On Believing Abuse Victims

I have just finished listening to the audiobook of Educated by Tara Westover. Once I started, I found myself taken over; not able to do anything else until I got to the end. It’s twelve hours long and I finished it in a day.

For those who aren’t familiar with the book, it’s a memoir: a personal account of an unconventional and abusive childhood alongside the story of how, as an adult, Tara came to terms with what happened and escaped the life of her family via going to college and getting an education.

This blog post isn’t about the book, as such. I gave it five stars on Goodreads and wrote a sentence-long review in which I said I had a hard time summing up my thoughts and feelings about the book, but that I knew it was important. The reasons I can’t sum up my thoughts and feelings is partially because I have so many of them and partially because those thoughts and feelings are tied to my own experiences of childhood. While my experiences and Tara’s differ in circumstances and severity, so much of it is similar. Someday, I plan to write a book about my own set of circumstances growing up. I have a title picked out, and an epigraph. I have started certain sections, but I am by no means ready or able to unpack much of it even yet.

This post isn’t about the book or my experiences, or a comparison of the two. That’s just a preface to what I want to say about some of the negative reviews Educated has on its Goodreads page.

Now, for the most part, the book has had an extremely positive reception. The negative reviews are few and far between. I probably shouldn’t focus on them, but it physically hurt me to read them and I need to talk about why. Continue reading

12 Warning Signs That You Are With An Abuser

Last week, I shared two blog posts about very personal experiences I have been through with regards to abuse. You can read them here and here, if you haven’t already, but the reason I’m talking about them again today is that they reminded me of a much older post I wrote on a blog that no longer exists.

I wanted to share that post again because these things are both important and not talked about enough. So, here it is: A List of Signs That You Are With An Abuser

  • Manipulation is when you’ve said no to something – anything – and the other person keeps asking until you say yes.
  • Manipulation is when – after they’ve crossed those lines – they convince you that you were a willing party all along.
  • Manipulation is when someone will tell you ‘You want this’ enough times until you believe them.
  • Manipulation leaves you not knowing how you feel, or what to think.
  • Manipulators will make you feel guilty for being confused.
  • Manipulators will talk about other people, and flirt with other people in front of you, and then make you feel guilty for being suspicious of them.
  • Manipulators will get you to do things you don’t want to do, to prove to them you’re trustworthy.
  • Manipulators will sew doubts in your head about your loved ones, telling you they’re jealous, or that they don’t want you to be happy, or they don’t understand, or aren’t really friends at all.
  • Manipulators will try to cut you off from these people, so they can have more control over you.
  • Manipulator’s lies will stay in your head long after the person themselves are gone.
  • Manipulator’s lies will keep you up at night, worrying.
  • Manipulator’s lies take years to recover from. You’ll need your friends for this recovery, if you haven’t lost them all already.

If reading this post has been triggering for you, I’m sorry. If it has made you realize you need help, you can find an international list of helplines here.

Oxford and Everything After

Seeing as I opened Pandora’s box in my last post, I thought I might as well finish going through the rest of the contents before I put it all away again.

Here we go.

It was September 2011 – one year since I left Lincoln – that I moved to Oxford for a job with the church. That summer I had been doing some children’s work at a Christian festival.

The guy that ran the children’s programme was based in Oxford and he was the one that told me about the opportunity there.

I had a lot of different tasks, from more children’s and youth work to setting out tables and chairs, helping with meals for elderly people and audio-visual displays.

And I loved it. For the very first time in my life, I felt like I was doing something worthwhile. Making a difference.

From that September to December, I gave it my all and I got a lot of confidence and self-esteem in return.

Then I returned to Northern Ireland for Christmas.  Continue reading

On Finding the Words

Words are kind of my thing, at least the ones written down. I often struggle to verbalize in person what I can be quite eloquent about behind a computer screen.

So. I said (very briefly) in my previous post that there are some big things I want to talk about. I’m still not quite ready to do that fully, yet, but I’m getting there.

There’s an issue of knowing where to start. I’ve decided to start here, taking this post as my first step.

I’ve started counselling again recently, to talk about things I’ve spent years not saying. Little by little, I’m finding the words – and the courage – to tell my “#MeToo” story.

Err… stories. Plural.

Tonight I had a breakthrough, admitting out loud what happened. This is the clearest my head has felt in a while. And this is so important!

The critical voice in the back of my mind is saying, ‘Why are you bothering to write a blog post about things you want to say, without actually saying them?’

Well, because I need to.

Breaking the silence is never easy. But it’s so. goddamn. IMPORTANT!

And this is just one layer of one thing going on in my life, behind the scenes. Please bear with me.