I've gotten some private flack for yesterday's post, and I wanted to address one issue in particular. A friend objected to my post on the grounds that it was "making people choose" between myself and my ex. He claimed that because speaking out put my friends in an awkward position, I shouldn't do so.
"Making people choose" at the end of a relationship is generally viewed as a terrible, petty thing to do, and often it is. Lots of couples spend time scoring points off of each other and engaging in acts of malice. They demand explicitly that their friends choose sides, and then punish anyone who doesn't take theirs.
This is wrong. It is also not what I'm doing.
What I am doing is talking about what happened to me, what he did to me, in a public way. There is overwhelming pressure on people who have been abused to not do this. It makes those who want to ignore the abuse uncomfortable, and they believe that their comfort is more important than the voices of those who have been harmed.
I am not doing this to make my friends choose; I'm doing it to make them see. I don't particularly care if they remain friends with my ex; I assume they will. I care that they understand who I am, what I've lived through, what I'm struggling with now. As far as I know, friends are supposed to care about that sort of thing. Certainly, I care if my friends are hurting or struggling, even if those struggles are the result of a truth that is upsetting to learn.
I also am doing this to make the fact of abuse more public. Most of the women I know and a good portion of the men have experienced abuse firsthand. Some have been assaulted by a stranger, but most have been harmed by a loved one. Most of them don't talk about it in public. Most of their abusers are well regarded in their communities. This makes abusers feel safe. They trust that their victims won't talk about what they did. They trust that if their victims speak out, the community they share will shame them for it. That's an enormous problem, and the only way to address it is for those of us who have been through things to speak out, to make others acknowledge the fact of the abuse despite the shaming. Yes, that makes people in the communities in question uncomfortable. You know what's a lot more uncomfortable? Being abused.
I've also been told that not attending events that he attends is "making people choose".
The last time I was in a room with my ex was at a friend's birthday. Seeing him made me so uncomfortable that I had to leave early and had an anxiety attack that lasted for hours afterwards. I don't avoid my ex to make people choose; I avoid him to make my life a better, happier, and safer place. To accomplish that, I'm willing to skip any event that he's at. It makes me sad that I don't see the people I would see at those events, but nothing is worth what it would cost me to attend. I've never asked anyone to stop inviting my ex to functions, and I never will. It doesn't bother me particularly that they do. My choice isn't about their choice; it's my own.
If people are genuinely sad about not seeing me, I'm more than willing to arrange to hang out with them in a way that doesn't involve my ex. I'm more than willing to meet people for lunch on a Saturday or play a board game or talk on the phone. I hang out with friends from both within and without the circle in this manner rather regularly. If they're willing to do without him for an afternoon, I'm almost always available.
What I'm not willing to do is keep pretending that I'm ok. What I'm not willing to do is to sacrifice my voice to the god of other people's comfort. This is my life. I'm sharing it with you. You're free to love me or hate me, but you're wrong if you think that your discomfort is a reason that I should be silent.