My friend Dimitria introduced this term to me when this was all beginning to fall apart. I balked at the term because it’s such a heavy phrase and it felt like metal in my mouth. When I began looking into it, I came across this quote by Donna Anderson: “ours were false relationships from the beginning in which we were targeted, exploited and betrayed”.
Emotional rape is the abuse of someone’s higher emotions such as love, generosity and self-respect in order to gain power and control. This pattern of behavior is one that the person uses the other person for his or her own gain, without regard for what the other person is feeling. The person using the other gets a sense of satisfaction in knowing that they are ready and willing to discard this person and never look back when they no longer have need for them.
This is what this person did; he blocked me and the other women, without an apology and without making amends but kept utilizing my work and benefiting from my labor until I called him out on it. All of the time, money and resources I invested were summarily cast aside without regard. The “love” he claimed to feel evaporated overnight. I went from being his “best friend”, “woman of his dreams” and co-creator of magic to being nothing in his eyes.
You may be asking, why now? Why speak up now, after so much time has passed?
Well, that’s a complicated answer. First, is because I need to speak my truth to set myself free. I have beat myself up over this because I tell myself I should have known better. I should have walked away sooner. I should have seen the red flags and the truth is, that I did see them. I knew that something was off and I took action relatively quickly. I am, however, “human all too human” as Nietzsche said and my heart wanted so badly what he dangled in front of me. I chose to follow my heart against my reason. I own that.
For that reason, I don’t consider myself a victim. I was, however, victimized, as were the plethora of other women this man used to bolster his low self-esteem and then tossed aside. Perhaps what makes this even more offensive to me is that the women he targeted were often women of color, and single mothers.
We were victimized because had any of us known the full weight of the situation, none of us would have participated. The lies and manipulations were a violation of consent; that is what lying always does. It disrupts a person’s ability to make an informed decision and controlling someone’s life by interrupting his or her ability to choose is abusive.
His behavior reflected not a man who is deeply concerned with justice and equality, as he would have people believe. His behavior is that of a sexist and misogynist man who knowingly and willfully exploits women for his own gain. Like racism, misogyny isn’t always explicit; sometimes, it is covert and insidious. Dr. Berit Broggard, in her article, “12 ways to spot a misogynist”, identifies some misogynistic behaviors as: zeroing in on a woman and making her his target, Jekyll and Hyde personality, failure to keep promises, late to dates or other commitments, cocky, controlling, chronic infidelity and often, disappearing from relationships without apologies or amends. Sound familiar?
I am choosing not to name this person at this time. This post is not to cause shame or harm but rather to shed light on a phenomenon that is happening all too often in our world; men covertly abusing women and women absorbing it with our silence because patriarchy blames women for the bad behavior of men. There are certain to be people who read this and say it’s my fault for getting involved while ignoring what he did. It is my hope that this vulnerable share will help other women who have experienced the same thing to feel seen, validated and able to speak their truth. Perhaps other women will see themselves in this story and finally be able to name it for what it is.
I believe in restorative justice whenever possible and would like this to be an encouragement to this person, should he read it, as well as anyone who sees themselves in this description to take account and to move toward justice.
I would like to end by borrowing from a statement issued by Black Women Transforming Justice that says, in part, “Therefore, Black Women Transforming Justice, a coalition comprised of community leaders and experts in the areas of law, education, anti-oppression, public policy and mental health services make the following recommendations for Rep. Jovan Melton, and any elected official or community leader who has harmed others, to take full responsibility for their actions by:
1) Being open and transparent by admitting, with specificity, the harm done and the mistakes that lead to harm being inflicted.
2) Take full responsibility, by not making excuses or minimizing harmful conduct, and disavow statements by those who do the same in your defense.
3) Make transparent amends to those you have harmed and recognize that it is the survivor who determines whether you have sufficiently atoned.
4) Create a plan for behavioral change with rehabilitative experts who will both support and hold you accountable.
5) Share the lessons you have learned and reveal the steps you have taken to not only redeem yourself, but ultimately to repair the harm to the Survivor.
6) Rebuild trust by opening up yourself to public scrutiny and feedback from those you have harmed or who are hurt by your actions.
7) Commit resources to the healing process, protection of survivors, and rehabilitative efforts for abusers that are culturally and gender responsive.
8) Protect survivors from further abuse by condemning actions that promote retaliation against them, or the stigmatization and marginalization of their voices.
9) Prioritize the needs and healing process of the survivor, superseding your own career by dedicating your own personal time to aid in the path to recovery.
10) Consider resigning, if the harm that you have caused has irreparably damaged your ability to effectively serve your constituents, colleagues, and community.
I am not interested in punishment or revenge; I am interested in justice and restoration.
We can do better.
We must do better.