Trigger warning: This post deals with issues of violence and mental illness.
I have experienced violence.
This is the first time I’ve written about it, apart from in my diary.
It was a long time ago. I was still in high school. The violence wasn’t perpetrated by a disgruntled ex or a current partner.
The violence was perpetrated by someone in my family who was and is very close to me.
It was one isolated incident. The person in question had reached the end of their tether. In the moment preceding the attack, I was being belligerent. I was being annoying, as I am sure many teenagers can be at times.
My diary entry from that day
“They forced me onto the couch and put their hands around my neck and pinned me down. I was furious when I felt the force. I ran away when they let go. I was backed into a door. They pushed me away from the door and told me to ‘shut the fuck up’. I found two red scratch marks on the right side of my neck and a scratch down my left arm.
I will never, ever forget the look on their face. Anger. Inconsolable rage etched into their forehead.”
I remember being too shocked to cry.
Someone was hurting me and touching me in a way I had never been touched before. And I wasn’t crying.
In the proceeding months and years since that incident I have been conditioned to believe that it was my fault. I had triggered the aggression. My actions were the catalyst that caused the explosion. The piss to an open flame, so to speak.
That incident is not mentioned in my family. Ever. Some members know about it. Others have been left completely in the dark.
And I still feel like it was my fault. Maybe if I hadn’t been so obnoxious it wouldn’t have happened? It has to be my fault if it only happened once, right? They only physically hurt me that one time. Maybe if I don’t push their buttons ever again, I’ll be safe.
But every time I see this family member I don’t feel safe.
It’s like when you have food poisoning at a restaurant. Every time you visit that restaurant the memories come back. Real and tangible.
I’ve read many articles on domestic and family violence. I have read horrific accounts from women who were victims of violence for decades. I have read about women being abused daily in graphic and sickening ways.
I was physically assaulted once. And if I’m honest, I don’t feel like my experience was bad enough to be classed as domestic violence.
I find myself thinking: maybe it’s normal? Maybe violence happens within families at least once? How can I claim to have suffered from domestic violence when so many women and children have it so much worse? I’ve never had a gun held to my head or a glass thrown at my face.
I suppose the reason my experience is important is because of the feelings I have about it. I still remember that afternoon with piercing clarity. I remember the feeling of their hands around my throat, pinning me down. I remember the scratches on my arms and my neck.
What I remember most profoundly was saying that I would never trust that person again.
4 and a half years on I can confirm that this person has not regained my trust. I doubt they ever will.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t forgive them. We all make mistakes. We all lose our temper. I have forgiven this person but I have not forgotten.
The marks on my neck are gone and I didn’t suffer any long term physical injuries. Physically, I recovered from the incident quickly. Physiologically, not so much.
That’s why my story is important. Because this incident was violence. It was not acceptable. It hurt me deeply.