I realized with a cross-country move, a lot of the people around me now (in real life and on social media) don’t necessarily know some of my past. Before diving into this post, a few things that are relevant: 1. I was in an abusive relationship in my early 20s that fucked me all the way up, and 2. In Baltimore, I worked as a victim’s advocate in a downtown ER, specifically responding to calls involving sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking.
Now that that’s out the of way, let’s talk about why I’m actually writing. I see a lot of people venting about their significant other on Facebook. A lot. Like a whole got damn lot of people. Hey, it’s not really my jam (and let’s be real, I don’t have a s/o to bitch about, so there’s that), but if Facebook is your place to vent, do you, boo boo. Sarcastic assholery aside, a lot of those posts revolve around behavior that is either blatantly abusive, or at least hints at mental/physical/emotional abuse in the relationship. And to be perfectly clear: I do not care that people choose to post about these things on Facebook. I am not passing judgment. What I do care about, however, is when Joe and Jane Blow from high school decide to get in the ass of the (almost exclusively) female poster:
- “Girl, you deserve so much better than this!”
- “I’ve said it a million times before, get away from him!”
- “He doesn’t deserve you!”
- “I wouldn’t ever treat you like that!”
- “Oh my god! Will you walk away already!”
And I sit there and read these things and have to, sometimes quite literally, sit on my hands so as not to type, “WILL YOU ALL SHUT THE FUCK UP ALREADY?” Seriously, I’ve been that girl, and every time I would read these comments after posting something that opened me and my fuckery of a relationship up to criticism, I would sit there and think, “If only…”
If only I really felt like I deserved so much better. In the shadow of our minds, we know that we deserve better than to be treated poorly, but part of abusive relationships is emotional control. By the time someone is that far in, they’re convinced that it’s not going to get better. Want to know why? Because when it’s good, it seems SO GOOD! “I can weather this storm because it’ll be better eventually.” So even if it’s storm number 10,001 they’ve weathered, your comment isn’t going to make them see it.
If only I could just get away from him. Again, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve commented, it’s not that easy. Did you know that a woman will leave an abusive relationship an average of 7 times before leaving for good? And the first year after she leaves–particularly if there’s been a history of physical abuse–is the most dangerous for her? So stop with your preaching that she should just get away. If it were that easy, I pinky promise she’d have done it (and she may have already tried).
If only he wouldn’t treat me like that. Yeah, the “I wouldn’t treat you that way!” trolls are my favorite *massive eye roll*. Like seriously bro? Have you been at the Desperation Station so god damn long that you’re trolling in a FACEBOOK COMMENT to hop on the first train with a woman who isn’t in a position to be with you, nor does she want to? For fuck’s sake, get a grip. Plus, when you say that kind of shit, she isn’t thinking “Oh man, maybe he wouldn’t!” Nope. She’s very likely saying, “Yeah, well my current boyfriend doesn’t always treat me like this either.” She ain’t thinking about you, kid. Go troll elsewhere.
In all seriousness, I need everyone to take a step back and really think about what you’re saying to someone in this kind of situation. I know it’s frustrating. I know. I’ve been the one who can’t walk away, preaches about how much she wants to, and ends up in the same shit today she was in a week ago. I’ve also been the friend trying to drag someone out of it who wasn’t ready, and I wanted to put my hands clear around their throat to try to get them to understand (Editor’s Note: physical violence ain’t ever the answer). So what can you do?
- Be gentle. I know it’s like the 643rd post about their shitty man, and you’re probably at your wit’s end. Do you know how frustrating it was as an advocate in a city of 600,000+ people to see the same women 2 and 3 times on domestic violence calls? And we still had to be gentle, so I know you can be the same in a Facebook comment.
- Message her. Facebook comments are a black hole, and even if you try to be kind and gentle, you’re likely going to get eclipsed by the Trollosaurus Rexes I mentioned before. A short message can make a huge difference.
- Don’t walk away from her. I’m a huge proponent of self-care, especially if you’re trying to care for someone else. So if you need to take a few days to help yourself, do it. But don’t abandon her completely. Part of the cycle of abuse is isolation; don’t become part of her isolation.
- If you can’t say anything nice, shut the fuck up. Seriously.
Think about a time when you’ve said, “If only…” about something. “If only I had a little more money.” “If only I didn’t have those tequila shots last night.” “If only this god damn laundry would fold itself.” We all do it. Now imagine doing it about the biggest relationship in your life. Stop with your armchair therapy in Facebook comments and try compassion (or #4 above).
Til next time,