The Abuser’s Knack
Batterers and abusers have an uncanny knack for sizing up others’ vulnerabilities–one of the reasons we stay too long is that they underscore doubts that are already in our own heads. The most powerful ones, those most ready for the abuser’s exploitation, are the ones we worry about with private shame.
A little insecurity about your nose? Let’s talk about plastic surgery. Your thighs? Can you hear the “thunder”?
Since childhood, my vulnerable spot has been my body image (today it is less tender, but still not the bulletproof vest I’d like it to be).
On my second date with Lee, he made a negative comment about a friend’s wife’s weight. I should have argued in defense of the other woman, but instead I cringed inwardly–did he know that I worried about my weight nearly all the time?
We were off, and eventually my weight becoming his go-too topic for verbal abuse.
It took me a long time to realize that only I have the right to decide what I should eat and weigh and wear. No one else. So simple. And easier said than done.
If you meet someone who seems to want to exploit what you worry about, whatever it might be, rather than support you through it, I recommend that you show that person the door.
Knowing that you’re not alone, that you’re not the only person who has experienced exploitation and abuse, will help. Knowing that others have survived trauma and come out the other side, will help.
Read Hunger by Roxane Gay, or listen to the audiobook because Gay is a wonderful narrator. Whatever the trauma you’ve experienced, her story–the violence, the weight gained and lost and gained–will move you. She writes,
But I am a lucky girl. I think most of my sad stories are behind me. there are things I will no longer tolerate. Being alone sucks, but I would rather be alone than be with someone who makes me feel that terrible. I am realizing I am not worthless. Knowing that feels good. My sad stories will always be there. I am going to keep telling them even though I hate having the stories to tell. These sad stories will always weigh on me, though that burden lessens the more I realize who I am and what I am worth.
You’re worth far, far more than any abuser wants you think.