Fear is a different kind of beast to an abuse survivor. For most people, fear is something that comes out when they’re on a roller coaster, or can’t find their toddler in the grocery store. They have infrequent momentary bouts of fear. Overall, their lives are secure and they take comfort in the predictability of their security. Those fearful moments are so infrequent that they may even seek them out through watching a horror movie or going to an amusement park because that rush of fear is novel.
For the abuse survivor fear is the bitter pill they swallowed every day that they were abused. Fear became the routine, until there didn’t seem to be any fear because it was always there. Then we get out, we remove ourselves from the abuse. At first the fear won’t leave, it’s like a stubborn stain; no matter how much we work and scrub it won’t go away. As time goes by it slowly fades, as our environment is safe and loving.
But that isn’t the end of fear for the abuse survivor. Because fear will always be different for us. Even a whiff of something slightly like that bitter pill we used to swallow will cause great bodily reactions, beyond our consciousness. At the first sign of something associated with our old fear our body is shaking, heart pounding, we’re rocking back and forth and teeter between sobbing and screaming. Meanwhile those around us don’t even smell what we smell and can’t imagine why we rush out of a room, or won’t leave the house. This is a trigger. They are very personal, depending on the nature of your abuse, the objects around you while being abused, the music playing, the words used- nearly anything can be a trigger.
This weekend a new movie comes out, you can guess by the title of this post what that movie is, but I don’t want to promote it so I won’t use its name here. I have tried my utmost to avoid the book, which was fairly easy to do, I didn’t read it. But now, with the movie, it feels impossible to avoid. I put on a morning news program and they are focused on this abusive pornographic movie for an entire week. I scroll through Facebook and the trailer automatically starts playing, without my clicking on anything. Friends are asking if I want to go to the movies this weekend and I’m petrified they’ll want to see it. Sure, it’s easy enough to say no, but the implications of friends wanting to see that movie goes further. What kind of friends do I have if they see nothing wrong with the movie? Can they enjoy watching the manipulation and abuse of Christian Grey on screen while at the same time support me through my healing from abuse?
I’m here to tell you, as an abuse survivor you are entitled to say no to anything and everything if it helps you feel safe. You don’t have to explain yourself. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but you. You have a right to feel safe, to feel your own feelings without having them belittled. Not everyone will understand your triggers so it’s best not to try and explain them to everyone. Simply bow out of the uncomfortable situation and do what you need to do to feel safe. You may feel better simply leaving the situation. Or you may go home, collapse on the floor and sob. In that moment tell yourself that you are in control now. Nothing happens unless you want it to. You have the power to keep yourself safe. Prove it to yourself by being gentle with yourself. Show yourself that you will keep her safe. Even if that’s putting extra locks on your doors, adding a blanket to the bed and sleeping with the bedroom door locked.
I hope you have someone who understands that you can to talk to at times like this, but if you feel that there’s no one to help calm you down, call the Domestic Violence helpline 800-799-7233. You don’t have to currently be in an abusive situation to need their assistance.
*I chose the title for this post because it is apt. Then I decided to search for it. In a sick irony The Guardian has a post by the same title, but it’s about men being scared that their wives will want a more exciting sex life because of this sick movie/book. That is morality on its head.