People like stories. We build our lives around the stories we have about who we are, where we come from and how the world works. If you are part of a shared, dysfunctional story, and you decide to step out of that story, there will be consequences and it is as well to be aware of them.
For people dealing with domestic abuse, the time of greatest danger is the time when you try to leave. Not just because you are physically trying to get out, but because you are putting the lie to the story about how right, virtuous and justified your abuser is.
People will fight and kill to protect their stories and their take on reality, even when those stories are clearly harming them. As the person breaking the story, you are perhaps more likely to be seen as the destructive oppressor, and not the rescuing angel you may imagine yourself to be. Those still in the story may simply recast you so that they can keep the story going. “You used to be such a nice little girl. I don’t know what went wrong.”
Sometimes, the only way out of a story is to break away from the people whose story it is. Sometimes, the only option is to play the role consciously and then escape into spaces where you can properly be yourself. Sometimes to do that, a safe house is required, a new identity, police protection. Sometimes you have to ask difficult questions about the price of your relationships, and the implications of leaving them. People can die as a consequence of misjudging this.
If you call out a story as a lie, even if you can evidence it, people may fight you. They may fire you, take you to court, lie about you, attack you on social media. They may deprive you of key resources. If you refuse to play your allotted role you may be harassed, ridiculed, threatened or abandoned. You have no control over how other people respond when you stop acting in line with their story.
But you have the right to live your own life, and you have the right to be safe. So, if you’re wrecking a story, plan your escape routes first – more or less literally as required. Do some risk assessment. Consider the consequences. Try to break the story as calmly as you can, with minimal drama. There is nothing like drama to keep a story moving, because even as you think you’re resisting it, you can find the energy of it being sucked in and used to reinforce the existing story. You were always a useless child. Now you’re upsetting everyone with this stupid idea that you can do something. It’s all your fault… These are the outcomes to avoid.
It’s natural to want justice, to want recognition. It’s reasonable to want the people who have miscast you to realise their mistakes. It’s also very likely that you won’t get that. If you choose to stay and fight, you may be pulled back into the old story. Sometimes, it is better to go quietly and start a new story of your own somewhere else.