Confessions Of A Willing Victim
question people ask me when they find out - and almost no one finds out
- is why. Why do I let you do this to me? I don't fit their stereotype:
I'm an intelligent, educated, financially stable woman, and I worked
hard to put myself here. Why do I let you tear me down?
Honestly, I don't know.
I do know is this: before I met you, I often congratulated myself on my
independence and self-confidence. Sometimes, I even felt attractive and
believed that I was worth loving.
And I know this: I don't
go out looking for you. I barely even notice you when you first come
into my life, and I don't think of you in a romantic way, I swear.
when you approach me, I think you must be kidding. You're so good
looking, young, smart and from the best family in town. But you're not
kidding. You pursue me relentlessly and wear me down with your talk of
soulmates, destiny and love.
You tell me how amazing I am,
and you say you love everything about me that I like about myself.
You're not just saying that, or so it seems. You get specific, and you
notice the little things that matter to me. This never happens to me,
so it's not long before I'm thinking: "at last."
And I whisper to myself: "I want you to take care of me."
I don't blame you for the seduction. It's not your fault. Yes, you
offer me the love heroin, but I'm the one who takes it eagerly,
desperately. I see the warning signs: the boundaries are mine to set if
I want to. But I don't want to. I want you to consume me. I want you to
be my life, because I don't think I have one of my own.
leave my marriage (dead long before I met you) right away. It's just
that easy. I can't sleep or eat, but in a good way. You and I can't
stay away from each other. You're obsessed with me, and magical thinker
that I am, it's my dream come true. Finally, for the very first time, a
man loves me for me! And I love him, too! This is the best thing that's
ever happened to me.
In a matter of days, you own me.
it's all an illusion, of course. I keep trying to get more of the drug,
to re-create that high, but it never comes back, because you're no
longer giving; you're just taking. And now I'm hooked: powerless to do
anything but give you what you want.
I try to extricate
myself. I go to therapy, desperately trying to find the answers that I
don't really want. The self-help books I read, and I read an awful lot
of them these days, tell me to cultivate my hobbies and interests.
I already have hobbies and interests, and none of them engages me the
way you do. Who writes this crap, anyway? Has anyone ever walked away
from a fiery, all-consuming love affair so they can have more time to
knit and fly-fish?
Not me. And so I sign up to play the
game. But I'm doomed, because you've already won. And because you don't
love me, boy are you holding all the cards.
I try to play
anyway, but how can I win at a game I don't understand? I would play by
the rules if I knew what they were, but you keep changing them.
day, I undress you and kiss you and stroke your beautiful stomach. You
sigh and say, "I love the way you touch me." Of course you do, I think.
I'm your soulmate, so I know what you want and I'll give it to you. The
next week, when I touch you in exactly the same way, you slap me away
and snarl, "Don't touch me!"
Another day, you ask me to
love you. You tell me that we can be together forever if I love you.
Days later, I make love to you, and with you still inside me, I look
into your eyes and tell you that I do. You push me off of you and say
no, no, no. And just like that, I'm on the floor alone and naked and
crying and trying to understand how you can love me and want me one
minute and hate me and be repulsed by me the next.
you know the answer, but I know you won't tell me, because you won't
even talk to me, and you won't let me talk to you. You're in the
bathroom, washing me away from you.
I pull myself up, try
to get dressed. I don't know what's going to happen next, but I know
it'll be less humiliating if I'm not naked. Time for damage control.
I'm bleeding. I think, you've really hurt me this time. But no. I've
started my period. Everything - you, me, my blood - is smeared all over
me, and I'm crying and now you don't love me.
it or not, I'm the one who's apologizing. And I clean it up. It's my
job to keep your secrets. You're saying you shouldn't have brought me
here. Look what a mess I'm making of your family's historic building.
Now, I'm making too much noise. I'm just trying to calm you down, but
everything I do makes you angrier. Oh, God, how am I fucking this up so
badly? I've spent my whole life in training for this. I can be perfect
and quiet or whatever it is that you want. I know how to fix every
single thing so the man doesn't get angry. I'm something of an expert.
But it's not working now.
You put me in your truck - what
are you going to do, drive me away from your family's good name? In an
instant, I'm transformed from object of desire to leaking bag of
garbage to be dumped.
It's funny - my worst fear right now
is not, where are you taking me, and what are you going to do to me?
It's that you don't want me anymore. Sure, I'm afraid of you, but I'm
more afraid that you'll abandon me.
And that's exactly what
happens. You force me out of the truck at the edge of town. Total
humiliation: you've fucked me, abused me, abandoned me, and I'm crying,
bleeding, alone right there on the main drag in our tiny town.
And no one sees me at all. Remember: I'm the expert.
tonight is the night. This is when I know for sure that I'm in an
abusive relationship. But I'm so addicted to you now (my therapist
doesn't like it when I use the words "love" and "relationship" when I
talk about you) that I'm willing to follow you down as far as you'll
Because it's not just about you. You're not just a
man. You're a link in a chain. I know that if I get away from you,
there will be another one - and he'll be worse, no doubt, because
they've gotten worse as I've grown older. I put more in; I get less
out. That's how it works.
Later, after these episodes,
there's a honeymoon phase. You come back to me, saying, "You know it's
not my fault, right? You know you provoke me. You change me into a
different person." I don't disagree.
What damages me most
is not that you're doing it, but that I'm letting you do it and I don't
want you to stop. It's a downward spiral: The lower I feel, the more I
take, and the worse you get, the lower I feel, etc.
books I read say that women like me don't leave men like you because
they can't afford to leave or they're afraid you'll come after them and
the children. What's my excuse? You're surely not giving me any money.
I've got money of my own, and you don't give a crap about me, so I'm
pretty sure you won't come after me. You can go somewhere else: what
girl in town doesn't want you? I'm nothing to you, but you feel like my
My therapist tells me that as long as I'm
stuck to you, I can't meet a nice guy. I hear these words come out of
my mouth: "Nice guys don't go for girls like me." If any friend of mine
said this, I'd prop her up and find a way to convince her it isn't
true. But I can say it about myself, because I know it's the truth, and
there's no sense denying it. That leads to false hope, and false hope
leads to men like you.
I swear, it's not like I pick you
and your brothers. You guys always come for me, and I say no. You find
me and wear me down. Who did she say she worked for? Call her there.
What's her last name? Look it up. It's a small town. It's not like I'm
turning down the nice guys and picking you. The nice guys don't
approach - girls like me.
I'm so ashamed that I'm letting
you treat me this way, but the truth is, the worse you treat me, the
more I love you. Those closest to me want me to be free of you, I
think, but mostly, they don't know what to say. They tell me to stay
away from you: "If he calls, don't answer the phone. If he comes over
anyway, call the police. Don't talk to him. He's bad for you."
They don't get it. You don't stop because I don't want you to stop. If I really wanted to, I could find a way out.
Not Good Enough
therapist again: my whole life, I've been dominated by a raging,
disapproving, unpredictable man - first my father, then a long string
of bad men, right down to you. No matter how smart I am or what kind of
grades I get or how hard I work around here, I could never be good
enough for any of you guys. You're not going to love me, no matter how
unbelievably hard I try to win your approval. It's a treadmill, not a
marathon. I've always been a little odd and socially awkward and (let's
be honest) I'm not a beauty queen, so I try to beat the competition the
only way I can: unlike the other girls, I will love you
unconditionally. I can stand more pain - of any kind - and I'll build
you up, make you a man and sacrifice myself to your insanity.
I have known you my whole life.
I have no excuses. It's not about money, because I have worked hard and
saved well, and for some reason, that's one place I won't let you in.
And no kids, so no strings! Except now you've figured out that I want a
baby, and you start trying to get me pregnant. You're saying, think how
smart and beautiful our baby would be, but I know your real motivation:
if we have a child, you'll control me forever. This would be the single
craziest thing I could do. But the next day, I throw away my birth
So you've changed the rules again. You even
start to tell me that you love me, and now I'll get in trouble if I
don't say it, right? You don't really love me, of course. It's control,
again. And it works, again.
You dictate how and when and
where I touch you. But my body belongs to you. When we're riding in
your truck, you reach over and put your hand between my legs. It's not
affectionate or even sexual - just a reminder: "You belong to me." And
I don't move your hand.
As crazy as I am, I have a moment
of clarity every now and then. I think, "Thank God you don't love me."
If you did, would I be dead, or just destitute and desperate? If you
loved me, you would take my money, my car and I'd get fired and evicted
from everywhere just like you do.
But you can't love me,
because you don't think I'm good enough for you. You may come from the
biggest, most important family in town, but everyone knows about your
problems. Everyone loves and respects me, and you can't stand it. But
why are you ashamed of me - because I'm older? Fatter? Not as beautiful
as you are? fuck you.
Take All Of Me
got an amazing deal. I'm your unpaid prostitute. You can come over in
the middle of the night, do your dope, have a drink, have the most
amazing sex and conversation, maybe release your anger and frustration,
and then leave, no strings attached. You know I will never make trouble.
love the sex, too, you know. You're my religion, so to me, everything
you do is magical. My mind worships you, so why shouldn't my body? Take
everything. I barely even resist.
I'm pitiful, I know, but
it's not like I'm not trying. My therapist, who seems ready to give up
on me, compels me to seek help at the local domestic violence shelter.
You'd think this humiliating wake-up call would stop me from seeing
you, but it doesn't, of course.
I agree to complete the
program, but I adopt an uncharacteristically belligerent attitude. I
don't belong here, even though the "intake" counselors are sure that I
do. I defiantly wear my business clothes, drive my expensive car to the
shelter - and park around the block and dash in, head down.
tell myself that I'm way ahead of these other women here: I have a job
with health insurance, a college degree, someplace to live. But, in my
insanity, I'm the inferior one here. See, their men are out hunting
them, but I know you're not looking for me, because you don't have to.
You just laugh and say, "Go ahead. I don't care if you leave me. I
don't need you." This is the perfect thing for you to say. Back to the
But first: This fucking program I've agreed to.
These women tell stories much worse than mine. They ran away from their
men in the middle of the night with nothing but their kids and the
nightclothes on their backs. Some have broken bones. Aside from a few
minor incidents, you've never hurt me physically. It's almost all
verbal and emotional with you. My sick mind sees failure in this: If
you valued me, you'd hunt me and rage out of control like their men
apparently have. I can't even be abused properly!
I know I
should be grateful. These women have no jobs, nor any prospect for one.
If I leave this town, I can get a job anywhere, doing all kinds of
things, maybe even make more money. Forget this shelter: I have friends
and family I could stay with.
But when I voice this to the
counselors, they say: these women had at least some of those things,
too. They warn me that men like you systematically separate women from
their support systems. But I already know that from experience. It's
true this time, too. A close friend or two stops returning my phone
calls. Another says, "Don't talk to me about this anymore. I give up."
I've given up on myself, too. Haven't I stopped dreaming of travel or a
better career? I look awful. Everything suffers. I continue my downward
And you keep pulling me down. Constantly, you say,
"You're not as smart as you think you are; your friends are only
pretending to like you; your work is meaningless."
I used to feel attractive. I sure don't now. In fact, when I take a
class at the college in our town, I feel nearly panicked as I sit among
the young, perfect girls. You would love any of them more than you love
me. Look at them. Look at me. I feel so ugly now.
me down, and because I let you, now I feel not just ugly but stupid,
too. You say it's your job to knock me down off my high horse, and
you're pretty good at it. You're the physical embodiment of the voice
inside my head that constantly tells me I'm not good enough. I wonder
why I need you at all.
One of my friends says I'm addicted
to the drama that surrounds you and us. I don't think so. I'm tired of
hospitals, police, drugs, accidents, lies. I say I want a nice man, but
deep down, I'm not so sure. To me, what you do represents strength and
confidence. I like a strong man, I say.
Maybe I'm afraid of
being alone. But I'm alone most of the time anyway. My relationship
with you isolates me, and even though I'm stuck to you, you're not
really here for me, either.
Remember the time we thought I
had cancer and you said you'd drive me to Atlanta for my scan? I fasted
for 12 hours and waited for you. You never came, so I drove myself.
Scared, hungry, alone, and driving myself to the big city hospital with
the big scary machine. I find myself lying to the technicians so
they'll let me leave. You went to get the car so I won't have to walk
so far, I say, and now you're waiting to drive me home.
So I can do alone, I tell myself, and it's true. I can.
But that doesn't stop me from looking for a good man.
angry, but vindicated, when you come back to me after dumping me for
the hundredth time and I tell you that I went on a date with another
man - an executive I met. You laugh, and I guess it is pretty funny. I
really set myself up, saying, "See? A nice man with a real job can be
attracted to the real me, the whole package." I dress up and go to his
house, and he humiliates me. He tells me everything is wrong - my
clothes, my accent, my job, my perfume, everything. I say "thanks for
dinner" and cry all the way home.
And then there's another
man, and I like him so much. He senses my distrust and asks me to
believe in him and bare my soul to him. This "soul" bullshit should be
a red flag by now, but I really start to trust him, and he pulls your
story out of me. He sleeps next to me, makes me feel safe, promises to
protect me - and he could do it, too. He's an elite military man who
teaches other elite military men to kill the enemy with their bare
hands! Just my type. And as soon as I relax and trust him, he turns out
to be pretty much like you.
See? You laugh.
And so I go back to you, every single time.
Don't Give Up
what's different now? How was it possible, when you came to my office
last week, for me to run away without talking to you? Why did I not
take your phone calls, and when one came through by mistake, how did I
lie to you, tell you I was in a meeting, hang up as you demanded that I
give you my new secret address and phone number?
the books and movies, the girl is always rescued by a nice guy. But
let's face facts: the guy on the white horse isn't showing up for me,
and anyway, I know it's wrong to want that. I'm supposed to rescue
myself, I'm told. I know this, but I also notice that everyone who says
this is loved and secure - happily married with kids and extended
families and lots of healthy friendships. Easy for them to say. They
get rescued every day.
So I'm trying to learn to breathe
underwater. I'm going against my every instinct, a hundred times a day,
really trying this time to do what I'm told is the right thing to do -
the opposite of what I've always done to survive. It feels impossible,
but for several weeks now, I've done it. They say, "One day at a time."
It's more like one agonizing minute at a time.
struggling, trying so hard to have faith that my life can be about more
than this. I have no proof, no reason to believe that this is so, but I
guess that's what faith is. Faith and hope.
And, as smart
as you are, I'm surprised you don't know the truth: you're still in the
game. If only you will keep trying - pull your old tricks - persistence
(call my office again and again), charm, the element of surprise (just
march into my office when everyone else is at lunch!) - you can win.
Just say the magic words: "I can't live without you."
I feel exactly the same way about you.