People in abusive relationships are taught (and shown) that their body is not their own, it does not belong to them. It becomes another thing that their partner uses against them. It can be vulnerability they weren’t prepared for. The body can also carry memories of the abuse long after the relationship ends.
Attention: People With Body Parts is a body positivity movement started by Lexie Bean. She started out collecting letters that friends and family members wrote to their body parts. She’s about to publish an anthology* filled with letters survivors have written to their body parts. Body parts that hold secrets, visible scars, and invisible memories. Letters that focus on reclaiming those body parts and denouncing their partners control over their body. I love this idea.
An abusive partner often takes control of the other persons body. This can look like forced physical contact or sex, hitting, pushing, choking, and other forms of physical abuse. It could be forcing a woman to become pregnant or to have an abortion. It could be restraining their partner or blocking them from leaving. Hiding birth control. Telling their partner how to look or what to wear.
Boundaries are healthy. Everybody has some sort of boundaries when they start a relationship. They can change and evolve overtime as a couple gets to know each other and becomes more invested in the relationship. In an abusive relationship those boundaries are often eroded over time or stripped away at the whims and desire of one person. There isn’t conversation about how this will happen. There isn’t consent. It can be sudden and violating or it may happen slowly over time with manipulation and increasing pressure.
These letters recognize a part of the healing process that I don’t think is talked about enough. They also recognize that people heal at different rates and that there are many layers to these relationships. I thought I would give it a try for myself. If anyone else would like to write a letter to a body part I would love to publish them. Please use the contact page to send me an email.
You have become strong these past few years though I know their was a time when you felt neglected; often reaching out for comfort only to find empty space. You protected me when you could and soothed injuries when you couldn’t. You worked tirelessly to pacify his mood swings and write letters declaring love and loyalty.
I remember that day when he stopped noticing you. He treated you like a nuisance instead of a comfort. His hand reached to you, but only in secret while the other reached for another woman. But you are strong now. You work not only to protect me but to protect others. You reach now not for him but to be an anchor for others. Through you I know that they understand. We are of the same breed. We are survivors; you, me, and the others. Through you I can give them comfort and show them they are not alone. Through you we will change the world.
*The anthology is called Portable Homes and is due to be published on December 10th of this year.