Trigger warning: sexual assault and emotional abuse
“I’ve handed his dysfunction back to him.”
FKA Twigs spoke these powerful words in an interview condemning her abuser, Shia LaBeouf.
As I watched her interview, I could feel the weight lift from her as she released the truths of her abuser—a reality she must have kept hidden for so long. I could feel her bravery, her resilience, and the return of her power.
When we tell our stories exposing our abusers, we return to ourselves.
We get our voices back.
We get our choices back.
We get our power back and leave them with their dysfunction.
This is exactly how I felt when I began to speak up against my former partner of five years. He held me hostage in a cloud of gaslighting and manipulation for over a year and a half. It all started when I confronted him that his best friend sexually assaulted me. Unlike a rational person, the rage and anger were directed at me instead of the man that put his entitled hands up my skirt.
I can’t un-hear so many of the hurtful things my ex said to me to victim-blame me back into silence and stop me from speaking up against the actions of his best friend:
“Why would I defend your honor?”
“You’re just trying to stir shit up!”
“I don’t care if he touched you.”
“He was drunk. It doesn’t count.”
Emotional abuse is domestic abuse, and it doesn’t get enough attention. The manipulation I endured was happening in my mind. It was invisible, which led me to downplay the severity of the damage that was happening to my overall mental well-being.
I was made to feel that the sexual assault was my fault, and I was crazy for speaking up. Words were used as weapons to distort my reality so I would maintain my silence. He was a master at weaving his lies with love to create a new reality where I was always to blame.
Even after nearly two years of therapy and healing from this abuse, my experience with him has left permanent scars, leading to unpredictable triggers.
This specific type of abuse is finally getting more attention within the millennial and Gen Z generation—narcissistic abuse.
I didn’t realize what was happening until the end of the relationship when I no longer inhaled his never-ending gaslighting. While enduring this victim-blaming, I took on his shame like it was mine. I felt like I needed to rescue him from himself, educate him on sexual assault, the Me Too movement, and break down his toxic masculinity.
I stayed because I was abused, and the feeling like you have to fix someone is a symptom of an abusive relationship. I will admit at the time, I was very codependent and a people pleaser and took on his pain as my own, but that doesn’t give anyone permission to abuse me psychologically.
Abuse is wrong, and the abuser should always be held accountable. However, the attention always goes to the victim with the popular question asked in the FKA Twigs interview: Why did you stay?
We never ask the abuser, Why did you abuse?
Why did you distort the reality of someone you claim to love because you couldn’t handle your truths?
I often wonder how my ex would answer these questions if someone with more authority over him were to ask him. I wonder if he would ever admit how wrong it was to silence me from speaking up against the actions of his best friend.
I will never get this closure from him, but I created closure within myself by telling my story of my abusive relationship through writing, podcasting, and TikTok. I have reached so many people through my words and voice and give others the strength to share their stories.
By exposing his misogyny, gaslighting, and toxic behaviors, I am free from his poisonous world. I am free from his control. I am free from the dysfunction.
The dysfunction is no longer mine. It’s back where it belongs—with him.
I believe we heal from trauma on a deeper level when we share our stories. We have the power to make others feel less alone, and we create a new culture where survivors are safe to speak up.
By sharing our stories, we transform from victim to survivor to warrior. I witnessed this profound moment throughout FKA Twigs’ interview when she ended her talk with three beautiful words of healing: “I feel brave.”
Her courage gives us courage. It will contagiously spread to empower domestic violence victims to take back their power and create change where abusers can be held accountable.
To be brave is to sit in the discomfort of calling out injustice in our lives. It’s healing discomfort that will have ever-lasting effects of empowering others to speak freely in their truths and finally let go of dysfunction that was never theirs to carry.