this statement is in regard to carrie, who was a very prominent and well respected member of the baltimore feminist reading group. i know that i am not the only person who looked up to carrie / valued her input in our projects and discussions. jackie’s statement regarding carrie’s abusive tendencies is extremely upsetting / triggering & comes as a great shock. i caution anybody and everybody who knows and has worked with her to take care when reading this.
(ps - tried to put this under a cut so that it wouldn’t show up on everybody’s dash, but apparently i can’t do that with a reblog? tell me how to fix this & i will!)
[This is an important message from Jackie. She cannot post this on her own blog because her aunts stalk her, so she asked me to post it here. edit: jackie is fine with people reblogging this.]
***TRIGGER WARNING FOR EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE***
I am writing to break the silence surrounding a serious issue I have been dealing with for a long time. For nearly 3 years I was subjected to emotional, and sometimes physical, abuse by my former partner Carrie. These abusive patterns also continued when we broke up and Carrie said she wanted to finally take accountability for her actions. Maybe one day I will write about it with more feeling, but I am too emotionally exhausted to attempt to capture how deeply this situation has fucked me up.
For many people, on the surface, we seemed like the queer feminist dream team: smart, creative, politically and intellectually rigorous, in love, whatever. But while Carrie was engaging in political activism and making comics about women fighting their abusers, she was also behaving abusively toward me and coercing me to keep quiet about the situation. This is not to say that she is fake, but that she is capable of occupying extremely contradictory positions and perspectives at the same time and that people need to be aware of this while trying to engage her. While there were gross inconsistencies between what she said and how she actually behaved, I am not saying that she was “intentionally” being manipulative or crafting some kind of diabolical plan. It is impossible to know what goes on in someone’s head, so that’s a useless framework. All I know is what actually happened and what effect it had on me (in other words, not the intent of her actions, but how they functioned and manifested themselves in the context of our relationship).
The abuse was very complex, far more complex your typical abusive situations because of the way politics, mental health, identity, queerness, and dependency factored into the situation. The abuse ranged from emotional to physical abuse, subtle to overt. Perhaps when I am more together I will be able to write with more specificity about what happened. Over the course of our relationship she did things like habitually threatening suicide (which gave her the power to control my behavior and get a certain reaction out of me), attempted to strangle me twice, threw things at me, lashed out at me whenever I was emotionally vulnerable, and used guilt to silence me. I also feel that she expropriated my emotional, physical, and intellectual labor, as well as my political knowledge. Is other words, I was put in the position of educating her about herself and the world while she was unable to treat me like a person. She has said that she has grown emotionally and politically in the context of our relationship, but this growth came directly at my expense. Obviously relationships often involve the exchange ideas, emotions, and care; however, it becomes appropriative/expropriative when one person takes without giving and treats the other person like an object to fulfill their needs.
Carrie treated me like it was my “job” to take care of her and to exist exclusively on her terms while providing no reciprocal support for me. Not only was she incapable of acknowledging my feelings or providing me with support, she was cruel to me whenever I was suffering or going through a difficult situation. Probably the most damaging instance of this was when she was extremely mean to me when I was upset after my mom attempted suicide. On the day my mom attempted suicide Carrie and I were moving our stuff to a new apartment in Baltimore. We had to move because while I was at a writing residency in Pittsburgh she got very upset and smashed the window/walls, freaked out on our roommates and relocated to a different house. While I was at the residency she would call me because she was extremely angry that I had left and tried to make me feel guilty about going to the two week residency. She would keep me on the phone using suicidal threats, would blame me for all the problems in her life, and say cruel things, like how she didn’t really love me. When I got back to Baltimore I was extremely upset about having to move. It was not the first time we had to immediately move because she got into a explosive conflict with our housemates. On the day we were moving our things I was extremely fatigued and had horrible menstrual cramps. I remember curling up on the floor because I was tired and I didn’t want to deal with the situation. While we were still moving our things my dad called me to tell me my mom had attempted suicide and was in the hospital and that he did not know what her condition was. Obviously this fucking destroyed me. When we went to the new house we were living at I just stayed in the cold basement and cried (it was winter and the heat was not turned on). Carrie was upstairs with people watching movies. When she came down she was mean to me (what the fuck!), and then immediately went back upstairs. I stayed in the basement curled up in a sleeping bag. Never in my life had I felt so fucking alone. Early in the morning, before it was even light out, I left the house because I felt like I was losing my mind. I waited at the light rail station, but it never came because it was too early. While I was walking around in the cold, limbs numb, I was so intensely isolated that I felt like I could never be in the world again—that I would technically be there, but I wouldn’t be present. For a very long time I felt “far” from everyone and everything (and still do).
Earlier in the relationship I would respond to the abuse by turning against myself—feeling worthless and sometimes feeling/acting out the desire to hurt myself. Later I developed the ability to get “mad” about the abuse and understand that it was fucked up. One time, when she threw things at me and stained my favorite dress—a yellow peacock dress I got while I was living in China—I remember crumpling into a ball on the floor and feeling extremely sad and pathetic. She acted like she was intensely remorseful but she must not have been that remorseful because she didn’t even fucking clean the ink stains from the dress when she promised she would. Later, when she tried to strangle me, I was able to express that I was pissed. During that incident she was upset about something and started breaking plates/bowls/glass, knocking over shelves/cabinets, and throwing shit around. Nobody else at Good View (the punk house we lived in) was home when it happened. After tearing shit apart she tried to strangle me, but a rush of adrenaline surged through me and I pushed her off. I was particularly upset because people touching my neck is one of my personal triggers and she knew that. After I got upset she tried to leave the house and I yelled, YOU ARE NOT FUCKING LEAVING ME WITH THIS MESS TO CLEAN UP. YOU CAN’T JUST TRY TO STRANGLE ME AND THEN LEAVE ME WITH YOUR MESS. I was also upset that she did a half-assed job cleaning up the glass. For some time after it happened people kept cutting their feet on the glass and would sometimes comment on how weird it was. I kept my mouth shut.
While the physical abuse seems like the most egregious aspect of our relationship, the isolation and the emotional abuse are probably what has caused the most intense psychic scars (though of course, they are related). The way Carrie treated me when I was emotionally vulnerable was cruel. What made it worse was that she always found a way to re-center the situation on her. When I was upset about something she would lash out at me, then she would get extremely self-loathing about lashing out and I would end up having to comfort her after she had behaved egregiously—on top of trying to get through what originally upset me. She was incapable of acknowledging my pain and acted with extraordinary selfishness in almost all situations.
As time went on I felt less and less like a person. People who knew me before the relationship would often noted that I had “changed”—I had less energy, had no self-esteem, was more introverted, and was less enthusiastic about things. I would sometimes write in my journal, “I don’t know who I am anymore.” People would ask me about when my next issue of “on being hard femme” was coming out and all I could think was, “I don’t feel strong anymore.” Of course she is not completely to blame for my downward turn, but the way she treated me did have an extremely negative effect on me. Those who met me after the relationship did not sense that things were different—when I told these people about the abuse they were shocked because I seemed to be holding together so well. But in trying to keep it together and hold in my pain I just felt more alone. What’s even more fucked up is that I was doing it to protect Carrie. This was also because she used guilt to get me to put her feelings first. She also isolated me using social coercion, which made it difficult for me to get the support I need to get out of the situation. A couple of people noticed the gross imbalance in the distribution of labor in our relationship and tried to intervene, though they did not know about the abuse. The personal shame I felt about being a feminist and accepting such behavior also contributed to my silence.
Identity also factored in complicated ways—her being white trans woman, me being a woman of color who has experienced abuse in the past. It was often overtly and subtly communicated that if I spoke out about the abuse I would be making her vulnerable because of her identity. By focusing conversations about identity on her identity as a (white) trans woman, she ignored the ways in which women of color are made vulnerable because they are expected to suffer in silence, to be self-sacrificing, to accept abuse, and to labor for people without being compensated (neither with money nor appreciation!). What made things even more complicated was that she would say that she felt like she was not a real woman whenever I brought up the abuse. I don’t doubt that she actually felt this way. (Obviously it is also true that women can be abusive and fucked up.) The conversations often ended when she responded to dialogue about the abuse by expressing that it made feel her identity was invalid or that she was a bad person. Since I did not want to invalidate her identity, I felt like I was in am impossible position. I honestly did not know how to respond to the situation so I kept quiet about the abuse to protect her feelings. Though she may not have done it intentionally, her reaction also made me feel that to tell anyone about the abuse would mean I was turning people against trans women.
In the queer community, the fear of how abuse might be mobilized by queerphobic people makes violence within queer relationships invisible. Queer people may also feel pressured to maintain the illusion that queer relationships are not oppressive, or that they are naturally egalitarian, unlike straight relationships. We need to figure out a better way to address situations where oppressed people are abusive to other oppressed people. If we continue demand our partners keep silent about abuse or maintain an investment in the mythology of queer virtue, OUR SHITTY QUEER RELATIONSHIPS WILL JUST CONTINUE TO BE SHITTY. We also need to take it seriously when people mobilize examples of abuse to perpetuate racism, transphobia, and queerphobia. That also requires that we address the issue sensitively and adamantly refuse to create gross caricatures that imply that abusive people who occupy a position of social marginality are abusive because of their identities. For instance—historically, the stereotype of the black male rapist has been used to perpetuate racism and to elevate and purify white femininity. At the same time, that does not mean that in a situation where, say, a black man abuses a black woman it would be appropriate to demand the black woman to keep quiet about the abuse. We need to be vigilant about the ways that abuse and sexual assault can be mobilized and must work toward dismantling these frameworks.
Another complications that comes with addressing abuse in queer relationships is the problem of intelligibility. We tend not to see or register manifestations of violence that do not fit into what we imagine to be “typical” arrangements of powers. We have not yet developed the resources we need to deal with and think through situations where multiple forms of power and axes of oppression are operating at the same time.
The complicated nature of the situation is one reason I have avoided writing about it. Though no fucking accountability process or apology or belated attempt to “make it up” to me will compensate for the damages and pain endured, perhaps by writing about it other people will be able to see a way out when they are enmeshed in these kind of situations. I do feel depressed that I have to come out and write about this situation because people are not taking it seriously and Carrie cannot of represent it honestly. It was bad enough that I had to live through it, but ever since Carrie asked me for an accountability process, the amount of shit I have had to deal with has just been increasing exponentially. OF COURSE the onus is on me to rectify the situation and transmogrify the turd that has been dumped in my lap into some kind of educational experience. Quite frankly, I am a little too exhausted to waste my magic powers on exercises in edification when I have so much of my own shit to deal with. But I am trying to tell myself that this is also about self-respect. I tell myself that I will no longer view myself as the steward of others’ aspirations and desires, nor will I turn myself into an object so I can better serve and restore others. But how does one become a person again when their sense of self-worth has been eroded? I am trying to figure this out.
It is true that I loved her even after the these things kept happening over and over, and that the abuse actually strengthened my attachment to her. Of course the abuse was also mixed in with tender shit. That’s part of the problem—the false resolutions that always followed the abuse (she would talk and talk and talk about how sorry she was and would promise to go to therapy, to never do it again, to start taking care of herself), and this would cast a cloud of amnesia over the situation. I would be re-hooked. The closer I got to feeling like the situation was unendurable, the more serious she would act about changing. I sometimes felt as though she had some kind of psychic barometer that could detect when I was slipping away. When I would try to withdraw my trust and emotional investment she would accuse me of implying that she is fake. This way absolutely maddening—I got wrapped up in her big talk over and over and then was totally devastated when the behavior continued. It was like she was dangling, in front of my face, the possibility that she would one day act in a caring way toward me. Of course I wanted this more than anything. Now I realize just how dangerous my “hope” that things would be different was, and how important it was for her to keep that glimmer of hope alive in me. When we broke up and she said she was serious about taking accountability, the same shit continued. She said taking accountability was “life or death” and I actually fucking thought everything would be different. But her actions quickly revealed that she was not actually committed. She is trying to escape the situation and does not give a shit about the pain she has caused me and how much it has fucked up my life. On the phone she something to the effect of, “My dad said that when people make mistakes should just move on. He’s old so he knows what he’s talking about.” But she seems to be unaware that the desire to “move on”—when motivated by escapist impulses—leads to stagnation and not growth…it becomes a reiteration of the same cycle disguised to oneself as the overcoming of old bad habits. Throughout our relationship I have seen her OBSESSIVELY try to avoid having to face the consequences of her behavior or coming to terms with what she has done. She is never held accountable for her actions because she has the power to make almost anyone bend to her will.
Since the process of trying to deal with the abuse has started, Carrie has done a number of things to make the situation worse, including:
* Trying to shift the blame onto me. She has said things like, “Well Jackie knew what she was getting into,” that I crave being mistreated because of my family history and therefore chose it, and that she did it because she was in a bad place because I was “holding her back.”
*Rationalizing/making excuses for her behavior. During this process she has said, “I didn’t do those things because I don’t love and care about you, but because of my mental health issues.” While it is true that she has mental health problems, this is an unacceptable excuse considering she was fully aware of how her mental state affected me. Throughout our whole relationship we spent an UNGODLY number of hours “processing” her abusive behavior. Every time, she would promise to take initiative in addressing the issue (by going to therapy, by reading about the issue/journaling, by feeding herself and eating well, by practicing basic self-care, by establishing a life for herself). While verbally she expressed that she was wholeheartedly committed to working on those issues, her actions did not show it. Since she did not commit or put effort into addressing the root causes of the abuse, she was effectively choosing to perpetuate it. Furthermore, these “verbal commitments” were a way to keep me on under her control.
*Used guilt and social coercion to silence me. she has forced me into isolation in the relationship and continues to force me into isolation. Guilt, social coercion, identity politics, and other methods were used to keep me quiet about the abuse. This made it so I had absolutely no one to help me deal with the situation. Furthermore, she continued to do this by guilting me and saying that if I told people about the abuse I would be making her vulnerable. I am expected to suck it up and deal with it alone regardless of the fact that it forces me into a vulnerable position. Guilt was also mobilized by Carrie’s mother when Carrie had her mom call me a couple weeks after we broke up. Her mother, who was only privy to Carrie’s grossly distorted version of the situation, started the phone conversation by saying, “Why are you making my daughter suffer?” and ended it by forcing me to promise to call Carrie to make her feel better. She tried to encourage me to get back into a(n abusive) relationship with Carrie, acted like it was my responsibility to take care of Carrie, and finally, insinuated that if Carrie tried to hurt herself, it would be my fault. Her mother moreover tried to manipulate me emotionally by pleading with me to “remember the good times you had together—” as if those memories do not torture me, as if they weren’t what kept me stuck inside of this dehumanizing cycle of abuse. When I told Carrie’s mom that Carrie was trying to shift the blame onto me in the situation by using my family history to claim that I craved the mistreatment, her mom responded by saying, “Well, it’s true. It’s just a fact that you’re parents weren’t there for you when you were growing up.” This upset me because not only was she excusing her daughter’s behavior, she was judging my family in the same stroke. My parents could not fully be there because my older brother was sentenced to life in prison when he was 17 (at the same time my dad lost his job), and they were traumatized by everything that was happening. Being around Carrie’s family often made me feel self-conscious about not having an sophisticated, idyllic, New England upbringing. The phone conversation was also frustrating because whenever I said Carrie’s behavior was unacceptable, she would say, “Nobody is to blame. People are just people. Everyone does bad things.”
Carrie also isolated me by saying that I am the only person she can talk to because I am the only one who understands her behavior while refusing to listen to anyone advocating for me. I have been forced into the role of “restoring” and educating her despite the fact that it was putting unreasonable mental and emotional demands on me. Since I cannot talk to her anymore (because of the continuation of abusive patterns) and she has decided she does not want to talk to anyone in Baltimore (and plans to move to a different city), she has created a situation where she doesn’t have to be accountable to anyone for her actions.
*Insulating herself. Without any consideration of my needs in this situation she decided to move to a different city. This in itself would not be a problem if she weren’t using it to avoid taking responsibility for her actions, to be in a place where she has complete control of the narrative and can maintain her power in the situation, to use it as a way to avoid having to listen to anything people have to say, and to avoid being around people who actually know about the abuse (beyond what she has told them). While she was planning this she also claimed that she had made the decision to stay in Baltimore because she thought it would be better for her, she wanted to work on restoring her relationships and being responsible to people, and that she found a good therapist at the local LGBTQ health center who works specifically on issues of abuse (she said that her number 1 commitment was to therapy), but a few days later my former roommate offhandedly mentioned she was packing her things to start moving to Greensboro, North Carolina. When she flipped sides she claims that being in Baltimore would be bad for her growth, which means that she is continuing to think of things exclusively in terms of her wants and needs and is choosing the easiest way out. She admitted to using her relationships with people who don’t have any context for understanding the situation as a way to validate her distorted and misleading version of the story, to subtly invalidate me, and to divert their attention by focusing on the minutiae of the reactions of the people around her rather than addressing the abuse. Also, she says that she is incapable of representing the situation honestly, so she is not going to talk to anyone about it. Essentially, what she is saying to me is that she will either lie about the situation or not tell anyone at all, effectively erasing her history of abusive behavior. She has asked me to chose between these two ridiculous options, perhaps as an empty gesture to show that she respects survivor autonomy. The desire she has expressed to neither talk about her behavior nor listen to the people who have been injured in this situation is another way she is being avoidant, especially since she has chosen to insulate herself and hide behind people who do not actually understand the situation because they only have contact with it through her.
* Creating elaborate smokescreens to distract people from the core issue. Rather than listening and actually considering the things people were saying to her when they were trying to address the abuse, she had prepared rebuttals that she used to shut down the conversation, such as focusing on the technicalities of accountability processes so she could dismiss people on the basis that they weren’t giving her immediate answers. She often told people, especially those who only has a cursory understanding of the situation, that people were just trying to prevent her from being happy. She admitted to habitually focusing on the people’s “advice” to distract people from the abusive behavior. She has at times claimed that her abusive behavior was the result of not being around enough trans women. While it is valid for her to desire to be around people she can relate to, it is unacceptable for her to use it as a justification for abuse. Moreover, her insistence on framing the power dynamics in terms of gender to the people she was talking to completely erases other power dynamics, such as her whiteness and privileged upbringing, which likely shaped her extreme sense of entitlement and her expectation that it was my job to take care of her—whether it was by cooking food for her or doing other forms of labor for her around the clock. Both her and her mother treated me like I was a servant put on this earth solely to serve Carrie.
* Continuing to treat me like a doormat and use me for my emotional labor. Whenever she would contact me after we broke up, the conversation would always be about processing HER feelings about her abusive behavior toward me.
* “Confessing” to the abusive behavior while strategically minimizing and distorting the issue so that it makes the people trying to hold her accountable on my behalf look irrational and unreasonable. Carrie would lie about the abuse by telling people it was about co-dependency. A mutual friend, reflecting on the times she tried to talk to Carrie about the abuse, said “She NEVER mentioned that she tried to strangle you. She said that you two were co-dependent upon each other and that you pressured her into a relationship.” This is a curious framework given that every time I told Carrie I could no longer tolerate the abuse and degrading treatment, she would beg me to stay, would go on and on about how much she loved me, and would promise that she would change. Weeks after we broke up she would still call me and would say things about how we were spiritually connected, how I’m the only person she’s ever truly loved, how I changed her life, and how she fantasized about coming to New Mexico, getting rid of all her things, and devoting her life to me (BAD IDEA). At the same time she was telling me these things, she was telling others that she only stayed in the relationship because she felt obligated to stay and told them I was holding her back. During our relationship she did the same thing—to my face she would say things that were grandiose, romantic, and would reduce me to an (unrealistic) idealization while behind my back she would degrade me. Sometimes she would strategically idealize me to others while simultaneously blaming me for the problems in her life. Both ways of framing me were dehumanizing and objectifying, and the inconsistencies were ABSOLUTELY MADDENING. It felt like she was interested in me insofar as I could provide her with affective and material labor.
She also used polyamory as a platform to degrade me. For instance, when it came to the surface she was secretly in a relationship with someone else while I was doing a filmmaking workshop abroad, I found out that she was telling many people—including the person she was romantically involved with—that we were broken up, and that she had a “new” love and was planning on moving to Japan to be with this person. When I got back and we continued living together, I had no idea any of this was going on. She told this person that she was her true love and that she was just obligated to stay with me. When I found out that she was telling people these things, I asked her about it and said it was “just a fantasy” she concocted because she was “trying to replace me” and was “looking for someone to take care of her” because she “resented” me for attending the workshop even though she encouraged me to do it. While she was saying these things she continued to lead the other person to believe we were no longer together while we were continuing to live together (and had never broken up). The person eventually got pissed at Carrie when she found out Carrie was not being forthcoming with her. I told Carrie that she had to be honest with people in the situation because she was just making every pissed off with her lies. Rather than being honest with the person, Carrie just stopped talking to her completely to avoid telling her what was going on. When this person felt betrayed and used, Carrie responded by telling her that she was just obligated to stay with me and that she was her true love, further manipulating her by saying, “it is dangerous that I like you so much.” This was maddening for both of us—it was as though Carrie had no commitment to what she was saying and was just telling people what they wanted to hear so she could get what she needed from them. When I asked Carrie, “Do you think you are emotionally mature enough to be polyamorous?” She said, “No.”
Carrie continues to exhibit this behavior. While we were breaking up and the abuse was coming out she was also making plans to move in with a couple she had just gotten romantically involved with a few days earlier. Later she said that she had acted hastily and irresponsibly by telling the couple that she was going to move to NC to live with them and that she actually wanted to stay in Baltimore to see her therapist, but while she was telling people this she was continuing to let the couple believe she was going to move in with them. When the contradiction came to the surface, she claimed that she was going to start being honest with people. She continued to tell people conflicting things and admitted that when she talked to the couple she tried to make it seem like she was being forced to stay in Baltimore by members of the feminist reading group. Then, when she flipped her decision again, she said that she was just going to NC because she felt obligated to go when one of the people she started dating got mad because she was flaking out. Although I feel Carrie’s new partners have acted disrespectfully toward me by enabling Carrie to avoid taking responsibility for her actions and not taking the abuse seriously, I can understand the reaction of one of her new partners because I know how maddening Carrie’s contradictions and lack of commitment can be, and that Carrie is likely pinning her decision to move to NC on them as a way to avoid being responsible to anyone. She tries to make it seem like all of her actions are actually being controlled by someone else, and that she has absolutely no agency over what she does. She will say whatever is convenient in the moment, and then, when people note an inconsistency, she will try to make it seem as though other people are responsible for what she says and does.
So long as she does not own up to her actions, she will continue to fuck people over and try to make it seem like it is not her fucking them over. I have been deceived by this pattern before. Instead of directing my anger and frustration toward her, I direct it toward whoever she says is to blame for her behavior. Obviously, it benefits her when the two sides don’t have any contact with each other because they won’t be able to compare what she had told them. When we were initially trying to process the abuse, she told me I could not talk to people about it (because it would make her vulnerable) and that she would tell our mutual friends about the abuse herself. When I found out she was lying about the abuse to people, such as our former housemates, it was clear to me that her insistence on “telling people herself” was not actually about taking “personal responsibility,” but that she was just maintaining control/power by controlling the narrative. When I said I needed to talk about it and get supported from people, she conceded and said I could tell people about it, but not publicly. However, she has stopped talking to every single person who I have talked to about the abuse, even when she was friends with them right up until they found out what actually happened. This shows that she is unwilling to be around anyone who knows what she did. She also creates elaborate rationalizations to justify this pattern. Initially, her tactic was to demonize and attack those who advocated for me. At other times, she has tried to subtly discredit them to outsiders by frame the situation such that they would look irrational. When I called her out on it she quickly changed her strategy—she said it would be “unhealthy” to associate with anyone who knew because the pressure would prevent her from growing as a person.
It is possible that this compulsive avoidance is “unconscious.” She often says that she is not intentionally being manipulative, but by continually focusing on “intention” and not choices, actions, and results, she is able to get herself off the hook. When she can get others to filter the situation through the framework of intentions and not results, others respond to her by excusing her behavior. When she can successfully shift the blame onto others and get people to believe she is remorseful, she gets to have it every way—people leave the conversation feeling that she is sincerely sorry, perhaps even heroic for admitting her problem; that she is flawed but not nearly as bad as the people trying to hold her accountable. When she reframes and distorts the situation to get certain reactions from people, she is invalidating (and silencing) me, but doing it in a way where she doesn’t have to come out and say it. Rather than outright denying the abuse, she will just “retell” the story so that it makes people feel sympathy for her.
If it is true that Carrie’s behavior/claims are the result of her being confused because her sense of reality is unstable, then people who are willing to invest energy into engaging her should hold her to high standards rather than letting her behavior slide or excusing her, as it will just allow her to continue the patterns. People who want to engage her should also understand the distinction between helping and enabling someone, and know that there is a risk that she will run away or cut ties with people who do not accept her abusive behavior.
WHY I CANNOT BE INVOLVED IN AN ACCOUNTABILITY PROCESS WITH CARRIE AT THIS TIME
Since Carrie expressed a desire to take accountability for her actions she has refused to engage the situation on any terms other than her own. She will not come out and say this, but she does this by deploying certain framing devices, by guilting/emotionally manipulating me, and by obsessively re-centering things on her so that my needs are completely unintelligible, even to myself. When friends were trying to mediate the conversation, she rejected this approach and called me up directly (claiming that she had to talk to me directly because she did not want things to get distorted) even when mutual friends made it clear to her that any communication between us could only be initiated by me. She also said that she does not want the radical community we were a part of to get involved because it would be too much pressure for her, but she must not understand that I am extremely vulnerable when I do not have friends around to support me and stay grounded. Since I am still very much attached to her and am immediately pulled back into her logic and way of framing things as soon as she can talk to me one-on-one, she is able to keep me on an emotional leash by isolating me. After years of abuse she intuitively knows what my weaknesses are, and I am still susceptible to her guilt trips because, at this time, my sense of responsibility to her is greater than my self-respect. Every time we have talked since starting to process the abuse I feel as though we are enacting the same exact scripts that were operating during our relationship.
Carrie has also been demanding about receiving an accountability process from me, as though it were my job to restore her and sooth her guilty conscience. In other words, she felt entitled to receive more of my emotional labor after she has abused me. After we broke up she continued to pressure me into engaging with her in this way and also attempted to pressure friends who were advocating for me into beginning an accountability process in my stead. It was obvious to me that the process she initiated was not about my needs at all—the first thing she told me when she tried to initiate an “accountability process” was that she needs to feel like she’s not a bad person in order for her to move on. Of course she would insert perfunctory/obligatory statements about how she wanted to make it up to me, but every gesture she actually made with the idea she was taking accountability was always about her and her needs/wants in the situation. Her conceptualization of “accountability” is SO FUCKING WHACK that she actually told people that she was moving to North Carolina to be “held accountable,” while she was actively dismissing all of the needs that I or people (mutual friends who were trying to support me) were articulating to her. In other words, she tried to convince people that she was “taking accountability” when actually, she was trying to escape the situation by moving to a city where nobody has any context for understanding the situation and she has complete control of the narrative. What’s more disturbing is that she actually admitted to distorting, minimizing, and being dishonest about the situation to the people she talked to in NC (the new partners she plans to live with), to engaging in invalidating and silencing behavior with the people there, and even said that she was/is “incapable” of being truthful about the situation when talking to people about it. She seems to think that accountability is about being accountable to strangers and not the person she abused.
Carrie has been completely self-centered in her attempt to take accountability. It is totally fucked that her effort to be accountable has actually just reinscribed the abusive and objectifying patterns. Most importantly, her actions have demonstrated that she is not yet capable of acknowledging my suffering and how fucking deeply she has hurt me, nor does she seem capable of personally coming to terms with the abuse without denying or rationalizing it in some way. It is shitty enough that she burned me so badly during our relationship, and I can’t tell you how much worse it feels that she is using the “accountability process” to throw dirt on my scorched corpse. If people want to initiate a formal accountability process with Carrie—go for it. I cannot participate at this time because continuing to have any investment in—or even think about—this situation requires more mental and emotion energy than I have right now. If a process is initiated, I would hope that demands would not be placed on me to applaud Carrie or give her my seal of approval.
If you are thinking, “This is unfair! You are just emphasizing the bad things! Carrie is not a bad person.”—well, yeah, I am emphasizing the bad things because I am talking about the abuse. I am exposing the secret I have been forced to carry around alone for nearly 3 years. I don’t think Carrie is a “bad” person, but she has done things to me that are fucked up. If you think I am “amplifying” my suffering—fuck you; you have no idea what I’ve been through.
Since Carrie has not cooperated with the people have tried to process the abuse with her, has demonstrated a lack of commitment, has admitted that she is not capable of representing the situation honestly to people, and has acknowledged that she has not integrated the situation in herself without distorting it, it only makes sense to request that she not participate in any queer, anarchist, feminist or anti-racist organizing at this time. I am not capable of holding Carrie accountable because when I try it just blows up in my face and emotionally derails me. I hope that other people take the issue seriously and try engage her about the issue, but I can no longer be involved in the process because I have to redirect my energy into putting my life back together. Before I desperately wanted my suffering to be recognized and acknowledged because I have been isolated for so long, but I have accepted my solitude in this situation. The only person who has witnessed my most intense moments of pain and isolation was the person who caused it. Since she is incapable of acknowledging my emotions or even perceiving me as a person I get this lonely sick feeling because there is nobody else in the world who is capable of understanding what I’ve been through. Only she was there. That is one reason why I have been so deeply bound to her—because to detach from her would make my isolation complete. Because I felt so VIOLENTLY WRONGED that I drove myself MAD trying to get her to acknowledge my suffering. Because I keep having nightmares where I am bound to this person forever because I am stuck inside a obsessive desire for her to actually RECOGNIZE ME, but since she cannot I wander a moonless and hateful earth alone feeling utterly devastated and am thrown into dusty prisons and am always running around the city chasing after a bus that has left me behind and no one responds whenever I talk and everyone speaks in gibberish just to spite me and all the people I think are my friends are secretly conspiring to leave me behind and I want them to LOOK AT ME when I walk away all sad because I have been told, GET OUT. Because ejected from the bus I don’t know where I am going to go but I know I can’t go to where you will be. Because I wake up in a terror-stricken panic because I KNOW that she is still inside me. Because I know that my neurotic desire for her to atone for the pain she has caused me just keeps me in her talon. Because I know that as long as I care if she cares, she will have power over me. Because one night I was awake next to you while you asleep and the GLOWING WINDOW ASKED ME, when will you respect yourself? Because I have no defenses against my nightmares. Because I am waiting for the fever to BREAK and when it doesn’t I am afflicted by an irrational, almost hysterical, desire for there to be A GOD THAT WATCHES…just so I won’t feel so alone.
I try to calm myself. I try to make I try to remind myself of what Joy James wrote in her essay on Assata: “There will be no gratitude, no appreciation, no recognition equal to the insults and assaults.” I must give up the fight.
I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me. I do not want revenge. I have even tried to rid myself of the expectation that people will acknowledge, validate, or understand what I have been through. I just want to be at peace with myself and to rebuild my life.