Policing other women
This post was sent to us by email & the author has requested to remain anonymous.
I attended your workshop on victim blaming at the Nottingham Women's Conference at the weekend, and being surrounded by supportive women has given me strength.
My adult life has been reasonably peaceful - I've had partners that haven't filled my emotional need (nor I theirs, if truth be told!) but nothing that could be labelled 'abusive'.
When one of my friends told me that she was in an abusive relationship, my first response was 'what did she do to push his buttons?' Luckily I said it only in my head. I can't imagine that our friendship would have survived if I'd uttered that horrific statement.
I'd automatically made her responsible for his abuse, almost without realising. At the time, I had no idea where this thought had come from - and although I didn't say it, I did actually think it.
I thought that she should have avoided his abuse, not pushed his buttons, not wound him up, not upset him. I never for a minute thought that he was over reacting, or controlling and I don't even think I thought of him as abusive, let alone naming him as an abusive man when I was discussing it with my friend.
Part of the reason for this (which I had no way of knowing at the time), was because I'd grown up in a family where my dads rule was law. Woe betide anyone who went against my dads rules. It wasn't worth the aggravation to even think about defying him.
During the workshop at the weekend, someone told her story about emotional abuse, and the phrase 'walking on eggshells' came up. It was like a lightbulb moment. I could have burst into tears as the memories came flooding in, reminding me of all the times with my dad where I'd worried about not upsetting my dad (or my mum, who would have often got it in the neck if I dared to stand up to my dad).
All the messages I got when I was a kid were linked into me either policing my behaviour, policing the behaviour of others - always women, and absolving men of any responsibility for their behaviour.
Discussing this without shame in the workshop was really important. It was made really clear by the EVA team that they're not perfect - the facilitator said she still sometimes has to check herself when she is talking about violence against women & girls. We can't get it right all the time.
It was reassuring to know that having these thoughts is ok, they're so ingrained that we can't just decide to get rid of them. We have to think about them, where they come from & replace them with something that will put the responsibility onto the perpetrator.
I was going to go on & tell my story with my dad, but I think I've written enough. I'll save that for another time!
Thanks for this campaign, thanks for the work that you do, thanks for letting me acknowledge my own issues without feeling like I will be blamed, thanks for being so open & honest, thanks to all the women sharing their experiences on here. Keep up the good work!