I used to say I was in a ‘bad relationship’

A piece by one of our members…

I used to say I was in a ‘bad relationship’.
When I was 15, I told my boyfriend not to handle me as roughly physically as he did. He said that what I did to him psychologically was just as bad as what he did to me physically.
He was a very jealous person, what I ‘did’ to him was wearing a skirt, or a top, talking to other boys, buying the wrong shoes, anything really.

He never hit me.
His fist was placed neatly on the wall next to my face, but not on my body. He handled me roughly. He pinched me a lot.
But he did not hit me, so I thought it couldn’t have been abuse.
He did not force me to have vaginal intercourse with him.
He pushed me down towards his penis a few times and eventually just held my head down until I gave him a blow job.
But he did not force me to have what I then perceived to be ‘sex’ so I thought it couldn’t have been abuse.

He screamed at me daily. He pinched me in public to police my behaviour and speech when I ‘stepped out of line’, e.g. said or did something he didn’t agree with. I completely stopped being myself.
But it rarely left physical marks so I thought it couldn’t have been abuse.

I came to believe that the way I was treated was justified and that really it was merciful of him not to hit me.

I used to say I was in a ‘bad relationship’ but that completely undermines the systematic abuse that I was subjected to, and that so many other women are subjected to because of the prevalence of dangerous patriarchal structures – yes I’m going there. His behaviour was inherently linked to ideas of male policing of female bodies, of male control in relationships, and male possessiveness over a female partner.

I used to be in an abusive relationship and admitting it and coming to terms with it is one of the hardest and most terrifying things I have ever done.

But we need to talk about this, we need to talk about what abuse can be and what sex can be and that consent is vital.
And we need to do it earlier.

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