why i shudder when i hear my abuser's name, and why people don't get it

Heads up. In case the title didn't warn you, this post talks about intimate partner abuse and youth abuse. It's not something that is easy to swallow but it's important to know and it's important you take the time and give this post the respect it deserves. But, of course, if discussions on abuse are a trigger for you, don't read it. I don't want this post to cause anyone any harm. I am sharing this post today to recognize International Women's Day. Please feel free to use this as a forum to share your own stories.

My abuser had a very common name. How I wish it was something like Thaddeus or Mustafa. But it's not. Its everywhere. It's on my television, on dating sites and in the customers I serve. It comes back in my life suddenly and frequently.

More than five years later, you'd think it wouldn't bother me as much. There aren't that many triggers from that part of my life left. Yet every time I react. Not always visibly, but internally its always a shock. Like a bucket of ice in my veins.

Our relationship, between the ups and downs, lasted five years. Most of them were messy as hell. During that time, everything was put on me. Our problems were my fault. His happiness, which should also determine my happiness, was solely effected by me. His failures were because of me. His mistakes, my cause. On top of that, "it is us against the world" -- his favourite line. He made it seem like we had this enormous battle to face and everything around us was trying to break us up. We had to push through this. Of course, this included my friends, my family, my hobbies, my education (I should note, I was in high school at the time. As was he). All the things that were personal to me and an integral part of who I am (service to my community, leadership and student council, family) were a problem and getting in our way. Leaving behind things he loved (band), was a terrible crime and a stab in his back. Out of pressure and manipulation, I began to isolate myself to only him. As much as a young girl (with incredible, amazing parents) could isolate herself.

The thing about emotional and mental abuse is that it is near invisible. Unless you've experienced intimate history with it, you can't always recognize the signs. This included my peers and my teachers.

I no longer consider myself a victim. And the reasons behind that are complex and not even clear to me. It has to do with power and control and I don't know if I could ever make sense of it. But I still have triggers, including his name. And internally it is like I am suddenly experiencing the control and manipulation again. I don't flash back to specific experiences, but I remember the feeling of being with him. The dread. The worry. The lack of self-worth. The anxiety. There are times, though they are few, where it takes some time before I can calm myself again.

But because I was never really seen as a victim, and because I don't treat myself like one, many have a hard time comprehending what I experienced was abuse. I didn't even know I was experiencing abuse as it happened. It's understandable. We as a society have a hard time with the idea that people can be so horrible to other people. We rather fill our humanitarian desires with things such as disease or rebuilding community after disaster. They aren't caused by us, and that makes it easier to swallow. Plus, emotional and mental abuse aren't visibly obvious or in our face. It's much harder to ignore cuts and bruises than it is isolation and powerlessness.

But it happens. And it wont stop until we start to talk about it more. And show greater compassion towards those who experience it. Because yes, I still shudder when I hear his name, even if its in regard to someone completely unrelated. And it's true, people don't get why I respond the way I do.

On this International Women's Day, I urge you all to show support and compassion towards everyone. Because we've all been through tough times. We all encounter difficult situations. And just because a person reacts in a way you can't understand, doesn't mean their reaction is not valid.

Oh, and speak out against abuse for fuck sakes. I can't believe we still have to ask people to do this.

Writer's note: I began to write this post November 13th, 2014. It has taken me nearly four months to write and publish this. I could only do it in pieces. I chose to finish it in honour of International Women's Day. Please be respectful of this, as my relationship with abuse is not something I speak of often.

Megan te Boekhorst