I don’t generally go into the personal details of my life in this blog, but this is one of those moments. Apologies if you are here for tech/WordPress-related stuff, and real-world stuff bums you out.
I turn 45 this year, and that moment in my 16-year-old life is still as vivid to me today as it was then.
The argument itself was stupid, the spelling of a word is hardly something to get into a fight about. But as always, when my father was challenged, he got angry, and his anger led to violence.
It was a slap, across my stepmother’s face, but at that moment, all the stories I had heard about him from my mother and grandmother became real. My father was an abuser, he physically abused women.
My parents divorced when I was less than a year old, so I never really had the best relationship with him in the first place. But if their fathers are present, young boys will always look up to them, no matter how bad the relationship is.
That day my entire perception of what is right, wrong, truth, and lies solidified. It was made worse a few weeks/months later when, after I’d told him through a proxy that I didn’t want to see him again, I ran into him, and was offered the opportunity to confront him. And I did. And as he stood there in front of me, denying what had happened, trying to convince me that what I had seen and experienced was not real, I learned what gaslighting was, before I’d even heard the word. I ran away screaming and I’ve probably not stopped running since.
The worst part? When those around me who I trusted to be my elders, leaders, and people who I looked up to, instantly believed him before even asking me for my story.
It’s the reason I have a largely unhealthy trust in people, especially other males. It’s the reason I tend to stick to myself, and only come out of my shell in spaces where I feel safe. It’s the reason I spent much of my adult life learning martial arts for self-defense to build my confidence and then trying to teach those same lessons to other children. It’s the reason that whenever I see or hear of similar stories, I want to find the people responsible, and beat the ever-loving crap out of them, even though I know this is the wrong solution to the problem.
It is the reason that I will always believe women, people of color, different races, beliefs, gender orientation, whatever I hear their stories. It is because I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of toxic masculinity.
If you hear a story about abuse, and your gut response is to believe the abuser, because he is “well known” or “well respected”, then I challenge you to rethink how you see the world. Not because you feel sorry for me, but because the next person who suffers abuse could be someone you care for, and you could have stood against it instead of allowing it.