The abuse equation

I’ve been going over this scenario in my mind. Rolling it over and over and trying to make sense of the aftermath. Not all things can be made sense of. Sometimes I think that if I overthink it enough, I can come to a brilliant solution, resolution, to this baffling psychological maze that is created after a trauma. The fault in my thinking is, there is not always a perfect absolute answer to every equation. In math, maybe. 2×3=6. But what if 3 turned into 43 and then switched back and then 9 stomped on 3 and then the other 3 ran away and then the equal sign turned into a negative sign? Trauma is JUST like THAT and not just as simple as 2×3=6. Because 2 (me) x 3(abuser) = 6(trauma).  That leaves my answer as trauma. I don’t like that equation. I don’t like the abuse equation.  I want my answer to be resolved, or settled, or fixed, or overcome. It just isn’t freaking clear! And my mind is a 2×3=6 kind of mind. So when I roll around a scenario that doesn’t end with a definitive answer, box checked “resolved”,  I get more and more frustrated with the end result. I confronted the man who abused me and it didn’t = what I thought.

I ran into the man who held me in his garage against my will, a few months after it happened. This was before my muscle biopsy so I was still able to drive and walk. I saw him, David, in the grocery store. I immediately felt fear. I had a panic response that was pretty obvious, I was sweating and shaky, and felt faint. I had dreamed of a moment when I could face him again on my terms. I had reviewed the exact words I would say and played out in my mind how I would feel after I faced him. But I felt panicked. So I went all stealth mode. I creeped around the corners of the isles following him. I thought I lost him a few times but he popped up again in the veggie isle. I had a cart full of groceries. I lost my nerve in the cheese section. I thought, what on earth am I doing here, I can’t do this, and with that I lost the panic feeling and just slowly walked through the bakery section. As I went to check out, there he was. Right there putting his lettuce on the check out. My heart is pounding as it is even right now typing this. I remember this pounding in my ears as I stared at him deciding what to do. I pushed my cart up behind him, walked around my cart, and stood 2 inches from the man who had traumatized me. He wasn’t so scary standing there with his lettuce and basket of food. A rage came over me that I had never felt before and have never felt again since. Everything around me disappeared and it was just him and me, my heart pounding  in my ears, blood rushing to my head so much my fingers were tingly. I announced to him and the entire grocery store that he was a sex offender. I started yelling, detailing all the things that he had done. My well thought out plan went out the window as soon as the rage set in and things started just flying out of my mouth. I had my finger in his face shaking it at him. He walked backwards into a wall and I continued yelling at him. Rage is a strange emotion. It does weird things to the body and the brain, it really does. I felt it hard to breathe. My voice, I could hear it, shook. He told me that I had to forgive him and that I was a good girl who shouldn’t say things like this, which just infuriated me more. The next thing I knew he had slithered his way around the corner and was doing his best to run to the car (he couldn’t actually run due to his post-polio, an excuse he used repeatedly for the reason he did what he did to me). Well…what does one do after screaming for 5 minutes at a man in a grocery store after he runs away? I just stood there. Then I almost passed out. I can’t remember if I sat down because everything around me disappeared again. I’m pretty sure I was gone from myself at that point. Then a man stepped up and asked if I was ok. I don’t know if I answered. But I asked if he could please put my groceries back for me. I don’t even remember driving home. For weeks, even months after that, when we went to the grocery store we would see his car as we pulled in. As soon as he saw us he left. Then as we were driving home we would see his car waiting on the side of the road, then pulling back into the store  as soon as he knew we were gone. The man was afraid I’d scream at him again I suppose so he didn’t go in the store if he saw me. I can’t believe he even went back to the same store.  You’d think I would feel some sort of victory. I didn’t.

I had this idea in my mind that if I stood up to this man then I would face my fear. If I stood up to him I would show him that I was strong. If I confronted him then he would know how pathetic I thought he was. And maybe he DID see those things. I played it in my mind, though, with an end result being marked “resolved” with a huge red pen! Case closed! Victim stands up to abuser, victory for all. So why was I still left with a sick feeling in my stomach? Why after 10 years does thinking of him make me feel nauseous? Why does writing about it now make me feel faint? I thought that facing this abuser would fix everything. I thought the equation would end with a definite answer and that answer would mean that somehow I would feel like a winner. I would feel I defeated a monster. I won in the end. But I didn’t feel that way. I don’t feel that way. I am amazed at the strength I had to face him. And I did learn that I had a rage inside me that I didn’t even know existed. But until tonight I did not have an answer to why I didn’t feel better after confronting him.

Here is the problem with my original equation…2 (me) X 3 (abuser) = 6(trauma). I thought that after I confronted the abused, I could create another equation that erased the trauma all together. I thought it could be 2(me) X 3(abuser)= 6 (confrontation and victory).  But I left out the trauma. The trauma happened. Facing him, yelling at him, didn’t take away the trauma. The only way I can try to  “fix” this is changing the equation all together so that 1(me) + 2 (abuser) + 2( trauma) + 1( choices I make to move towards recovery)= 6 (healing). With trauma sometimes 3×2 doesn’t equal 6. With trauma nothing is as it should be. There should be no trauma IN the equation. The equation pretty much got scribbled all over soon after the first number was written. I cannot “fix” in my mind what was scribbled over by someone else. I cannot erase it. I can only reframe it in a way that includes healing. I can only reframe the abuse equation so the result is my healing process.

Even if I face my abusers, put them put them in jail, shout out to the world that they are pedophiles, sex offenders, etc,  I am still left with me. I am still left with what they did to me. I am left with the memories, nightmares, and flashbacks.  David could be sitting in jail right now, which is where he should be, and I would still be left with me. Even if all the justice in the world came to fruition, all the wrongs were righted, all the people who betrayed me miraculously did the right thing, I would still be left healing from the trauma. I’m not sure what my final equation will be. I am not sure which steps, or direction, or path will be the one that equals peace for me. But I will keep trying.

Someone asked me the other day if I would want my abuser killed or tortured and I didn’t. (ok maybe a quick punch to the face… but that’s all). Ironically, during my rage at David I tried to will myself to punch him in the face, but he had glasses on, and somehow..I don’t know, I just didn’t. That is not who I am. I am not violent. I am not vengeful. I have no desire to hurt anyone. Tonight I understood why. It doesn’t have to do with them anymore. Focusing on them just takes me down a road that ends in victim. I’ve already been there. I cannot erase them nor will I deny feelings that come up about them. I can only change my purpose. Focusing on me takes me down a road that ends in survivor. It’s the only equation that makes sense to me now.

18 thoughts on “The abuse equation

  1. Wow Bethany, this is pretty powerful. I too believe all we can do is feel our pain and focus on healing.

    I once had a similar experience in my place of work with a man who was being disrespectful to me and would not leave my office when I asked him to. My husband worked at the same place. I marched right past him following this man telling him to shut up, and that he had said enough and now he needed to listen to me. And that he was to never even talk to me again unless he can do it with respect.

    Like you, I saw no one else, nothing. Afterward I was shaking and scared. I didn’t know what just happened. Everyone there including my husband and boss, when he finally heard about it said, “She did what? That isn’t possible! He must have done something huge for her to react this way!” And they all supported me. I have never done this again on this scale. But yes, I did discover the rage inside of me.

    I heard once, being bitter toward someone else is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We are left with the aftermath of what happened to us. Nothing can change that! It is unjust and unfair. But acceptance of this reality is important.

    What you described here is what I felt in my post “No Amount Of White.” When I realized white walls were not going to take away this pain, I knew I needed help through therapy.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for this. It really reminds me of me confronting my father–not sure what I expected that to achieve. Anyway, “it didn’t”. Your words also remind me of the bargaining part of the 7 stages of Grief. “If I do x then I get y”. Have a look and see what you think? When I think of trauma it is like grief and loss–something happened that changed us for ever. Try this site for example just for an overview. As I say, it’s not just about bereavement. Also I reckon that we don’t pass neatly from one stage to the next and end up with acceptance. We keep going round and round and round all the stages. I wrote something about grief and what have I lost on my blog as well but I may be going off track here!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t understand why this man wasn’t in jail rather than the grocery store! I ran into my abuser when he was supposed to be locked up. Turned out he was a “trustee” and was allowed to sit in the parking area of the courthouse/jail house where there was a large overhang area that was always dark. I walked into that area to go to an office down there not knowing he was there or allowed to be there. I suddenly hear him call out my name. One of the worse feelings ever! I won’t go on. Just know that I understand what you are dealing with, not sure how to change it either. Still working on it myself, wonder if I’ll ever be past it. Bless you!


  4. Wow, what a post! I could feel your rage just reading about it. Part of me is so glad you confronted him. I can see that it didn’t really change anything for you. But maybe it did for him, since it forced him to acknowledge it in a public way and has made him afraid (if not regretful?). You may also have modeled for other people in the grocery store that it is possible for someone to stand up to an abuser. Maybe you just gave a girl permission to shout at a potential abuser in a way that might spare her the abuse. One can always hope.

    For you, well, it wasn’t helpful directly. But it seems like it clarified for you something we all have to somehow accept: we can’t erase the trauma or its effect. But we can incorporate it, over time, into our lives in a way that no longer prevents us from being healthy. That’s my hope anyway. And I think you expressed it so well in this post.


    • You helped me very very much by what you have said here. I never really thought about what i did in a way that could affect him or other people there. This has given me much more peace over the situation. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me your thoughts.


  5. Wow, Bethany, what an amazing story. You were so courageous to be able to stand up to him and make him afraid of you!!!!!! Bravo, Bethany, Bravo. The thing is, even if you had done to him what happened to you, it would still not bring any satisfaction because even then he would not be able to “get” what you went through. Keep going, it sounds like your healing journey is working 🙂


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