I have never been punched by a partner. I have never been slapped, kicked, or beaten. But I have been abused.
My one and only longtime relationship was with a guy who told me that if I didn't have sex with him every day, for as long as he wanted, it meant I was cold and a prude and didn't love him. It meant that there was something wrong with me as a woman because it was my job to make him want to feel good. Eventually, this progressed to if I didn't have anal sex with him every day, not only did all these things apply, but it meant I was trying to get pregnant to trap him because he didn't trust me to take my pill. He, of course, did not like wearing condoms and didn't think he should have to.
Also sadly of note, my abusive ex was quite well endowed, and though he "tried to go slow" so he didn't hurt me, when I cried from pain he told me to stop because I made him feel like a rapist. I cried into the pillow instead.
To him, my orgasms weren't about me. They were a sign of his prowess in bed and how remarkable his own abilities were. It did not matter that it would eventually become painful to me, or I'd ask him to stop, or I'd tell him it didn't feel good anymore. He wanted to see how many times he could make it happen for his own ego.
All the while, he made me feel like I was not worth anything. I paid for everything for him, I cooked for him, I cleaned for him, he refused to introduce me to his friends, and refused to let me go out with mine. I went to class and the gym, and then came straight home, because he got angry if I did anything that didn't involve him. I didn't go out on my 21st birthday because he was two months younger, and couldn't get into bars.
We got into an argument on the T once, and I didn't want to have it in public and said it could wait until the car. He grabbed my hair and pulled me off the train. He shoved and held me against walls when I said we were both too angry to discuss something.
Eventually, I flat out told him he was abusive. Apparently, this had never occurred to him, because he grew up in a culture of abuse and could not fathom that he was the one who was an aggressor. This is and was a miracle. First that I found the strength to identify what was happening, and second that he accepted it. This is rare. This is the unicorn of abusive relationships. After trying to work through our problems and realizing I have lasting psychological scars that I will forever associate with him, I left him. And still not easily. We tried to be friends. He would find my phone and search my texts, and if any were from a man (never mind that I'm bisexual and he knows this, he was only ever threatened by men), he would act sullen and then lash out. He'd act like I cheated on him, despite having no commitments to him. He managed to turn an abusive relationship into an abusive friendship, until I finally moved away (with someone who later turned out to be my rapist).
Two years later, when I finally was able to talk about what happened to me, no one understood. No one got why I stayed, no one got why me, a girl/woman who was raised by loving parents and had had plenty of support and some of the most advanced sex ed in the country (yay Eastern Massachusetts), had chosen to stay with someone who made me feel so awful. Who scarred me about sex for years, and caused damaged I'm still not over. How could I, who learned the word "feminist" before I learned that there had been no female presidents, allow myself to be subjected to this?
And there's the rub. How could I let this happen to me?
When we see a video of a woman being cold cocked by her future husband and we still have people saying "she went at him first" (not true, but still not relevant), when we have people asking if a woman provoked a man, when we have people who think that all sex without a woman fighting back is consensual, how could I possibly see myself as abused? I didn't try to break up with him. I believed every horrible thing he told me about myself. I "allowed" him to exploit my low self esteem.
If we don't believe a woman who we have just watched being knocked unconscious is actually abused and not just "asking for it," why should women who are victims of psychological abuse expect any better?