Underneath The Binary

Abuse, Gender & Society

This article was submitted to Ergo by Chikirsha Prakash

“I am a prisoner of my sex that the society would shrug off my confession of being an abuser.”

Same-sex relationships sound like a boon. You can share clothes, emotions, and there is a widely-held belief that you root deeper bonds just because you belong to the same sex. This idyllic scenario is plastered over the dim underbelly of abuse in homosexual relationships.

Abuse, a word commonly attributed to heterosexual relationships, falls in the murky grey regions that may easily be ignored in homosexual relationships. When one thinks of abuse, the generic idea is of physical abuse inflicted on a woman by a man. Abuse in homosexual relationships is just as common as abuse in heterosexual relationships. That, unfortunately, is a fact. Abuse is rather multi-dimensional and just as mental as it is stereotypically believed to be physical. The normal red flags that sets of alarms clanging in heterosexual relationships are often muffled by the virtue of being with someone of the same sex. Especially, when it comes to LBT (Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender) women. What aggravates this problem further is the fact that some LBT women take time to identify and come to terms with their sexuality while missing out on their golden years to be in multiple relationships so as to know the right from wrong. They fail to identify what is healthy and what is not. Unfortunately, they are eager to lap up anything dished out by their partner, assuming that this is how every relation develops.

So where do the lines blur?

Our society conditions us such that we may get soft while holding women accountable for their actions. While a man pushing his female partner may be seen as unchivalrous and outright unacceptable, a woman doing that to her girlfriend is often thought of as “playful.”

When the first time my ex-girlfriend cornered me or grabbed my wrist a little too roughly, I didn’t pay much heed to it. Had it been a male partner, it would have definitely raised a few eyebrows, or at least a few confrontations about his behaviour. Since the perpetrator of the actions belonged to the so-called fairer sex, I continued to let it slide for a good number of years. It took me even longer to come to identify that what she has been inflicting upon me was actually abuse.

Sometimes, it is not the intensity of the action, rather the intention of the act that brings abuse at parity.

For starters, no relationship begins with direct abuse. Rather, relationship with an abuser starts on a high, it feels too good to be true and their system of projection works always in their favour. This is the Honeymoon Phase. Over time, smidges of toxic attributes seep in such minute, tolerable quantities that they are hardly acknowledged until the problem is far too grave to be tackled. The only way out is to walk away from such relationships to safeguard your sanity. Often, women are afraid of leaving such relationships because of the common fear that they may not find another partner, considering that the dating pool is already quite small. Another reason for them not leaving is the overnight transition of their abusive partner from an abuser to a guilt-ridden, resentful, broken human being who regrets their action. This is a form of power play, where the abuser will try to invoke the victim’s sympathies and “knight in shining armour” syndrome to make them believe that the love can fix the circumstances. Once the victim refuses to leave, the decision is followed by another Honeymoon Phase and the cycle of abuse continues.

Emotional and verbal abuse is rampant amongst LBT women. Gaslighting, manipulation, unwarranted criticism and playing the victim are far too real and exist, even in the seemingly “healthy” relationships. Remember the last time your girlfriend was jealous and you found it cute? Maybe it wasn’t that cute, maybe it is a predecessor of something worse to follow. Insecurities in the relationship fracture the bonds once they start being acted upon. Let us also not forget the threats that are often taken lightly.

Another common tactic is social isolation, where the abuser exercises control on the abused and monitors who they interact with. The relationship becomes a sort of a bubble where the abuser makes the victim cut cords with other people they may be interacting with. This could be followed by threats of outing the victim if they are not out to their support mechanism.

There will always be a reason to justify the abuse inflicted, and somehow, the needle of the blame shall always point at the victim. The victim triggered the abuser, the victim called it upon herself, the victim deserved it after what she did, the abuser was only retaliating to the actions of the victim. If not that, then it could be the drinking, it could be stress from work or an exam around the corner. It is always something, except for them or their actions. An abuser refuses to take responsibility for the abuse. Sadly, abuse has been so normalised over time that some abusers are not even aware that they are behaving in an abusive manner. Abuse can trickle down through systematic exposure, whether through society, media or even family. The confrontation, if any, comes as a genuine shock to the abusive partner in certain conditions. Although, that still doesn’t nullify the existence of abuse or shift the responsibility for their actions to something else.

Women who do walk out from such relationships tend to have warped perceptions of how relationships are meant to be. An abuser has a way of discrediting your identity, of making you feel less of a person, and trivialising your needs. These have long-term impacts on the survivor, it may have such a debilitating effect that small actions of genuine kindness may be looked upon by suspicion, or simple tasks like taking a decision may become a stressful ordeal.

Speaking up about abuse is rare given that people go out of their way to give the impression that their relationship is great and somewhere along the lines, they lose a confidant with whom they can share their bitter experiences. If someone opens up to you about feeling scared or threatened in a relationship, do not question it just because their relationship consists of two girls. It takes victims a great amount of strength to speak out. If you are in a relationship where you feel you are being abused, please seek immediate help. Talk about it to someone you trust. The path towards healing may seem tedious, but believe me, it shall always be worthy of that journey.

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