Anytime a victim of abuse speaks out, particularly a woman accusing a man, there is an immediate rush to defense. People speaking up about how this person has always been kind to them, they never witnessed any of this abuse, or we shouldn’t rush to judgement until there are cold hard facts to support it. Friends and family rush to protect their own, saying there’s no way. The problem with this is often, unless its physical abuse and photographs were taken, there is little to no proof the abuse occurred. So we are left with a decision. Believe the accuser or believe the accused. Time after time, the accused faces a little backlash, but all is mostly swept under the rug.
As an example, everyone was quick to forgive Chris Brown, because after all, even though you saw the pictures, Rihanna took him back. But then, he continued the behavior with other women. It took 60 women accusing Bill Cosby for us to believe it. 87 women accused Harvey Weinstein.
The shock and disbelief that occurs when you’re told this happened yet again is astonishing. Didn’t someone else tell you this before? Why are you surprised? Emotional and Mental Abuse is a strange thing. The abuser breaks you down, strips you of any self esteem, scares you into hiding the truth from others and from yourself. The abuser brings you to a point where you can only count on them and the thought of losing them terrifies you, even though you know the relationship is bad, even though you know you should get out. When the truth comes to light, friends and family will say, I had no idea. And you know what, they probably didn’t. I say this because I was someone who had no idea.
Let me tell you a story about my best friend, we’ll call her Anne and her ex, we’ll call him Larry. Anne and I have been best friends for years, to say we know each other better than anyone would be an understatement. We all met Larry at the same time, at a bar in our 20’s. He was friendly and fun and asked her out on a date. They dated for 2 years in which Larry attended every family and friend function, lavished Anne with gifts, went above and beyond for her and her friends, and seemed like a genuinely good guy.
He worked a civil service job and so he would work overnights for 3 days and be off for 4 and so on. So it wasn’t strange when Anne would spend all of her time with him as they would go days without each other. It wasn’t strange when Anne would only go out with him, they were young and in love, that’s what most couples looked like. It wasn’t strange when Anne had put on a little weight and stopped wearing as much makeup, most people who are comfortable in their relationship do that. It wasn’t strange when she announced they were moving in together because being in our mid 20’s, that was the next step. It wasn’t even strange when the condo he picked out was 45 minutes away because its expensive where we live and it was bit cheaper there. It wasn’t strange when Larry helped a friend move out of state for the weekend, because Larry was a nice, helpful guy and did stuff like that all the time.
It was strange when Larry’s girlfriend called Anne on the phone to ask who the hell she was and why she was texting her boyfriend. See Larry had a girlfriend where he worked and he had Anne. He was all ready to set Anne up 45 minutes from home so there was no chance the 2 of them would come in contact or anyone would question things. If Anne was far enough away from her friends and family, we would have no idea how often he was or wasn’t home.
It wasn’t until after their breakup, in which Anne was devastated for months on end, that she started to tell me things. Things like he wouldn’t let her go out unless he went with her. How he insisted she go straight to his house after work every day they were going to be together and he wanted her home so he could call her when he was at work. How he didn’t want her dressing up or wearing makeup because he didn’t want other guys looking at her. How he would at times “play fight” with her, but leave bruises. How one time it was so bad, he was dragging her down the stairs and his mother had to intervene. How he once made her perform oral sex on him while he was sitting on the toilet.
I had no idea.
He had threatened to leave her, told her she was worthless, stupid, wouldn’t ever find anyone else but him.
I had no idea.
The months that followed were hard on Anne. She cried all the time. He had damaged her so bad psychologically that she truly believed she would never find someone else. She would text and call him periodically because she was still stuck in the mentality that he was the only one for her. So much so, she stood on a street corner at our friends bachelorette party, sobbing her face off telling me no one would ever love her as much as he did. I smacked her in the face. I was so mad.
Mad at her for thinking it.
Mad at him for doing this to her.
Mostly, mad at myself because I HAD NO IDEA.
I am happy to report that Anne is now happily married and the mother of beautiful children with a bright future for herself and her family. But I will never forget going through that with her and I will never forget that I had no idea my best friend in the world was going through this.
So the next time you think twice about believing someone, the next time you defend someone’s abuse, the next time you think this isn’t the person you know, just remember you might be…
The Person Who Has No Idea.