Content warning: The following piece contains references to sexual assault, violence, and bullying, which may be triggering for some readers.
“There were Warnings,” Anonymous
It required a whole family of narratives. It required a whole family to be fooled. A whole family to buy in. And a whole family to play the part. It worked because it fell under the guise of just a child of narratives of care: The child who is spoiled and charming and impish the siblings who bicker and fight and “provoke’ the mother who sees herself in her son.
We all learned from his behavior. We all bought into it in some way.
I laughed along when he mocked my friends. I joined in when it came to Jeremy. And I sure as hell didn’t stick up for mom. The strangest thing is he never “blew up” he didn’t scream and was only very rarely sad. What I remember more often than not is sarcastic laughing whether he was happy or what. It’s not like he angrily shouted when he hurt or blew up it was just a force to get his way. Quiet and simple. Jeremy learned it from him doing wrist grabs and throat presses. Playing light-sabers. Winning enough to not lose. Maybe she was more vulnerable to abuse because it was all she had ever known. But her credibility as a parent rests on denying it on crafting alternative narratives and denying what I remember. I asked her what she remembers…
I just remember it was really cruel.
Like, one time I said, “I’m trying to eliminate trans fat from my diet”
And he just kept repeating it over and over again.
The physical turned verbal and financial. Not working but consuming more. Were the guitar lessons the beginning of it all? Doing swim team was like pulling teeth.
I just remember the paper bag. Sensing his tension. Him sitting next to me. wanting to know what was inside. My refusal. His gnashing. The bag torn but unopened. But if not the bag then, my hand. Bleeding from the braces.
But where did he learn it? how did he know it as he grew and aged?
The goose's nest during the soccer game. The hood ornament. The sexual assault. There was something. There are have been and will be warnings
I deserve to speak out loud. To unload what you have loaded onto me. I deserve to voice your guilt; I deserve to name your violence. I deserve to name what I am holding and to heartily give it back. I deserve to be disgusted by your behavior and to say it to your face. I deserve to expect more and better from you. All of the women who you have harmed deserve to be treated better than that. Hitting, rape, mean jokes, escalation, cruelty is never okay. We deserve to be treated better. We deserve to break out of this bullshit of acting like we’re all on an equal playing field. No. there is not sameness, and when you feel upset that I am bringing this up is very different than me feeling upset when you put me down. Indeed what you have done, the harm you have caused cannot be taken back and so the dynamic cannot be undone. It’s about time you more than apologize for your behavior.
In my morning pages I asked you, “when does my worth come before his? When? When? When?” and I know that there is no one to answer. I’m holding and carrying around his silence for him. He is a RAPIST! My twin brother is a rapist. My twin brother raped a girl who I know. My twin brother rapes people. My twin brother.
Fuck that bullshit! Fuck it.
Fuckin fuck it. Piece of shit, bullshit.
Hey mom, do you know what your son did?
Do you know that your son is a rapist?
Are you even surprised?
Do you care? Do you still have an excuse for him this time?
It’s not one woman and it’s more than two. It’s too many to be sure how many. Do you remember when I would come to you crying after he hit me and you would ask if I provoked him? Did you know your son has continued to hit long after you, after we thought he stopped?
He continued to hit when he mocked Julia and he continued to hit when he made fun of you. He continued to hit when he laughed at me and Jeremy. Did you know that he continued to hit when he told me that I was his lifeline? Did you know that it is up to my beating heart to keep him alive?
That you hit back when he told you he thought he might be bipolar and all you did was tell me that maybe he wouldn’t be a rapist now if you had taken him to a doctor. That maybe you and he should leave me out of it. Maybe you and he should do better. Maybe I am enraged. Maybe you have no fucking clue because you are oblivious and you live in denial. Did you know that I hit myself? That sometimes I feel as though someone’s got to. That I hope my pain will emerge and just come out and escape from this skin.
It feels as if anything I do for myself for injustice is against /// is hurting my brother. He wore that stupid teal ribbon on his graduation cap. But I am holding his shame and silence. I’m holding his guilt. His behavior is not okay like fuck this bullshit. HE COMMITTED the violence. How could you trust someone with this crap that he pulls? And when can my own self-preservation and rage and ethics and wisdom and strength and worth come before his?
In her book, The Power to Break Free, Anisha Durve tells the reader that perpetrators are narcissists. Perpetrators are master manipulators. Perpetrators are deeply insecure; they have a fragile sense of self, they have an inflated ego, and distorted thinking patterns. The victim can raise herself up with this knowledge. She can laugh once she knows it’s a messed up performance.
Perpetrators are pathological. He is evil.
But where does that leave Eli?
Anisha tells me that abusers are often playful, fun-loving, have a great sense of humor, loving, and warm… I think about how assertively affectionate he can be.
I think about the way humor has operated as a way to deplete my anger and deplete my drive to ignore him, the way humor operates as a way to minimize what he has done and mock others’ pain, the way humor operates as a way to make him irresistible and redeemable, the way humor has been his saving grace. I think about how I have loved the fun.
I think about the way Anisha Durve pathologizes abusers and maybe even strips abusers of their humanity… much like they do to others. I think about the way my laughter encourages him.
The way my laughter tells him that I still love him even though he is a rapist. The way my laughter never held him accountable. I remember looking him in the eye telling him: one day you’ll go to jail for this. Eventually you will be too old for this. Or I remember threatening to call the cops. Sometimes maybe even having the phone in my hand. But we all still smile, knowing I was powerless. Knowing that one day, it wouldn’t be okay.
About the art:
This survivor's style of writing really gripped me. What I wanted to do is take inspiration from its tone and make an image that evokes the same kind of frustration and righteous anger.
The ink splatter, toothy hyena and text all try to achieve that.