A former girlfriend of mine took her own life in January two years ago. She planned everything meticulously. I heard she was happy the last weeks of her life, that she seemed to do better than the time before that. In retrospect, her family knew she must have been released from the burden of having to live on. She knew she would end it and the darkness would stop. She was not a religious person, but she was not afraid of death, it could only be better then having to live the way she had to live.
She was a survivor. That’s what they call victims of abuse. It has this heroism in it. It must have been a word they invented in the West, they love heroes here. Victim is a word that sounds too helpless. People love the lucky to be alive story, the two that survived the aircrash, the one that escaped the fire, the one that got away from the pedophile. Victims are not loved. They are forgotten. They hide.
She hid a big part of herself away, the shame, the pain, the memories. Not really memories, since she was a very small child when it happened. Flash-backs, nightmares, those were her memories. Nothing coherent. Nothing the law could use to find and punish her abuser. She read the stories of other victims. The laughable punishments that were given to the abusers, if they were ever caught and tried in court. She could never go through that even if she had the logic memories the law wanted of her.
She allowed me in her life. Not all the time. There were times when she hid away in her room for everybody. When she was not there, only her body was present, a body that had shut down too,for the most part. I saw her many times like that, she trusted me to check up on her, sometimes it was just to see if she was still alive.
I couldn’t save her, I knew that. I knew many women who had been abused and was not naive. I could just be her safe harbor, nothing more. I counted myself stronger than I was, as butches do too often, I cared for her, I comforted her and told her everything would be ok. She asked me many times if it was not too much for me, her family talked with me and asked the same, they cared for me, they cared for her. My friends told me it was not a good relationship for me, I told them I was fine, I could do this.
I betrayed her in the end. I betrayed her even before, because I could not admit to myself I wanted out of the relationship. It suffocated me, the dependency on me was too much for me to handle, but I didn’t talk about it with her. She could have dealt with it, but I didn’t say anything. Instead, I went away to my women’s summer camp, like I did every year. That summer I couldn’t wait to get away from home and I knew why. I needed air. Air to breath.
I didn’t go back to her after my summer holiday, we broke up over the phone after I told her I had met another woman on camp and had fallen in love with her. She never spoke with me again. I never saw her again.
She took her life half a year later. I didn’t go the her funeral. My betrayal had hurt her family deeply, they had to deal with her grief after our breakup. Her mother asked me why I hadn’t talked about my feelings, about my doubts and I had chosen to end it in a disrespectful way. There was no defense. I always thought myself to be an honest person, but realizing I hadn’t spoken about my doubts, fears and feelings with the people around me, showed me that I was not very honest at all.
I can’t get away with it just by saying: it’s a butch thing, because it’s a bad excuse. My silence was not strength, it was weakness. I hurt more people with that, than the truth could ever have done. I’m sorry for that, even though it’s too late to say it to some of them.