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THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY.

But this is not a story. The grasp of your hands around my neck or the pressing drive to bypass my legs and dive deep into my body and lay claim to what you believed was irrefutably yours. This is not a story.

The story that I told was how you didn’t abuse my body. I told that story everyday when I woke up and pulled down my sleeves to cover for you. I told it to my friends over drinks. I told it to my mother when I called. I told it to myself before sleep.

You thought I was doing it for them. You thought I was doing it for you. I was doing it for myself. I was doing it for the defiant pride that was going to prove to you one day I’m worth more than the bruises on my arms and more than the bleeding ache in my sex.

However a story follows rules.

Patterns emerge. As did with your abuse. But a victim’s mind is ill-logical and swims in a sea of fallacies. You cannot build structure around a tower that is always crumbling and rebuilding itself. Their plots are schizophrenic. Their truth as buried as their abuser’s guilt. { I’m Useful } { I’m Loved } becomes meshed together, pounded and shaped. When I close my eyes, I believe they are the same. They feel the same. And after I’ve endured his hacking away at me– his terribly howling tantrums– he invites me in again, to taste the sweetness of a calm afternoon, a gentle smile. Approval.

There are two sides to every story.

Isn’t that what we say to offer excuses not to care? As the busy roar of your day speeds past, you look over your shoulder at me with mixed concern and impatience. What kind of investment did I turn out to be if I’m choosing now to fall apart in front of you and reveal the taboo secrets of human life? That none of us actually admit to what we mean. That none of us have any real certainty in life? That you see relationships as more transactional than you care to admit. That love is a few confidences tinged with sex? That once you start prying up the rocks buried and stuck deep in the mud, the underbelly of these things are just as filthy and shameful as we once imagined it?

I don’t believe any of this, but you do secretly with those impatient eyes wondering why I haven’t taken the hint yet. There will be no investigation. And there will be no further investment. I presented myself to you falsely before, or am I doing so now? Regardless I cannot be trusted. The excuses are irrelevant and very triggering because you know that– upon further examining– your own life is riddled with little secrets. Holes you shove things into and hide when the guests arrive. If you take the time to examine my vulnerabilities it will inevitably reveal some of yours. And your own crumbling tower is doing just fine.

There are two sides to every story.

No one will admit how they’ll take the side of a person, not because they believe them, but because they have more to offer them. All the indignant squawking of hashtags with popping gunshot “Me TOOs” and the clicking of tongues and lopsided sinking of brows ring false. Abusers have the power. Abusers all too often have the money. What can the victims offer? Nothing. And who believes women, anyway?

The default is still the same.

Like Eve to Adam, women were made by Man and for Man. Our bodies were knit from his. And when he just so happens to pass us around, like a chipped bottle of bourbon at a party, we are to not complain for this is exactly how God has made us to be.

The uneasiness of something not being quite right goes unspoken. It silences us. And when there are no words for it, how do we even know it’s real?

There are voices now popping off in the night. Getting louder. More insistent. But you still haven’t changed. The house remains the same. You spread shame over it all like jam on toast. Then simply tell us that we must avoid being consumed.

There are two sides to every story: the story that you tell yourself and then the truth.

And what we tell ourselves is a reflection of our own idealism. We project what we understand ourselves to be and what we think others are like as well. When we feel love, we assume the other person must be feeling it, too.

They’re smiling like we would be, but their body language is different. Their tone isn’t quite right. But that’s fine, we’ll just make more assumptions. That this must be how they express their love.

Surely the feeling, the feeling, that is the same.

The truth is that abusive people don’t love you. Seems simple enough. But try to believe it when they’re holding onto you. Try following the logic when you have shared your life with them. When vulnerabilities have been exposed. And commitments have been made.

The truth is that hope can be used against you.

It can be weaponized.

Why did she stay? They ask. They hone in on the condemnation of her actions. Less interested in the man who did it to her. They believe that her actions could have somehow prevented certain realities.

We all like to believe that we can avoid pain and death if we just rely on our charms or our moral compass. None of us care to admit that we aren’t in control of circumstances, especially when they are orchestrated by other people. We don’t like to think about how the demons that come to claim our lives are often loved ones.

The truth is that this can happen to you, dear reader. No one is an exception.

The love that we embrace and the goodness that blooms in our hearts can be our greatest undoing. Our lack of belief in the absolute reality of monsters in our own lives prevent our own protection. We believe that giving up those beliefs will cast our souls into the very shadows they are mythicized to dwell. We believe kindness can quell the beast’s rage. Patience can end their suffering. Surrender will stop the hunger.

But there are men out there who will drag you into the dark and consume you with sweet smiles. Those boundaries we have been taught to respect are fanciful play things in the eyes of Monsters who cannot feel God. Who only know the empty echo chambers of their own selfish hearts. They are cut off from the source of what gives Life its meaning beyond the insatiable gasps of a fragile ego’s calling. You are the bridge that connects them to it, and they will run you through to tap into its essence, not knowing why they do it or even what they’re seeking. So far removed are they from It, they strike at you and anything that can breech that barrier.

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