What We Talk About When We Talk About Abuse: (You’re Guilty, Too)

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It’s been a bad two weeks. Two of the worst weeks of my life, honestly. But I wouldn’t take back anything that’s happened. It’s changed me. I can feel it.

Here’s my truth: I know I’ve been a shitty person. I’ve been an emotional bulldozer. I’ve been a train wreck. I’ve been jealous, manipulative, selfish, impulsive, and careless. I’ve lured in men like tunafish, only to let them suffocate on my deck.

But I am not, at my core, a shitty person. I am not an emotional bulldozer. I am not a train wreck. I can say this with absolute certainty because there is no absolute certainty when it comes to human beings. We are nebulous creatures. If you disagree — if you’ve tried to ossify yourself as this or that — I feel sorry for you. Dynamism is beautiful. It’s why our loved ones stick around when we do shitty things.

The shitty things we do are not necessarily reflections of who we are as people. They are more often reflections of how we’ve dealt with a particular emotional state or situation.

I was forgiven after I threw a four-day house party that caused $1,500 in damage to my parent’s house. I was forgiven by my brother who found me passed out on a toilet, my head between my legs. I wrote a song about it: “I have been hurt and I’ve hurt you, but my essential being is not the things I do.”

This directly contradicts the “actions speak louder than words” platitude because life will always, inevitably, contradict every goddamn cliche we toss at it. And thank god for that.

Now, don’t get me wrong: certain actions are inexcusable and repeated patterns of abuse DO reflect who we are as people. I will never forgive my rapists. I will never forgive the MRAs who told me I deserved to be raped. I will never forgive people like Brock Turner or George Zimmerman or police officers who kill young black men in cold blood. I will never, ever forgive the system that serves as a breeding ground for this bullshit. But I can forgive minor digressions. I mean, I have to. I’m constantly digressing.

Alright, time for some specifics:

In the past month, three of my dear friends have been called “abusive.”

In the past three months, I have been called “abusive.”

In the past six months, I have been careless with the term “abusive.”

It’s all connected.

If you publicly advocate against rape, your words will eventually be used against you. Being vocal about this shit is basically like waving around a flag that says, “IF YOU WANT TO DESTROY ME, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS USE MY OWN WORDS AGAINST ME.” Sick people with guilty consciences and too much time on their hands will jump at this bait. They will use it to silence you.


A few months ago, I outed my ex-boyfriend for touching me in my sleep. I then wrote a blog post about sexual abuse and harassment within 12-step meetings. It was a serious post, based on dozens of encounters I witnessed over my two years in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Shortly after that, my rape revenge piece was published. And then I got this message from an NA member named Jesse Glaze:

“I would be much more receptive to this article if it didn’t contain stories which directly contradict things you told me in person. I might also be more receptive if I didn’t know that the ex who ’13th stepped’ you was the victim of repeated emotional abuse that you perpetuated during and after your relationship.”

I spiraled. I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. I sobbed in my partner’s bed. Was I an abuser? How and when had I repeatedly emotionally abused Jared?

Jesse called me emotionally abusive because I attempted to be friends with Jared after our breakup. She said I was leading him on.

If you publicly advocate against rape, your words will eventually be used against you.

Jesse went on to accuse me of physically abusing Jared for the time I whacked his arm in Walgreens while in a manic state. No, I shouldn’t have whacked him in the arm, but it was not done maliciously and one case of arm whacking does not make me an abusive person. It makes me a very imperfect person.

Every single one of us has been abusive at some point. It’s the nature of being alive. More specifically, it’s the nature of loving people. But there’s a difference between being an abusive person and doing an abusive thing. And we need to exercise extreme caution when using this word because 1. Abusing the term “abuse” diminishes its power and 2. Calling a non-abusive person an abuser can irreparably damage their reputation.

Wanna hear the abusive things I’ve done?

  1. I hit my ex-boyfriend at Walgreens.
  2. To get a rise out of that ex-boyfriend, I told him I was driving to the west coast when I was actually just going to Petco. I also told him that I was going to kill myself.
  3. A 16-year-old girl criticized me for something and I pulled up my shirt sleeve to show her the bloody cuts all over my arm and screamed that I wanted to kill myself.
  4. I have shoved boyfriends during fights.
  5. I have intentionally incited jealousy for the sake of attention.
  6. I have intentionally incited chaos and drama.
  7. I have spread rumors about people.
  8. I have spread secrets.
  9. I had sex with my ex’s best friend while my ex was in the room below us, partially out of malice.
  10. I have cut myself around boyfriends out of malice.
  11. I have used self-harm as a threat.
  12. I have called my boyfriends horrible names.
  13. I have used people.
  14. I have had sex with people’s friends and boyfriends to hurt them.
  15. Really, I’ve done a bunch of fucked up, manipulative, coercive shit out of attention-seeking and desperation.

So that’s my shit. Do you think differently of me now? I don’t care. At least I can own up to it. At least I’m trying to change.

Let’s move on.

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been dating the subject of some serious false accusations. And by serious, I mean criminally. It’s been a fucking nightmare trying to sort things out, but I’ve done extensive research and have enough evidence to believe that these are false accusations. Rumors about these accusations are being spread around Milwaukee by a former friend of his — someone who stayed in communication with him for almost a year after the accusations were made and who has been caught in lies about her role in this. This is a jealous person. It wasn’t until my partner expressed interest in other women that the news got out. And it wasn’t until she saw me with my legs on his lap that word really got out.

He’s now being ostracized by the community and I’m caught in the middle of it. I’ve received messages left and right from worried friends — friends with loads of secondhand rumors about him. I couldn’t play a show last weekend because he’d been banned from the bar I was supposed to play at.

His friend got what she wanted. A couple of weeks into the relationship and the two of us are constantly fighting. I sobbed in my little brother’s arms yesterday. I confronted his former friend at her workplace, knocking over a bunch of coffee lids on my way out. I know I’m being looked at as an apologist, probably as a victim, definitely as an idiot.

I’m not a fucking idiot. I’ve done my research. I’ve talked to the people I needed to talk to. I’ve also seen this happen enough to know with certainty that false accusations are used to intentionally ruin people’s lives.

And guess what? It works. Even if you’re innocent, people will treat you as though you’re guilty as soon as they hear the word “abusive” attached to your name. They won’t do their research. They won’t give you a chance to explain yourself. They’ll grab the fucking pitchforks and join the rally against you without second thought. People love witch hunts. They love drama. They love rumors. They love feeling morally superior.

This is not a fucking game.

These are human lives you’re toying with.

Has my current partner been shitty to people? You bet. Has he fucked up? Duh. Has he done weird, manipulative shit? Yes. So why the fuck am I sticking around?

Because I have been abusive. You have been abusive. Your best friend has been abusive. We’ve all been abusive shit heads, maybe with the exception of my littlest brother because he is a golden goose egg.

The person I’ve been seeing was the victim of serious sexual abuse in his late teens. It altered him as a human being. My rape at 19 altered me as a human being. People with borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder tend to exhibit abusive qualities. Past abuse doesn’t excuse current abuse, but abuse cycles are very real and we must take this into consideration if we hope to be offered forgiveness and understanding in our own lives.

I’m not writing this blog post to clear my partner’s name or to silence anyone holding a grudge against him. I’m writing this because flippant use of the word “abuse” is a subcultural epidemic, especially among “radical” kids. I’m writing it because three of my closest friends have been accused of abuse in the past month and, as I’ve gone public with this, even more friends are coming out of the woodwork.

Don’t believe that false accusations are a reality? Think again. These are examples just from people I know:

  1. An anti-rape activist friend of mine was called a rapist by a vindictive ex-girlfriend and everyone but her closest friends turned against her without second thought. Her reputation and her anti-rape efforts have been thoroughly tarnished.
  2. My best friend is being accused of abusing her ex-boyfriend who basically said he would drop the claims if she got back together with him.
  3. Another friend was the subject of a smear campaign by an ex who punched him in the mouth. Years later, she’s still telling people he hit her.
  4. I was accused of thirteenth stepping because I had consensual sex with a man who had less clean time than me. This was used to undermine my discussion of very real abuse in 12-step programs.
  5. An acquaintance was accused of abusing a bitter ex to the point that they had to publicly explain the situation on Facebook.
  6. Another friend is being called abusive by her soon-to-be ex-husband. In her words, “When we would fight he would fight dirty and then tell me i was being abusive to him because i would yell back and basically match aggression with aggression. He’s become dependent on me when it comes to all his responsibilities and when i tell him i don’t want to parent my husband, he tells me I’m being abusive and destroying his confidence. That sort of thing.”
  7. Another acquaintance was accused of being anti-white.
  8. Yet another friend was called “abusive” and a “bully.” In their words: “I got told I act like a cop and ‘enjoy derailing projects,’ as well as called both a bully and an abuser the other day by someone I’ve never met bc of standing up to transmisogyny and sexual assault & rape culture. Welp…”
  9. Another friend was pushed out of anarchist circles for false abuse claims.
  10. Yet another anarchist friend was the subject of a smear campaign by a vindictive ex who continues to spread these rumors.
  11. A friend of a friend was caught cheating and, to cover her tracks, reported the consensual sex as rape to the police.

Yes, the vast majority of victims are telling the truth. Yes, it’s important to start by taking their word. Yes, we must be diligent in handling these scenarios. BUT PEOPLE LIE. People exaggerate. People use the word “abuse” when they mean something entirely different.

Trust me when I tell you this because because I am guilty of these things, too. I have called non-abusive situations abusive. I have cast people as villainous in order to feel better about myself. I feel awful about it. I want to change. I need to be more intentional. We all do.

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You are abusive. You have been abused. You are abusive. You have been abused.

Words are powerful tools. We can use them for good or we can use them to systematically destroy people. Because sexual assault and rape and emotional/physical/mental abuse are most often bedroom crimes, it’s borderline impossible to prove what happened either way. This is a horrible truth. It means that victims are often discredited. It also means innocent people can be easily ruined. As I mentioned earlier, when you throw the term “rapist” or “abuser” at someone, it will stain them forever, even if it’s proven to be a false claim. There are bad people in this world. We walk among rapists, we walk around predators, we walk among liars. We are all capable of being every one of those things. The more we deny it, the more capable we are.

Where do you stand in this? Have you been the victim of false accusations? Has the term “abuse” been used to dismantle you? Have you used it to dismantle someone else?

Think before you speak, before you write, before you spread rumors or gossip or involve yourself in secondhand drama. Remember that you’re dealing with real human lives.

Please, for the love of god, don’t be a fucking asshole. And to Milwaukee kids who have more rumors to spread: Leave. Me. The. Fuck. Alone.

Looking For Love in All the Dark Places: Self-Harm, Romance, and Sheep Centaurs

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I want to tell you about a very stupid and embarrassing thing I did this morning. (If my shame list was still being written, this would be on it.) When I got home from Milwaukee last night, I squeezed ketchup and mustard all over my face and took some pictures of the aftermath in one of many personal attempts to challenge aesthetic conventions. And then – big mistake – I posted it on social media. It went mostly “unliked” and, feeling humiliated, I deleted it. I do this quite often. I post a photo, wait to see if it’s worth any social capital, and, if it’s not, I virtually incinerate it. I then spend a few hours fighting the urge to put a Jewel-Osco bag over my head.

How’s that for an unflattering truth? I’m mortified to confess that I’ve enlisted myself in this battle for online attention, but I’m doing it because you’ve probably enlisted yourself, too.

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Runaway Bride Confessions and First Year Anniversary Reflections

Holy shiz, yesterday was Big Mouth’s first year anniversary. Time continues to mystify me.

I started this blog shortly after my wedding was called off and I returned home from Europe. The first post was both an apology and a goodbye letter — an apology because I felt like I fucked a lot of people over in my runaway bridehood and a goodbye letter because I would soon sprint back to Europe under the guise of needing to “find myself” — the empty claim of every 20-something runaway ever.

I wasn’t as candid then as I am now and there’s finally enough distance for me to be honest about what happened.

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Tramp Stamps and Pillow Sex: A Master List of Things I’m Ashamed Of

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(let’s get naked. emotionally.)

Shame sucks. It’s seriously one of the most detrimental feelings a human being can experience. Its goal is to cut you off from the rest of the world so that no one else has to see how horrible/disturbed/disgusting you really are. Shame shows itself in red faces, clenched fists, and lacking eye contact.

Guilt, when it’s justified, can be useful. Guilt inspires positive change and keeps us from repeating the same mistakes. Don’t know the difference between guilt and shame? Guilt is feeling shitty about something you’ve done that violates your own moral code. Shame is going from “I did a shitty thing” to “I am a shitty person.” Shame revolves around the idea that there is something inherently wrong with you. It’s triggered by rejection, by ostracization, by embarrassment… any number of things, really. 

Guilt promotes forward movement. Shame keeps you stuck and scared and small. Shame prohibits growth.

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Stop Rocking My Shame Boat: Women, Shame, and Sexuality

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A few months ago, a friend suggested that I write something about shame. I’ve resisted doing so until now because a.) shame is an enormous topic b.) it sucks and c.) it permeates pretty much every facet of my life, so WHERE WOULD I EVEN BEGIN???!!!

(Caps aren’t appropriate for professional writing, Leif.)

(Fuck you, subconscious parenthetical voice.)

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