Has he hit you?


Autumn Whitefield-Madrano reflects on being a feminist in an abusive relationship @ Feministe.

In early 2001, a group of friends who had introduced me to my then-boyfriend sat me down at a kitchen table. “We’re worried about you,” one said. “Has he hit you?”The answer, at the time, was no.

Ten months later, I stumble into the emergency room, blood dripping from my nose onto my ripped pajama top, barefoot in the November chill. The receptionist says words to me that make no sense. The only words that make sense are the ones that spill out of my mouth over and over again, the only words that will let the receptionist and the nurses and my friends and my parents know that this isn’t what it looks like, that I’m not one of those women, those women in abusive relationships, those women who can’t help themselves enough to get out: I went to college, I went to college, I went to college.

I knew the numbers, I knew the stats. I knew that relationship abuse wasn’t just for pretty white women, or women of color, or poor women, or straight women, or even just for women, period. I knew victims of violence could love their abusers. I’d done my women’s studies reading; I’d written a piece in my college magazine about how despite the necessity of programs like Take Back the Night and SafeRide (both of which I’d volunteered for), they also furthered the notion that a woman’s greatest personal threat lay outside the home.But privately, I knew that the women who fell prey to relationship violence were categorically Not Like Me. They weren’t feminists, for starters, or at least not yet. They weren’t independent, articulate, raised by liberal Free to Be You and Me parents whose overriding message to their children was You are worthy. Frankly, I thought those women probably weren’t that smart, to not leave after seeing the warning signs. I pictured emotionally frail women who just didn’t know better cowering from their beastly abusers—how awful, we must do something, I’d think, as I’d write a check to the local women’s shelter.

Image: Monique Wiendels @ F-Stop Magazine

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