I identified myself as being part of a broken cycle of domestic violence, yes. That was measurable. I was spanked too hard, not quite abusively but fearsomely, and on occasion things were destroyed and I was terrified lest I be hurt too. But I counted as one of the household's triumphs that it stopped, and that it's not continuing in this next generation. The Little Fayoumis might never know that in all three of his parental lines there was a pattern of domestic non-peace. He'll probably learn when he's older, because that's the sort of thing that you do eventually tell kids, so they'll know how to recognize it when they see it, but he won't ever know it firsthand.
I know I wasn't sexually abused, nor raped, nor subjected to enough domestic violence to do anything other than make me immensely determined to never subject a child to the raw end of my temper. So when I see things for "victims of abuse", I don't include myself in that. Victims are of murder, and I'm alive.
I know that when I was sixteen, I was aware that the situation I was in was red-flagged, and that if it were anyone else, I would be telling her that she should not be there. But it was me, not some other young woman, and I had to be there. I couldn't ignore him. I couldn't refuse him the help he needed. I could take it. I was strong enough to handle it. They couldn't rearrange themselves, and I could. It hurt, it hurt almost every minute, but I couldn't let go. I knew the warning signs for an emotionally abusive relationship. I probably had them memorized for Health class. And there I stayed, even so. I just didn't, couldn't, connect "this is my life" with "this is abuse".
Every time I connected it, I forgot it soon after. I couldn't imagine that I would endure abuse. Hardship, yes; abuse, never.
It doesn't come naturally to me to say, "Yes, after three years of very little contact, I'm back in cordial correspondence with my abuser again." Abuser sounds intimidating, terrifying. This person isn't that. He just had root access to my soul, and -- abused it.
Abuse makes it sound bigger than it was. I can't remember very much of 1997 or 1999, and 2000's kind of fuzzy too. I have to really squint to get 1998 in focus, though 1996 stands out with unnatural, painful clarity. That's all. I just had my head walled off so I could function and pretend to be normal. Everybody does that. I only cried myself to sleep regularly. Most teenagers do that. I only had to deal with his attempted suicide the once, and then his suicidal behavior for the following year without any backup, and the knowledge that if I tried to get backup, he would cut me out of his life. I could deal with that because I had to. I learned to live with his sudden manic interests in obscure things, and stopped reacting so badly when he tried to freak me out. Everyone goes numb after a while. And of course I forgave him, because if I didn't, he would sulk and pout and act ill-treated, though I harbored a grudge and let everyone know what a dick he was being.
I couldn't understand why my sister hated him. He was my best friend, wasn't he? Why should she hate my best friend? She had to be jealous that she wasn't my best friend anymore.
It makes it seem like a bigger thing when I say "Darkside and Ro found me broken from the three years of abuse (plus damage from my would-be husband on top of that) and walked me through the recovery process until I am now actually functional in the professional world" rather than "I've got really good friends who are there for me when I need them." I've finally gotten comfortable with the idea of Darkside being a good friend who's there when I need him, just as I'm trying to be there for him when he needs me (though he's far more shy of admitting he needs anyone). I'm a little intimidated by the idea that I have a friend who is demonstratedly capable of taking someone who was just barely on the edge of functional after being abused and coaxing and clobbering them back into some semblance of stability. People who are that good are supposed to be charging $50 an hour or more, not reading me D&D message boards over the phone for hours on end and making crude jokes about Smurfs...
Wrapping my head around the idea that the trials of 1996-1999 were in fact abuse, and since they happened to me, I was abused, is going to take some rearranging. This is a far more grave mental adjustment to make than the delightful realization that when Darkside said that he cared about me a lot, he meant it... but I think that coming to terms with this is going to help me, in the long run, and help me realize some of what is going on in my head. There are all sorts of things in psychology to help survivors of abuse. I just didn't realize that any of those tools applied to me...