To help with understanding why it’s not as easy as people think to “just leave”, I will be writing a few memoir collections on my abusive ex.
From here on in, I will refer to my ex as Ben, after Ben Affleck, because I have an irritational hatred for Ben Affleck.
There’s a lot of reasons to hate on Ben Affleck, like how he ruined Batman, and that time he sexually assaulted Hilarie Burton on live TV, or the millions of times he chose to protect Harvey Weinstein instead of the women he knew Weinstein was assaulting.
But I’ve always hated him, even before I knew all of that, and he ruined Batman, and it’s become a running joke with my husband, because I hate that I love his brother, Casey Affleck, as an actor so much (even though he’s problematic as fuck), that for a while I used to say that it wasn’t fair that Ben Affleck deserved so much hate from me for no reason just because he was really bad in Daredevil, but there was literally a reason to dislike Casey Affleck, but I actually thought Casey could act, and then I learnt that Ben Affleck is trash, so my ex’s new name will be Ben.
After Ben Affleck.
Hate that guy.
These posts will come with a lot of trigger warnings following all aspects of domestic violence. As always, there will be contact numbers at the bottom of the page. I urge you to reach out, to anyone, if you are concerned about your relationship.
I bet you’re wondering how you get trapped.
How does someone gaslight you and manipulate you and distort your reality so much that you forget yourself, your purpose, your self-worth, everything?
How do people end up in abusive relationships?
Aren’t they smarter than that?
Don’t worry, I used to think the same thing, too.
Except, abuse is far more complex than you could ever imagine. Like I’ve said before, it’s like putting a frog in warm water.
It doesn’t jump out because the water’s nice and warm.
It’s the same with relationships.
If someone beats you on the first date, the chances of you going out with them on a second date a slim to none.
Abuse is nefarious.
It’s as silent and deadly as a King Brown; its ability to camouflage with its brown, arid background, makes it so you don’t even see it until you’ve stepped on the fucking thing that a minute ago looked like a harmless fallen branch, but is now rearing up, fangs beared, to sink its deadly venom into your system.
It’s patient – like the brown. It waits, knowing that it’s deadly, it’s fast, it’s unstoppable – it just has to wait for the perfect moment, the moment that the prey thinks it’s safe, that nothing is amiss, that nothing sinister is hanging just outside of its peripheral vision.
It’s deliberate – and it knows how, and where, and when, to strike its prey. It knows when to give a little venomless nip, and when to administer its full dose, rendering its victim immobile.
Like with the snake, you often don’t realise you’re in a fucking abusive relationship until you’ve stepped on the motherfucker and, before you even had a chance to register that it wasn’t a bloody stick you stepped on, you’re trying to remember all the rules and first aid tips and STAND. ABSOLUTELY. STILL. NO. SUDDEN. MOVEMENTS – as if you’re caught up in the Jurassic Park movie (the original, duh) – knowing full well that there isn’t a goddamn mother-fucking thing you can do.
That snake is gonna bite the shit out of you, and because it’s a brown, it’s gonna be a pissy motherfucker, too, instead of just getting a little shirty before slivering off like a green tree snake would. (They’re so cute; I’ve stepped on five, and they’re usually all, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry you stepped on me! I’ll move out of the way for you. That was very unkind of me – but you did scare me a little, so I’m just gonna slither off, if you don’t mind.’)
In Australia, our more famous version of football is AFL. I don’t really care for it, or the rules, or anything sports related, so don’t fucking ask me. Use fucking Google, for god’s sake Karen.
Anyway, Ben’s favourite AFL team was (is?) the Saints, and if you’re not Australian and therefore likely not to know what I’m talking about, the Saints sucked balls for a really long time. (I know, because it was part of why the grand final was such a big deal, but I can’t say if they still suck balls, because I don’t fucking know, and I don’t fucking want to.)
Ben had a few of his best friends over, and I knew, deep within my core, that I would be somehow blamed, somehow responsible, if his team didn’t win.
Trust me, I know how it sounds – but you can rest assured by one fact:
Every person who’s been in a violent relationship knows exactly what I mean.
Dread seizes your heart, entwining its black fingers together, crushing your chest, so you can’t quite breathe, because you know, you just know, if it doesn’t happen exactly how he thinks it will happen, you will pay.
It will somehow be your fault, even if it makes no sense to you, or to anyone, even if he can try and justify his anger, even if he says sorry or gaslights you into thinking he wasn’t that mad, you’re just being stupid and dramatic, god, I wish you’d be less sensitive. I can’t say anything around you, you get so upset about every little thing! I bet you’re going to go and cry, now, too, to try and make me feel bad, huh?
It’s impossible to understand but incredibly easy to judge.
I remember messaging my friend, Debbie, as her AFL team was up against the Saints that year.
In the beginning, I remember thinking, Oh my god, the Saints are going to do it, they’re going to win, and I’m going to be safe.
It wasn’t the first time I’d had thoughts like that – where I didn’t feel safe, or I was scared of Ben’s reaction – and they’d been disturbing me, because they’d become the norm instead of an “every now and then and then Ben buys me something and I forget what was happening because he’s so, so, so sorry”.
No one wants to deal with the confrontational realisation that their partner is scary.
Maybe even abusive.
Because, once you deal with that horrific realisation, you also are aware of all the domino consequences that will happen, and you know, you just know, that you’ll never make it out of the situation unscathed.
Just as sure as you know you’ll be blamed for things that logically are not, will not and cannot ever be your fault, you know that there’s no longer anything called just leaving because you’ve already given half yourself to them, and you’re suddenly precariously aware of the lengths they go to destroy you when you’ve wronged them accidentally – you don’t want to imagine the consequences if you hurt them on purpose.
At the beginning, I was messaging Debbie – I was cocky, excited, and I was rubbing in the fact that my Ben’s team was up, and I remember being so deliriously happy, because everything was going to be fine.
And then, I dunno, the Saints fucked up. That last hour and a half … they dropped, fumbled, everything.
It’s like they forgot how to play AFL or something; not that I’d know. I carefully evacuated anything and everything I ever learned about AFL from my brain a long time ago, and that’s how I’d like it to stay.
And then the panic started setting in, and I kept remembering what I’d first thought: That I was going to be punished, and the Saints had to win, because if they didn’t –
Well, I didn’t want to think about the didn’t too hard.
Did you know domestic violence assault cases rise 40% on State of Origin?
Police conclusively see a 40% rise in domestic violence cases every single time there’s a State of Origin game.
I didn’t actually know that then – I only learnt that last year, reading ABC’s report – but obviously my subconscious fucking did.
My brain had already connected that alcohol, combined with Ben’s team losing, meant an extremely angry, and incredibly unpredictable, man.
After the game ended, I was silent, because I was waiting for Ben’s reaction.
I needed to know what reaction I was expected to give before I reacted. If I dared look hopeful that he wouldn’t be mad, he’d think I was happy that his game lost, and we’d have a fight about it that I wouldn’t win, because you can’t say, ‘No, I was just happy and hopeful you wouldn’t yell at me, but I forgot to keep my face blank, so now you’re yelling anyway’ because you don’t have a death wish.
Desperate not to be left alone with Ben, because then I’d be the only one who’d experience his full wrath, and it would come as sure, quick and deadly as a disturbed brown’s bite comes, I started convincing his friends to get drunk with Ben.
Full admission: For the most part, I don’t like alcohol. There’s actually very little alcohol I like to drink, and I’ve become exceptionally skilled at hiding this fact in public, because in Australia, everyone fucking questions you if you don’t have a drink in hand.
We had a prime minister who had a record for how fast he skulled a beer, and that was a defining characteristic that caused people to vote for him.
Like I said, welcome to Australia.
I can’t remember what I was giving them – knowing me, it would’ve been tequila, because for some reason, I can shot that easily, so I would’ve picked that if it were available so that I could’ve made it seem like I drank more than I was, while also getting the boys wasted as fuck.
Also, I know Microsoft has a spell check app, but with the amount I swear, they should have an app that picks up on cuss words, too.
Before you’re thinking that’s a terrible idea, because alcohol has a tendency to fuel violence, my plan was more simple than that:
Ben loved drinking. I’ve mentioned it before – in our first date story, I’m pretty sure.
Ben would get drunk really easily, and be black-out, awful, piss-his-pants (legit happened, and he yelled at me for putting his jeans in the wash because wearing piss-stained jeans was better than his parents knowing that he’d decided to sit outside and pee his pants because he couldn’t be fucked getting up one time) drunk, which meant that while it wouldn’t be desirable, if someone’s passed out and distracted by drinking with the boys, it means they’re also not yelling at you.
I’m sure you can see where my train of thought was going: I wanted him to pass out. I wanted him to be so drunk, that if/when his friends left, he’d be too drunk – and hopefully passed out – to say or do anything.
In my mind, it meant that I wouldn’t be forced to have sex with him, satiating his ego, feeling like a used sex doll, which was how he always made me feel by constantly becoming angry with me if I didn’t cum will having sex with him, because that meant it was a reflection on his prowess, somehow.
(The answer is yes, women frequently fake orgasms. The answer to why is reflected above: I spent a lot of time faking shit with Ben because I had to, because it was about his ego, not about my pleasure. If I didn’t have an orgasm, sex would somehow convert into a chore. I remember enjoying sex for the first few months, and then I started to resent it. By the end, with how much Ben had hurt me while having sex, and while forcing his way regardless of my mood, coercing me and injuring me repeatedly, because of his refusal to properly clean himself, I thought I’d never want to, or even be able to, have sex again.)
In my mind, I wouldn’t have to think about what the right thing to say, because I wouldn’t have to say anything.
I wouldn’t have to worry if I made the wrong expression, or if I made the mistake of thinking things were okay, which could elicit a multitude of different emotions.
I never expressed these worries to anyone.
Not then, and this is the first time I’ve ever voiced at least some of what happened that night.
I didn’t tell B, my best friend, at the time – nor do I think I told her after. I don’t think she knows this story.
After all, what would I say?
I was afraid of my boyfriend because of what his reaction would be to his team losing?
That sounded preposterous even in my head; it didn’t seem believable, and Ben’s ability to charm people would mean it would be unlikely people would believe me straight away. His family had seen him become increasingly aggressive with me, and all they’d been able to muster was, “Settle down, Ben” or “Don’t you think you’re being a bit extreme?”
I was sure, like Ben frequently reminded me, that if I spoke out, I’d be labelled as melodramatic and overly sensitive.
I didn’t realise that not only was it okay to feel and react to that situation appropriately, and that my reaction wouldn’t have been dramatic and that I wasn’t being too sensitive, but more importantly, I didn’t realise I wasn’t focusing on the bigger question at hand:
Why, after eighteen months of dating, was I so afraid of my boyfriend?
Why was I acting like my very life depended on the Saints winning that night?
Why did I feel the need to try and get my boyfriend drunk, so I wouldn’t be his punching bag?
Why was I afraid to tell anyone?
Why was I so insistent on placing the blame on me, on how melodramatic and overly sensitive I was, and not on the man that made so afraid I literally had a panic attack at the mere thought that the Saints wouldn’t win?
They’re the obvious questions. The questions that most people ask, or at least wonder, if they’re too polite to not straight out ask, ‘But why didn’t you just leave?’ or worse, ‘Is that all?’
And if it’d been our first week of dating, and I was having a panic attack about what might happen if his team didn’t win, I wouldn’t have stayed with him, no matter what sob story he’d given.
By then, however, I was terrified.
The problem, however, is that sometimes sticks look like snakes.
And sometimes snakes are hiding, well-camouflaged, in Australia’s bushland, and everything’s all hunky dory until you step on what you thought was a stick, but wasn’t, it’s a fucking huge King Brown, and you’re a solid three hours from any medical services, so if that fucker bites you, you ain’t gonna make it.
(Honestly, I have no idea why Kill Bill was so obsessed with the Black Mamba. You know Elle’s speech? She talks about how with the Black Mamba death is sure and shit, and seriously, Quentin Tarantino obviously hasn’t heard about Australia’s snakes, because if I was putting any snake into a bag to kill someone, it’d be a fucking Inland Taipan, which is the most venomous snake in the fucking world, not just Australia. King Brown is number two. Like, shit, I feel like my odds would be much better facing a pissed off Black Mamba than a King Brown. And the story above, about the brown rearing up? That came from personal experience, ya’ll. My dog, Honda, jumped in front of the snake and took the bite. It was his first, but sadly not his last, as a snake eventually claimed his life. And no, of course I didn’t name the fucking dog Honda. I would’ve picked a good name for a boy dog, like Oliver (Ollie) or Humphrey or Oscar or Alfie or Dorritos (kidding). But the first few names were good, no? My dad named his dog Gus. I’ll put in a photo of Gus cause ya’ll need to see this dopey fucking dog. He’s the biggest dud. Though, when Scott and I used to take Gus and Rosie for walks around Ululah, and all the people in Maryborough would want to know what type of dog Gus was, and Scott would say, ‘He’s a bloodhound, ex-drug sniffer dog’ and the amount of people backed away was just great. Don’t worry, Gus is too much of a dud to know what he’s sniffing, but he probs wants your drugs, because that fucker eats every fucking thing. Now that’s a tangent, Karen.)
Like with the frog in the water, if someone throws you in boiling water, you’re gonna jump right the fuck out.
However, if you’re wondering how it happens – that’s how it happens.
It’s sinister and malicious, deliberate and calculating.
The abuser lies, still, camouflaged, hidden by masks, and you don’t know the snake’s about to strike until you already know you’re fucked.
At that point, you’re firmly stuck in the first stage of the Kubler Ross & Kessler diagram of grief, and I’m sure if any of you have had any experience with grief, you’ll know denial is the hardest hurdle to cross, because you’re always wondering what if and but please maybe and well, I could be wrong and it’s not like anyone’s perfect because that’s what humans like best.
To ignore our problems and magically hope they’re solved.
After all, the snake’s venom won’t really kill, and you’d definitely jump out of the boiling water, right?
After all, I’m sure you’ve never ended up in a situation where, all of a sudden, you’re exclaiming, ‘What the fuck happened? How the fuck did I end up here?’
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