During my senior year of college, I had to work on an Honors project so that I could wear a stupid-ass white tassel when I graduated. I chose to start work on a memoir about my experiences with the Dreaded Ex, thinking that a book like that might help other people understand emotional violence a little bit better. Since I’d never written narrative nonfiction before, I spent a lot of time workshopping the manuscript with my coworkers at the campus writing center. I got invaluable feedback from the various women who looked at my writing, but one session will forever stand out in my memory. I read a passage aloud to my friend DiAnna; it was about how I’d told my ex-boyfriend that I’d had body image issues, that I’d binged and purged, that I particularly did not like the size of my rear end. At the end of the reading, DiAnna shook her head. “Oh, Deb. It’s like you said, ‘Here, take my power!’” she said, holding out her hands to me.
I was offended at the time: was she insinuating that the situation was somehow my fault? But now that I’m older, wiser, and infinitely more deadly, I know what she meant. It wasn’t my fault; abuse is never your fault. But there are things you can do that make you more or less attractive to predators, and I’d essentially stood there with a sign around my neck that said, “Please Kick Me Here.”
Nothing I did was wrong. Nothing I did made what he did to me okay. Nothing you do or say will make what he does to you all right. But like the good Brownie I once was, I believe in Being Prepared. You can take self-defense classes to better handle physical attacks; well, there are some things you can do emotionally to better handle emotional violence. And we’re going to cover them in this here entry.