(This tirade is a little different from the more measured writing you may be accustomed to from me, so take a deep breath. The piece is in two parts, both of which are below.)
The abusive man learns early in life, from his surrounding society and beyond, that when he becomes an adult he has the right to swallow a female whole, and that in this way he will fill the vast emptiness inside of him and feel empty no more. He learns that the female of his choosing owes him her life entire in this fashion, that it would be wrong of her to fail to sacrifice her life and herself in this way. Not only that, but he learns that this self-erasure will be her greatest joy.
He gets these messages all over the place, from his own unhealthy relatives all the way up to police responses, courts, and Disney movies.
All of what he learns is a lie. It is a moral lie, meaning it’s a lie about what’s right and what’s wrong; no woman’s life should ever by martyred to fill a man’s (or anyone’s) emptiness. But not only should this not be done, it also cannot be done. Thus it is not only a moral lie but also a lie about the nature of reality. A human being cannot be vacuumed into the inside of another person and become part of that person, in some kind of twisted reversal of the birth process. It’s absurd that it’s even necessary for me to state this.
The abusive man hates the woman for continuing to exist outside of him. No matter how hard she may try, in her terror and in her trauma, to disappear inside of him, she simply cannot do it. (And if she gets some support in her life, she may even attempt to refuse to continue trying.) He hates her for this, for still being there, because he was taught that to disappear inside of him is her unlimited obligation and will make him whole.
When you find yourself wondering why the abuser hates you – as most abused women do at one point or another – this is why: because you continue to breathe, because you have skin, because you eat food and then move with the energy of that food, because by getting out of bed and standing up in the morning you have once again demonstrated your failure to become him.
Though he blames his hatred on your characteristics — your supposed failings, that is — these have absolutely nothing to with it. It has only to do with the fact of your continued being. He will only forgive you when he finally succeeds in cleaving you into pieces and vacuuming those pieces into his interior, which he will of course never be able to do.
So I encourage you to stop wondering if it was this thing about you or that thing about you, this thing you said or that thing you did, this thing you set off in him or that thing you brought up in him, which caused him to come to hate you. What’s going on with him has nothing to do with you at all, it’s entirely about him and about his society.
I pray that you find a way to get beyond the reach of his cleaver, beyond the sucking pull of his vacuum hose.
And I pray that you find a world that will permit and accept your escape.
But here is a big problem: significant parts of his world are not willing yet to allow a woman to escape her personal male vacuum. Remember, this is the world that taught him these views to begin with.
So for example – as untold thousands of you know from experience – the Legal Authorities, the ones that have the power of life and death over children, often declare that if the woman escapes the man, she must be punished with the Ultimate Punishment: she must turn her beloved children, the beings she most adores in the world, over to this cleaver-and-vacuum, so that the abuser can chop and suck them up, not to fill his emptiness but to get revenge on her for escaping him, for not being engulfed.
Stunningly, this nefarious Court will be deeply proud and self-righteous about having done this. Judges, evaluators, GAL’s, will all believe that committing this atrocity actually proves their greater maturity and moral superiority.
I pray that this does not happen, is not already happening, to you and your children.
Nothing short of a women’s revolution is going to stop this, stop all of it, put an end to the erasure of women.
The above prose poem or manifesto or rant, or whatever you choose to call it, was written as I attempted to digest separate conversations I had with L. and with M. as people were leaving the March 2020 “The Life That Awaits You” retreat. I’m not the first person to write a description of the above realities. Many women and a few men before me have expressed similar dark but real, and I hope ultimately liberating, visions.
[** I’ll be back soon with more entries in the “Current State of Domestic Violence” series that many of you have been following. **]