Starting from an incredibly young age, girls are bombarded with an endless amount of princess stories, more specifically the “damsel in distress” type. We’ve got Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, and so on and so forth. Now, what do all of these princesses have in common? Well, they are all waiting for a prince to come and save them from their terrible misfortunes. Luckily for these ladies, they get their princes and live happily ever after, with all the splendor that a prince’s life does afford. But we know that reality doesn’t work that way, folks.
So my question here is, what happens when your Prince Charming turns from the person causing you trouble to the person who can seemingly save you from it? What happens when your oppressor is your savior? This happens more often than we’d like to admit. We don’t learn about this from a young age, but I’ve learned that vulnerability can prevent victims from realizing that a relationship is, in fact, toxic.
Recently, I read a book titled Pimp, written by former pimp Iceberg Slim, that highlights this exact thing. In one particular anecdote, Slim recalls asking an older pimp how to get one of his “unmanageable girls in line.” The older pimp tells him that he should beat her with a coat hanger until she’s black and blue, then run her a bath and give her some pills for the pain. In this way, the woman will be so grateful that he “fixed” her that she’ll forget that he was the one that broke her in the first place. In this way, the oppressor is the savior.
Now, I’m not trying to invalidate, lessen, or compare the severity of the traumas that many sex workers endure within their industry; instead, I’m trying to shine light on the occurrence of similar issues within our own, everyday intimate relationships as well. Having experienced an abusive relationship of my own, I can truthfully say that this happens so heartbreakingly often. When you’ve been beaten down and drained in more ways than you can count, it becomes easier to be fooled by the facade put on by an abuser.
You so desperately long for someone to save you in your most vulnerable state that you’ll take anything that even slightly resembles love or kindness. That’s just how I was. Wanting love from somebody else meant nothing when I couldn’t provide that same love to myself. Me trying to convince myself that I was in a healthy relationship made absolutely no sense. But here’s a hard fact: abusive relationships and abusers are not in any way redeemable. Here’s another fact: we can and we will break this cycle. We will demand the love and respect that we deserve and let it come from ourselves, first and foremost.
I see now that it takes an immense amount of courage and willpower to take a step back and say, “This person isn’t good for me and may have never been. This person is not my savior and never will be.” The subsequent act of letting go takes even more courage and strength. It is so incredibly difficult letting go of a love that you believed to be unselfish and unconditional—incredibly difficult, but also incredibly necessary.
Reach out to someone you trust because talking about how you feel is important. And there are a variety of resources available to students here on campus that can help as well, like CAPS, CARE at SARC, the Women’s Center, the LGBTQ Center, and many more. Do it, because you deserve peace of mind.
Now look in the mirror and tell me, what does your savior look like?
Dalia Elmanzalawy is a contributing writer for The Triton.