How to Stop the Burn: A Perspective on Abusive Relationships

Ashtyn Britt
abritt@lc.edu

 

The following is a poem by and interview with Harley Camryn, a young recent survivor of an abusive relationship with her ex-girlfriend of multiple years. For anyone who has experienced abuse from their partner and needs to seek help, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

 

Letter to the One that Burnt Me

By Harley Camryn

How can you say you loved me? Sure, people f*ck up, but you do not burn the ones you love.

You should want every touch to be a note in the song that your love creates within the soul, not a flame that will burn for years to come. 

You should want to caress every cytoplasm filled cell that creates the thighs she cries about at night, and that ever-so-tiny tummy you adore even when she tells you she’s disgusting. 

Somehow, though, you’d rather brand her with the hot iron of your words; the words that gouge deeper into her skin every time you tell her she’s a slut, and still you laugh when the searing pain comes out in muffled screams.

You should want her to remember your hands as a gentle place to come to for the love she so desperately needed, but now any hand raised the wrong way is a threat of the burning past.

No matter how hard she may try to forget you, she’ll still remember the night she combusted.

The inside of the garage door, the dirty floor, burnt into her memories. The way her ashes tumbled over as you kicked them into the wind. 

You should want the memories she carries of you together to brighten every dark corner of her mind, yet the memories you have created will haunt her for the rest of her life.

The fire of those memories does not burn red, orange, or yellow; those memories are black. They hold no light, nor can they illuminate. They grab hold and drag her back to that darkness that was there before you, only now it doesn’t end when she smiles, it burns hotter. 

Now the corners of her lips turn up only to hide the darkness that burns deep within and cannot be exhumed.

 

Ashtyn: What inspired this poem?

Harley: I was in an abusive relationship for three years with a woman I was convinced loved me. I wrote this poem during a very dark time within my head following leaving this person for the third time.

A: Would you say LGBTQ+ relationships have more hidden abuse than straight relationships?

H: Yes, I would say that the abuse that happens within LGBTQ+ relationships is even more so veiled. Partially due to some of the abuse being between people who are still closeted, those who are ashamed of their sexuality may have that shame exploited, the abusive partner can try to justify the abuse by saying their partner isn’t truly LGBTQ+, and the abusive partner can limit the resources of help to an already limited person due to unacceptance. These are also examples of why it can be harder for someone in the LGBTQ+ community to leave an abusive relationship.

A: How did it feel when you left your abusive relationship?

H: It was extremely hard to leave my abusive partner, I actually went back to her about four times. Ultimately, I was able to realize my own worth and know that although you may love someone, you must also love yourself and know when it’s best to let them go.”

A: How has your life been since you left your abusive relationship?

H: Since I have left my abusive partner I have gotten back into contact with the best friend I could ever ask for, and made quite a few new wonderful friends who have helped me through all the struggles of leaving an abusive relationship. I have come to appreciate the great people in my life more than I ever did before.

A: What would be your message to anyone in an abusive relationship who is thinking of leaving?

H: My message to someone who is in a similar situation to what I experienced would be that you do not deserve this. Nothing that you could have ever said or done would make it okay to manipulate or lay a hand on you. I say this because in the words of Stephen Chobsky, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”, and I couldn’t agree more. My only other thought would be that there is no reason someone who loves you would want to put you through this pain.

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