There was a great exchange in a recent interview with singer-songwriter FKA twigs regarding her relationship with actor Shia LaBeouf, who she is currently suing for "relentless abuse" including assault and sexual battery.
From The Independent:
In a CBS This Morning interview on Thursday (18 February), King asked the musician: “Nobody who’s been in this position likes this question, and I often wonder if it’s even appropriate to ask… why didn’t you leave?”
Twigs replied: “I know that you’re asking it out of love, but like, I’m just going to make a stance and say I’m not going to answer that question anymore because the question should really be to the abuser, ‘Why are you holding someone hostage with abuse?’”
She continued: “People say, ‘Oh, it can’t have been that bad, because she would’ve left.’ And it’s like, no, because it was that bad, I couldn’t leave.”
"Because it was that bad, I couldn't leave."
This is what so few people understand about abusive relationships. People see friends and family members stuck in relationships that are obviously horrible and say "She should leave him! Why doesn't she just leave??" If the abuse happened in secret the first question your loved ones ask when you escape is "Why did you let it go on so long? Why didn't you leave sooner?"
Those who have escaped abusive relationships know how intensely hurtful this question is, how violent it feels to have it inflicted upon you by people who are supposed to be on your side and supporting you. It feels so violent because you have perspective that others do not: you understand that your inability to leave the abusive relationship was itself a fundamental product of the abuse.
Abusive relationships aren't just one partner doing cruel things to another. If they were, there would be no relationship: there'd just be a woman getting assaulted one time by her boyfriend and then immediately leaving. Abusive relationships necessarily include the construction of psychological barriers to leaving, or else they would not exist. Victims of abuse are kept constantly confused, off-balance, insecure and unsure of themselves, because their abuse always necessarily includes the element of psychological manipulation.
You're being caged psychologically, and you're kept too confused and off-balance to even be aware that that's what's happening. So you stay where you are, just as surely as you would if you'd been placed in a physical cage.
This is why people stay in abusive relationships, whether it's abusive relationships with significant others or abusive relationships with empires.
As a collective, we remain in our current relationship with abusive power structures because we are collectively kept confused, off-balance, insecure and unsure of ourselves, as a critical element of our collective abuse is mass-scale psychological manipulation.
Vast fortunes are poured into keeping us from realizing that we are being exploited by powerful wealth hoarders while our nation's resources are sent to fight wars of planetary domination. That our ecosystem is being destroyed for profit with no real plan for what to do when it's gone. That we are being increasingly oppressed and impoverished to keep us from having enough awareness and wealth to dethrone our rulers. And that it doesn't have to be this way at all.
And make no mistake, it absolutely does not have to be this way. The difference between our relationship with the oligarchic empire and FKA twigs' relationship with Shia LaBeouf is that we are far, far bigger and far, far stronger than our abusers. This isn't Shia LaBeouf abusing a small female pop star, this is Shia LaBeouf abusing a great giantess the size of a planet. They work so hard to keep us confused and manipulated because they know the second they cease to do so we can crush them like a mosquito.
But the dynamic is the same in both cases: we are being victimized by manipulative abusers. The manipulation is part of the abuse. It is not our fault that they cage our minds like this, it's theirs. They are to blame, not the ordinary people just trying desperately to get by, voting for the status quo in election after election because they've been kept too confused and insecure to see clearly what's going on. We haven't left our abusive relationship yet because it is that bad.
The good news, of course, is that people do leave. They do escape their abusive relationships. The light of truth cannot remain hidden forever, and sociopathic manipulators do not understand the depths of human experience well enough to block it out. They are shallow, and we are deep. They cannot understand the dimensions of ourselves which are secretly moving toward freedom well enough to anticipate and prevent those movements.
If you have a loved one who is in an abusive relationship, you draw attention to what you are seeing, you let them know that you are there for them, you trust their inner wisdom to find a way to escape someday, and when they do you are there waiting for them with the engine running. When you have a collective that is in an abusive relationship, you draw attention to the abusive dynamics you are seeing, you trust humanity's unfathomable depths to produce an escape route, and when the time comes to rise up, you are there at the ready.
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