU want to paint me as being evil and wrong in order for women to not be able to escape male abuse and so men can keep on getting their rocks off on female suffering. All I can do is survive and simply, my dears, not give a damn. Who knows, perhaps I might finally accept that there are people who love me, Ruth and the Boy in particular, and that love will never go away. Perhaps even if they understood everything I did to survive physically and mentally, every degradation I detest myself for, they would love me anyway. I hope one day I know what that feels like, I really do.