It’s Not Me, It’s You.

Via Jennifer Cusano
on Feb 19, 2012
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The other night while leaving my local bookstore a man followed me out to my car.

I was alone. I didn’t even hear him coming. While putting my bags down on the passenger seat he knocked on my window and scared the living shit out of me. I’d like to believe that had I not had the common sense to start the car, put it in drive and barely crack the window, I would have walked away unscathed.

The first thing he said was that I smelled pretty. I was polite and thanked him. He also said he watched me while I was picking out my books. I did not reply, all I could think was, why didn’t you approach me inside the store. I was scared and while I am generally not a rude person, I turned away and gunned it out of the lot.

I really didn’t give it much thought after that, until two days ago when I ran into him again in the same place. This time he did not approach me head on but instead sat next to me while I was having my tea and made no attempt to hide the fact that he was following me around the store. This time I had the security guard walk me to my car. I left thinking: what did I do wrong?

My mind has been reeling ever since. To say I am a magnet for men who want to do me harm is an understatement. When I was 11 a man tried to take me from Home Depot. I walked away from my parents to use the restroom. When I was 14 I was raped. I spent years 17-21 in a series of highly abusive relationships. Once a man followed me to the bathroom at a bar, cornered me when I came out and tried to rip my shirt off. There are other things, but these are the instances that I relive most often.

When I say I relive them, that may not be entirely correct. It would be more precise to say that I dissect them. Trying to locate reasons why these things keep happening. What was I wearing and was it too provocative? Did I in some way make this person believe I was interested? Was my makeup too heavy? Should I not have been where I was? Was I asking for it? What is it about me that draws these people to me, what do I have to change?

Even when I explain these situations to other people I am quick to defend my own actions. Yes, one time this older man at a bar just grabbed my breasts, but my shirt wasn’t low-cut or anything. Sure I stayed with the guy who threw me down the stairs, but I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I don’t understand why he ripped off my shirt, I didn’t even look at him.

I’ve also heard other people make excuses for the vile behavior I have encountered and whether or not they realize it, they are excuses all the same. Well Jenn, you’re a peanut, you can’t defend yourself, you shouldn’t go anywhere alone. You’re like a twinkie to a hungry mob (I kid you not, someone actually said that to me). Ya know, you’re a pretty girl, these things happen. The guy was probably wasted. The best one though is, you should be more careful. Be more careful how exactly?

I’m not sure why it took so long, but it finally dawned on me that other than bad luck, there is no justifiable reason for these things that have happened to me. I feel very foolish for seeking out answers like that but you know how they have those trick pictures where you have to find something hidden and then once you do all you can see in the picture is the hidden object? This revelation was kind of like that. Now, I can’t understand why I didn’t come to this conclusion earlier.

This is what I know: there is no excuse or reason pertaining to the victim. Period.

Here’s the catch though, I know I am not alone in having thought there was. This is something you are taught. This “blame the victim” mentality is homegrown and it needs to stop. Even just the use of the word victim used to make me cringe. There is so much negativity attached to that word and it isn’t directed toward the perpetrator like it should be. It’s directed toward the victim. Like they want attention for being on the receiving end of such a personal crime, or people’s sympathy. I was a victim, I will always be a victim and while it isn’t something I am proud of, I shouldn’t be ashamed of it either. Proud is an elusive word here too, because I am proud to have gotten through it.

The hardest thing to let go of has been the abusive relationship stuff. It’s hard to not blame myself in ways because I stayed. The thing is this though, just because I stayed doesn’t mean I let it happen. Just because I stayed doesn’t mean that I should have expected it, that I didn’t hope to god it would be the last time every time. Just because I stayed doesn’t make it ok because it should have never happened and that is not my fault. I am only just now noticing the anger I feel when someone says: “If it happens once shame on them, if it happens twice shame on you” (you have to say it out loud in a hardy har har kind of voice to get the full effect of what I mean). The worst though has got to be “she was asking for it”.

Seriously, WTF?

While I would like to think that if someone had said to me there is nothing wrong with you, these things shouldn’t happen, I would

Photo: | angus clyne

have believed them, I am almost positive that I would still have been searching to reason. I have some theories on why that is but nothing that doesn’t blame someone else, or society in general and while those things may be a part of it, the bigger part was how I was viewing myself.

Out of all of the different ways in which my life has changed since I started down the path I am on, without a doubt this has felt the best. To stop holding myself accountable for things that I had no control over has lightened me in so many ways. Literally I physically feel lighter.

It’s a process though, no doubt. Even just now I wanted to put into parenthesis, after I said I had no control over these events, something to the extent of: other than the fact that I stayed, or other than the fact that–you get the point. I guess this has really been one of those instances where the answer you seek is inside yourself. It certainly wasn’t in the ways I made excuses and sought them out but it took all of that to get here and let go.

Sometimes all you need is a change in perspective and the entire ways in which you view the world will be permanently altered.


Editor: Kate Bartolotta.


About Jennifer Cusano

Jennifer Cusano, social media aficionado, research connoisseur, and writer du jour, is a Yogi on a path of personal exploration and long overdue healing. Managing Editor for YOGANONYMOUS, Producer for Where Is My Guru, Director of Social Media for YOGASCAPES and TumericALIVE, wife and mother of three, Jenn is really a superhero in disguise—or so she likes to think. In her spare time Jenn likes to read about and search for vampires, so if you happen to know or come across one, please do send them her way. Hit her up on Facebook or Twitter to discuss the various methods of tracking down said vampires. Also she is more than a little uncomfortable writing about herself in the third person, it may just be the hardest thing she's had to do, and that's saying something...


11 Responses to “It’s Not Me, It’s You.”

  1. we still as a society teach "don't get raped, rather than don't rape" it's unbelievable.… to get a full picture.

    I have stayed to long in abusive relationships…I don't let it happen anymore…I do believe my own lack of self worth allowed me to accept that treatment. So is it them in the wrong? absolutely…do we as a society need a shift YES…EVEN so I still feel that as I grow as I become strong less shit happens to me — so in the end I can only control myself so that is where I will focus my work.

    People who know me now can't even imagine that I ever let a man abuse me or that i have ever taken shit…so I know it can shift…does that make you "responsible" for their behaviour NO… are you at fault? NO

    So brave and honest is your post and I hope that the energetic shift happens so that you feel safe, and more I hope people can start to understand the problem is not that you are "pretty or small or like a twinkie" but that we don't spend more time teaching that this shit is just not OK ever – for any reason –

  2. Ozz says:

    Kudos to you for recognizing the absence of any blame on your part for these terrible events in your life – for turning this corner, even if there is still some work to be done. And for recognizing how pernicious and pervasive is the tendency to 'blame the victim' that exists in our society. If we could eradicate the latter, perhaps this would reduce the incidence of the former?

  3. Harleigh Quinn says:


    I have gotten so tired of hearing "It's your own fault for staying…"
    Especially when coming from those also talking about unconditional love.
    That hypocrisy in and of itself should be adequate to illustrate how much they don't really know about the things they are "practicing" !!!

    Thank you very much for this article. I spent ten years in the most abusive relationship with the most abusive WOMAN (yes, you read that correctly, WOMAN) I have ever had the displeasure of knowing, next to my own mother.

    I am so glad you wrote this article and beat me to it, because, the irony is, in THIS community, it will actually be read more if you wrote it. 😉

  4. Kali says:

    For a moment, I thought you were writing about me. From the age of 11, I was chased, cornered, and assaulted by various men in a series of bizarre incidents. Raped in college by a stalker. Escaped a gang rape. Went to a therapist to see what I was doing to attract these types of situations. She, of course, told me it wasn't my fault, and, theoretically, I believed her. I knew the victim is never at fault, but I also knew I was wounded and vulnerable and this was the energy I was projecting. Predators can sense it. Kind of like the way a pack of dogs happily playing in the dog park will suddenly attack a weak or hurt animal.

    I ended up in an abusive relationship with a con man, who lied, cheated, made me crazy, and caused me to go bankrupt. It wasn't until I found the courage to walk away from him that I began to take myself seriously and to embrace my own life. I've never blamed myself for the things that happened to me, but I'm also aware that the energy I project to the world today is very different than before.

  5. Aella says:

    🙂 I hope you have better luck now. I commend you on your bravery to leave your home when you have the luck you have, you can't not leave your house/apartment/whatever you live in. I don't always. I haven't had as bad of luck, but have been chased twice and escaped, only to not leave the house alone for months.

  6. Drupadi says:

    Your strength and courage is extraordinary. To be able to get through such horrendous events and still can be positive is beyond amazing. I totally agree with you that you shouldn't find excuses and blame yourself for these awful things that have happened. And I totally agree that it's not your fault for staying in an abusive relationship, because you were hopeful. And there's nothing wrong in being hopeful. What's important that you managed to get out of it in the end.
    Thanks for sharing this. You are such a brave person.

  7. Harleigh Quinn says:

    The bigger slap in the face is when people manipulatively use the "victim" complex as a way to get sympathy.
    I was victim to that as well.
    She would abuse me and use the fact she was a woman to reverse the tables and say SHE was the victim.
    That is the MOST disabling.
    Knowing that the social norms have been set up so that I, the male that is actually being abused, can now look as though I am the aggressor because she manipulated everyone into believing she was the victim.
    Especially her close minded yoga clique.
    (example: being head butted in the mouth, unprovoked, by her, knocking out my front teeth while she sits back and smiles, then she plays demure and suddenly I am a monster and she is a victim…..)

    I think that should be your next article: the manipulative use of "victim" for gain, and how it is an affront to those of us whom are and do not where it on our sleeves.

  8. […] Are we, as a culture, so obsessed with celebrity, that we are blind to what real love actually looks like? When I read these stories, my heart breaks because while I know how a young woman might find herself in a situation like that in the first place, I can’t understand why she ever would go back. […]

  9. […] have found my voice. I know what I want and more importantly what I don’t. I feel like I have value now, self-worth. No longer will I stand by idly and be treated in ways […]

  10. catnipkiss says:

    There are all kinds of abuse: physical is only the most obvious. i was married to a psychologically abusive man, and he also was manipulative, sneaky, and verbally abused our youngest daughter.Fifteen years I stayed. Even though i didn't love him for many of those years, I stayed because he was the father of my children. Crazy? Stupid? who knows. Eight years later, I still sometimes dream of his sardonic disapproving smirk. Yuck. As for your bad luck, of course it's not you to blame. But even as I read the article I wanted to get to the bottom and see your picture : "who IS this chick who is followed, manhandled, etc.? Does she have some kind of aura?" Even as a sympathizer of your plight, I still had the knee jerk reaction to analyze WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOU? Just like you wanted to ask yourself. Boy, are we conditioned! (and, sorry, by the way!)