My feelings about him are a jumble,
and I need people in my life who can let me
feel all the different emotions I have.
Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? – Lundy Bancroft
This is probably one of the hardest topics I’ve had to write about in regards to Dom, so far, even more so than my fears that I maybe really was the abusive one within the ‘relationship’. It’s one that I’d do anything to deny.
But sometimes, sometimes I actually liked him as a person.
I never loved him nor wanted to be in a ‘relationship’ with him, I know that, but there were times where I almost valued him as a friend. He was intelligent, we had some similar interests, there were times where we were able to laugh together and spend at least neutral, if not good, time together. There were times where he could be genuinely kind to me, or at least he seemed to be.
It was quite likely that I was doing anything I could to see some kind of good in him; it made the abuse more bearable, it made it easier to blame myself because he wasn’t truly like that, at least not all the time. Though, at the same time, it was fucking crazy making.
Most violent males quite often appear to be anything but, at least to people on the outside. I guess I was slightly lucky in that most people seemed to instinctively dislike Dom upon first meeting him, though with time they’d slowly fall in love with him, slowly see the charm and the sociability that he had underneath. At first, though, that just wasn’t there. Most people found him arrogant, unlike-able, weird and off putting as well as overly friendly and overly demanding of other people’s time.
I remember our first Philosophy lesson, the day I first met him, September 2006. It was like every womon there had some kind of natural instinct to stay away from him, I saw looks as he sat next to them and they’d lie, saying they’d saved the seat for a friend. He worked his way round the room, I trusted my own instincts and the instincts of the other womyn in the class and hoped he wouldn’t come near me. I thought I was OK, I’d sat next to a womon on the end of a row, he couldn’t sit next to me. But he decided to pull a chair over and sit on the edge of my table, uncomfortably invading my space. Already a survivor, I nowhere near had the confidence to tell a man to leave me alone, so I tolerated him being there. The womon next to me, uncomfortable with him being there, turned away and focused on the womon the other side of her, leaving me with only him for company. I notice, looking back, he never once made an effort to socialise with the other males in the class, he focused solely on the womyn.
I should have trusted my first instincts from that first Philosophy lesson. I should have trusted the instincts of my sisters. I should have at least understood what kind of obnoxious, arrogant little shits of men apply to do Philosophy A-Level. And he really was. He automatically considered himself to be more intelligent than everyone else; consistently arguing and debating with everyone about everything, including our newly qualified female tutor who he obviously thought he had more power than. I found him incredibly distasteful and a horrible person and I know I wasn’t alone. I doubted myself, though, thought I was being harsh. Figured everyone deserved a chance and he was probably just nervous with it being his first day of college. Tolerating him and giving him that chance was probably the biggest mistake I ever made. And it’s not one I’ll make again. Men are not welcome in my life, in any capacity and I’ll certainly never be giving them second chances.
Most people responded the same as me, though. Hated him and found him distasteful and off-putting at first, but later found a somewhat likeable person underneath. Someone intelligent and with a sense of humour, someone who could be genuinely kind and charming, someone who had all the right leftist dudebro language to at least briefly believe he was a good person. He was a self-proclaimed ‘feminist’, he thought homophobia was horrible and even described himself as ‘bisexual’ (this however, is not true, he’s straight. Raping and abusing and manipulating under-age teenage boys just as or just before they come out as gay is definitely not bisexuality), he spoke strongly against racism and bullying and classism. How could a guy like that possibly be abusive? How could a self-proclaimed feminist be an abuser?
There were times where I actually kinda liked him. Not romantically, I knew I was a lesbian long before I got into a ‘relationship’ with him, but in a platonic way, to an extent. He could be charming, he could be funny, he could carry a conversation, he could be fun to spend time with, we had similar interests, interests that not many of my friends had. Back when I was younger (I’m aware that a good chunk of you still consider me young!) I very much had a ‘not like other girls’ thing going on; I think it was my way of embracing my lesbianism and to distance myself from femininity. This meant that I made a lot of effort to not socialise with those ‘other girls’, I mostly socialised with men (good Goddess have I learnt my lesson) and Dom potentially seemed like he could be a good friend.
Things are different now; the quote suggests that I need someone to be able to see the good and the bad within him, and to an extent I do still. I need people to realise that I didn’t always hate him, I wasn’t always scared of him. I was always on edge, always waiting for things to change, always waiting for him to get angry again, but there were also times where I genuinely enjoyed his company. Unlike some other survivors who did, I wouldn’t say I loved him, I never did, but there were times when I did consider him a friend and it did make everything much more complicated.
How was I supposed to put together the violent man who beat me and raped me and belittled me and sold me to his friends and family and humiliated me and controlled me with the friend who’d quite happily have a gaming marathon with me, who’d some mornings get up with me at 6am to be able to go to uni, who’d make me a coffee and keep me company even though he didn’t have to do anything that day, who supported me (albeit he also pressured me into doing it) when I pressed charges against my mum’s boyfriend, who supported me when I tried to break contact with my family (though, isolating me from people definitely worked for him), who bandaged up my self-harm, who defended me when a guy attacked me at college, who bought me flowers, who bought me jewellery, who would do sweet little things to surprise me? How can I put those two people together? I didn’t love him, but he could be kind to me, he could be caring, he could be sweet. And yeah, usually that kindness came after a violent assault, but that just fucks with your head even more, you see the two extremes one after each other, you see the pain and the apologies and the regret and you believe that good person is the real person, you believe that they just slipped, just lost control, just lost their temper, that they really, really didn’t mean to do it because how could this kind, sweet, caring person ever mean to be that cruel?
It was a constant head-fuck and even now I feel guilty about being so cruel to him, about being so honest about who he was. I feel like, like I should be protecting him. That in reality he is a sweet and caring guy, a survivor of domestic abuse himself (his father beat his mother and then threatened to turn on him causing her to leave when he was five), who was possibly a survivor of sexual abuse (though, I’m not inclined to believe this, actually, the only reason I believe he’s a survivor of domestic abuse is because I believe his mother and frankly, she’s the survivor, not him), who was bullied throughout school but who still had a kind heart to so many.
Logically, I know he only ever let me know any of this to do… well, exactly this. To have me doubting who he really is, to feel sorry for him, to justify what he is and what he does. I don’t even know if half of it is true and I guess it doesn’t even matter. He got my sympathy anyway and I’m still working on getting rid of its traces.
Living with the dichotomy of who he is is still so difficult though. A good majority of my friends are radical feminists, lesbian feminists, a few lib-fems dotted in here and there and they all hate him or would hate him if they knew who he was, what he did. I know that a lot of the womyn in my life know how domestic abuse works, I know they understand the dual relationship with an abuser, but it still leaves me feeling so ashamed for not completely and 100% hating him. I know he was a violent, abusive person who does not deserve my sympathy, I know that that kind and caring side was merely a disguise to hide who he really is, I know that that dual nature was used to manipulate me and control me further – but that doesn’t stop me and it certainly didn’t stop me from appreciating that nice side of him because well, frankly, if you’re getting your head kicked in and your body violated pretty much every day, you appreciate any act of kindness after a while.
Sometimes, even now, even now I’m out of that relationship and have been for a long time, I do need people to acknowledge just how difficult that dual nature is to live with. Just how confused and hurt and torn it leaves us. Even if we don’t actively love our ex’s, even if we never loved them, it still leaves such a sense of confusion and doubt. We need people to meet us where we are, to acknowledge both sides of our abusers. They’re not good, of course they’re not and that ‘goodness’ is very often an act to hide their violence and their cruelty, but we did and do see that kindness and it does fuck us up.
Especially for womyn still in those kinds of relationships, saying that their partners are out-right bad people, evil people, abusive people just simply isn’t going to work. It’ll have us running a mile, honestly. We have to admit that those acts of kindness do mean something to victims, we have to acknowledge that the reality for domestic abuse victims is dual in nature and they need to be met on that level.
Those acts of kindness fade, eventually, they become so much less frequent and they become so half-arsed compared to what they once used to be. Especially when the abuser is sure they have complete control and their victim isn’t going to leave them, is too scared to do anything other than forgive them, who is living a life of such constant violence that even being handed a tissue to mop up your own blood can be such a ray of light.
I can’t remember the last time Dom was nice to me, it was long, long before I finally broke up with him and ended our ‘engagement’ (my sealed destiny of captivity), I honestly can’t remember at all. He’d clearly decided it was no longer needed, that I was so stuck and so hurt and so broken that he didn’t need to pretend he was sorry any more, he didn’t need to be nice to me. I had no-one and nothing left as far as he knew, I had no reason to fight it, he had no reason to carry on manipulating me and controlling me, I was always going to be his victim until he finally killed me. He was wrong, he was so very wrong and him being wrong was ultimately what saved my life.