This story is a true one. First, I will tell it without revealing who is the man and who is the woman.
The Story of the Worst Breakup of All Time
Person A (who we’ll call “A” for simplicity) has been dating Person B (who we’ll call “B”) for over three years. They live together, but are not “officially” married. A is very happy, but, seemingly out of the blue, B decides that (s)he is not, and A is suddenly single and alone. B moves out.
The days pass, and A is beginning to get used to being alone. One night, a couple of weeks after the breakup, A returns home to find B in the living room (where did B get the house key from?). B proceeds to scream and yell at A, and A, shocked, asks B to leave. B refuses.
A asks B to leave once more, and B becomes even more angry. B hits A. The next day, A will have bruises.
After hitting A, B goes to A’s bedroom. A follows and insists that B leave, but B proceeds to trash A’s room and again refuses to leave. So instead, A leaves before the situation escalates any further, and sleeps somewhere else that night, leaving B in the apartment alone.
The next day, B leaves to go to work. A immediately calls a locksmith and changes all of the locks. Still nervous about being surprised by B, A spends the next week sleeping at a different friend’s house each night.
After this experience, A no longer feels safe in his/her own home. A moves to a new apartment, and does his/her best to hide his/her new address from B.
A never calls the police.
So, dear readers, what do you think? Who is the man in this situation, and who is the woman?
If I told you that A was the woman, and B the man, what would you think and feel? Probably, you would be angry, and you might talk about women’s rights, about oppression, about the patriarchy, and about violence against women. You might also feel scared for yourself, or for the women in your life who might have to experience the same things that A experienced. Maybe you’re one of those idiots who believes that the situation was all A’s fault because she never called the police or sought help (despite being confused, berated, heartbroken, and depressed), or you might think that the story is funny, or think that something must have been wrong with A for her boyfriend to react so violently. If you are that idiot, you need to learn some compassion.
But, you might not realize that you actually are that idiot.
You see, A is not the woman in this relationship. A is the man. B was his girlfriend.
And that tiny fact usually completely changes how people react to this story. When I tell this with the genders revealed, most people laugh – that’s right, actually laugh – about A’s predicament. Even when I tell them that he was injured, that his property was damaged, and that he was forced to secretly move in order to avoid his girlfriend’s stalking. If they don’t laugh, they usually express disbelief that something like this could actually happen outside of the movies. No one asks if A called the police. No one feels afraid for him, or for any of the men in their lives.
No one asks if A is alright.
Some people even try to say that everything was A’s fault.
Basically, they all react to the story like the idiot from the first scenario.
They all victim blame or shame.
So the next time you hear about partner abuse against men, don’t make fun, don’t laugh, and don’t blame him. Listen to him, and help him if you can. Be supportive.
And for that matter, support women too – chances are you know a girl who has been a victim. But remember, violence can be – and often is – gender-neutral. It can happen to anyone!