Women’s First Hand Accounts of Violence Don’t Count

When I was in college, I had “convenient” PIV with a man named Mike who ended up becoming my brother’s roommate.

This man was mean. In the daylight, he either ignored me, or we matched wills and intellects over various “philosophical” questions such as “Is it really true that just because you’re paranoid, that doesn’t mean they’re not after you?”

He smelled of whisky and cigarettes. On several occasions, he was violent. He twisted my arm behind my back so far that he was completely in control. He put his knees on my arms, and choked me until I couldn’t breathe.

That part of the story is only interesting insofar as I remember not knowing why I wanted to be ignored or fought with in the day, and f*cked at night. I liked being treated this way, even though I hated it when he would pop an entire bag of popcorn for himself, and get mad when I asked to share some. Why did I tolerate this treatment? Because the patriarchal culture I was brought up in groomed me for masochism.

Anyway, this story isn’t really about Mike. When he choked me though, no one believed the story. My brother, and my friends, never did anything about it. He was still part of our social group, and if I didn’t want to spend time with him, I would have had to leave the group. Not to mention that my brother lived with him. So, I “got over” it and stopped talking about what happened.

Last night, in speaking with my brother, he finally told me that after he heard that Miked had choked me, he punched Mike, who denied that it had ever happened. So, my brother believed him, and not me.

Finally, my brother admits to me that he made a mistake in believing Mike. “Yes, you were choked until you couldn’t breathe. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.”

Why do you think my brother believed Mike, when brother and I had been such close friends for so many years? Because it was convenient. And because women’s first hand accounts of violence don’t count for sh*t under the patriarchy. They really, really don’t.

Mike is an ass. I don’t care about what happened- I’m not traumatized. I’m glad my brother finally believes me six years later, but it doesn’t make me un-learn the lessons this has taught me. I doubt I will be believed if someone else hurts me. I’m glad I now resist my culturally induced masochism, and that I told the truth back then, even though no one believed me.

About smash
Women's liberationist.

14 Responses to Women’s First Hand Accounts of Violence Don’t Count

  1. Oh, Smash, I’m so sorry you had that experience. I cannot understand why men do such things, and I don’t think I ever will.

    (Sorry I cannot say more than this. I’m not in a good place right now. Lots of, as you put it, masochism.)

  2. smash says:

    Thanks MT! It’s good have support. Stuff like this happens to all women, doesn’t it? I am not unique. I just didn’t see the patterns before.

    Truly, revisiting this event has reminded me of how much internalized masochism I’ve got, and that despite progress, there’s a lot more I need to do to expunge it.

    Here’s to the future of female- and self- love. 🙂

  3. KatieS says:

    Smash, I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you. It’s hard to believe that one’s brother would take a side with someone against his sister. I do believe it because my brother did that to me, though it did not involve sex, but something else. He totally stuck up for the other party. Yet, I’ve helped him numerous times, I’m someone good in a crisis, level-headed, etc. However, in this situation, he somehow saw me as irrational because I showed some emotion. Really, not that much. I guess the “irrational woman” stereotype was stronger than the decades long history where I’ve been solid, practical, etc. Betrayal. I no longer trust him like I once did and doubt that I ever will. Blood is not thicker than water, misogyny is. Those of us with brothers do well to remember that, I think.

    I’m currently reading “Loving to Survive” by Dee Graham. She takes a different look at masochism and discards the idea in favor of one relating to bonding during tramatic events, which is something all humans do, male and female. She starts with a good discussion of Stockholm Syndrome and takes it into oppressed groups, particularly women. I no longer believe that any woman has masochism. Highly recommended.

  4. smash says:

    Thank you Katie, I appreciate it. As I said, this is so common.

    I’m sorry to hear your brother took the other side as well, and used the “irrational woman” stereotype rather than his lived experience with you. It is so sad that brothers can be this way. They are our family, but yet… that fact is quickly forgotten at moment zero when it counts. As you say, misogyny is thicker than blood. It is true! An uncomfortable truth, that. But true.

    I am very interested in the book you mentioned. It might help me start to understand these truths I’m realizing about myself. Why would someone– anyone!– continue to intimately associate with someone who emotionally and physical abuses them? And yet, so many women have done so, and I have as well.

    Using the lens of radical feminism, I’ve been re-looking at my past patterns of associating with physical/emotional abusers, and I feel like I’m waking up from false consciousness. It’s not that I hadn’t recognized that interacting with men like this was bad for me– I finally broke away from these destructive patterns– it’s that I never saw the system in place that helped me excuse away their bad behavior, and that motivated me to associate with them. AND the system that allowed me to continue to be close to my brother, after he betrayed me by taking Mike’s side.

    I do sincerely appreciate the support. I know that when women talk about these things, it can sometimes feel that we’ve over-shared. But I felt like I needed to get this out there; not for sympathy, but to publicly recognize the patriarchal culture that led me to accept this treatment. As I’ve said– I’m not traumatized, and this wasn’t a giant part of my life. It is just one incident in the multitudes of male violence against women, and one women’s voice not being heard until the incident is in the distant past.

  5. Hecuba says:

    Hi Smash I have recommended Loving to Survive by Dee Graham to a feminist friend of mine and she immediately understood Graham’s theory and no women are not masochistic that is just one of many lies male supremacy/patriarchy tells women. Loving to Survive should be compulsory reading for all women but sadly many women do not want to know the truth – far better to deceive themselves with viewing their ‘Nigel’ as the exception to other misogynistic men.

    We need to remember the male supremacist system is set up to disbelieve women because only men can (supposedly) define what is truth and what is not and women are supposedly innate liars.

    One of the reasons why women continue to remain in relationships with violent and women-hating men is because we women are conditioned as soon as we are born to accept men do supposedly really value and respect us. Sadly all to often that is a lie but what is a woman to do given once she has entered into a relationship/marriage/sexual partnership with a male she swiftly realises she does not have the financial resources to leave the partnership. Where is she supposed to go given many women do not receive high salaries. Then too there is propaganda all women receive and that is ‘women are supposed to make allowances for the man’s violence/contempt for them.’ Women are supposed to be the ones who change the bad male into a good male. Women are ostracised and blamed if they leave their ‘respectable male partner/boyfriend.’ Then too there is the fact many women do not want to face reality and recognise the violence their male partner inflicts on them is violence and male domination -not ‘love’ as male supremacy claims. If a male really respects and loves a female he would not subject her to violence in any form and no I am not referring to verbal arguments which all humans engage in but deliberate and systemic male control and male domination over the woman.

    Loving to Survive is a good place to start concerning untangling the innumerable conflicting messages and lies male supremacist system tells women – remember always ask the question who benefits and I am certain it is always men not women!

  6. smash says:

    Thanks Hecuba– I’ve reserved the book at the library, so hopefully that will help. I fully believe that what you are saying is true.

  7. FCM says:

    hi smash

    i agree with hecuba, women are not “masochists” and i understand why when some radfems call attention to the “masochism” inherent in PIV and male-centric sex for women, that women disagree with and are offended by this assessment. i dont think its true, or its an imperfect description of whats going on. in fact, calling women “masochists” in this context is a male-centric description that further normalizes mens sadism isnt it? as if theres a “natural” correlate to mens sickening sadism?

    in reality, womens participation to whatever degree in this system of normalized and invisiblized sadism at the hands of men that is known as “sex” or “heterosex” is not the same as masochism at all. its a consequence of our being sexual slaves to men, as part of the touchable caste as mary daly says. i think we need to be more clear about that.

  8. smash says:

    Okay, so it’s not masochism. But why then do women return to assholes, or stay with them? Or in my above situation. If I didn’t enjoy this bad treatment, then why, I’m trying to find out, did I stay? It’s certainly b/c of the patriarchal culture I grew up in. But what specifically about that culture made it the case that I wanted to continue being treated badly?

  9. FCM says:

    i dont know the answer to that but i am thinking on it. perhaps it would help (to determine whether you are really a “masochist”) to consider whether you get pleasure or sexual gratification from pain or from being abused and dominated in other contexts as well? besides the het partnership i mean? would you rather get a massage, or be hit on the thumb with a hammer? or, if a woman at the grocery store treated you terribly and humiliated you when you went through her line, would you actively seek her out next time? im not trying to be glib, just re-contextualizing your experience and the idea that pain and humiliation is pleasurable, or desirable, or natural you you, or for any of us, or many of us.

    if you felt it was only desirable in the context of the het partnership and not in other contexts, could it be that theres something about the het partnership itself that caused “pleasure” response from this stimuli? is it gratifying being owned, for example? property that is not “owned” is technically abandoned afterall. we must know this on some level. or were you just test-driving this dood and kept him around because you had the time, then the trauma-bonding kicked in? i dont know, and i hope this isnt offensive. it could be a lot of things. and you say you arent traumatized by it, but sometimes its difficult to tell for sure, especially when theres trauma-bonding involved. it doesnt feel like trauma, it feels like emotional connection, desire and even “love”.

  10. smash says:

    Good questions, FCM. I’m not offended by them– I think these are questions all women should ask themselves. I’ll have more answers once I’ve thought on this. Thank you for your responses.

  11. KatieS says:

    Smash, I do think that the book I recommended gave a pretty good description of possible (and I’d say, likely) dynamics, including that women do not know they are traumatized. It is quite chilling, really. But I value knowing the truth.

  12. Pingback: Loving to Survive « smashesthep

  13. Pingback: Radfem Reboot Day Three: Reclaiming Women’s Space and Sexuality « smashesthep

  14. faeryfrog says:

    I’m sorry that he did that to you. Hopefully his smoking and drinking will take a fatal toll on him.

    I don’t have much to add to the general discussion, but regarding what you said about not being traumatized, it makes me wonder how traumatized womin would be if we were given the freedom to act against our abusers, reclaim our power. For most of us, the best option there is is “move on.” He is never punished and we are told how strong we are for getting on with our lives (which we are, but it not like we have another choice unless we fancy jail).

    Would PTSD after sexual assault stop being a thing if we were free to exact vengeance, or even if the justice system were more true to its name?

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