50 Shades of Grey: I was Ana
50 Shades of Grey: I was Ana
About two years ago I started hearing about the perfect man. His name was Christian Grey, and every woman I talked to said how wonderful he was. These women were talking about him like he was a real dude, so I kept asking my stay-at-home-mom self, “Who the hell is Christian Grey? Is he some new actor?”
So, I did what anyone would do – during naptime I googled this man women were treating like he was God’s gift to humanity. I was expecting a combination of my husband, Clay Matthews, JJ Watt, and Chris Hemsworth to pop up on my screen. That didn’t happen, and I was even more baffled why women were so hot for this guy from a book. I started to read the synopsis of this thing, and I was unimpressed and worried that the women of America would think that this monster was sexy – the perfect man they were calling him.
As I read more and more about him and the book, I started to see that what I was reading wasn’t romance. It was domestic violence. Until recently, I had been very quiet about my own experiences with intimate partner abuse. Truly, I had really only spoken about it with friends and family. I don’t like people to see me as a victim. I’m a survivor. I’m strong, and I really, really detest weakness in myself.
As I read I began to realize that the romanticizing of these books was becoming more and more prevalent in society around me, so I started to tell people – women – that Christian Grey was a textbook abuser. That was not received with grace from most of the fan base.
In fact, when I compared my own abusive relationship with the one between Christian Grey and Ana, people were angry with me. They called me a prude, and they said they understood why my first husband would cheat on me – I probably only like to do “it” missionary style. I even had so many go so far as to tell me that if I stayed longer, I might have changed him “with my love like Ana did to Christian”. Yeah, sure. That’s why our domestic violence safe houses and shelters are so full. It is because those of us who leave just aren’t tough enough to stick it out and suffer through the abuse until one day our partners are “changed by our love”.
I met my first husband when I was 16. By the time I was 20, I had given up my massive scholarship based on my own scholastic merit to marry him. He was a year older than me, and he was in the Marine Corps. The emotional abuse started before we were married, but the physical began after I got pregnant. He beat me up and in the process caused a miscarriage, murdering our first child. The second time I got pregnant was no different. He beat me profusely many, many times, and after almost losing my son, I decided to try to save enough money to escape.
On April 24, 2007, my ex-husband came home from work angry (as usual), and he started screaming at me that he was going to kill me. He started hitting me. Then, he threw me on the floor, slammed his body on top of mine, and began to choke me while still telling me he was going to kill me. As I was beginning to black out, I saw my Rottweiler, Diesel, come into the room. He started growling and barking at M, and then he attacked him. He saved my life. He took an immense beating for me, and when I came home hours later, I was amazed to find him alive. In that moment I knew it was time to leave – with or without money.
I sat down at my computer and logged onto a Marine wife internet forum where I posted my story. The women, my friends, contacted my family, and M’s command. When his SgtMaj got wind of the abuse, she immediately had him removed from our home, and NCIS started an investigation. He was court martialed and sentenced to years in the Camp Lejeune brig. I was finally safe.
I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in August of 2007, and in July of 2008 I met my husband, Josh. He was a Marine, and a friend of one of the women who helped save my life. We now have three kids including Keegan – who he adopted.
This is my story of domestic violence and it didn’t start so differently than the one in 50 Shades of Grey. I met a handsome man who was possessive, manipulative, and jealous. However, those behaviors were only acceptable coming from him – just like Christian Grey and his contract. M cut me off from my friends, always wanted to know where I was or what I was doing, was emotionally and physically abusive, and never asked me for consent on anything. He was just like Christian Grey, and he was a nightmare.
Repeatedly Christian stalks, manipulates, and abuses Ana. She begs him to stop, but he continues. Over and over again, Christian Grey takes advantage of Ana. He doesn’t want her spending time with other people, and he beats her and rapes her. She asks him to stop, but he doesn’t. He keeps her drunk. Ana’s life sounds very similar to my own story, doesn’t it?
This lie that 50 Shades of Grey perpetuates – that love will change an abusive relationship – is dangerous. The book tells women that Ana’s love is what changed Christian, and they lived happily ever after. Women are eating it up, and believing it. That’s unrealistic, and it sets women up to stay in dangerous situations. And, what if the woman can’t change the man? Does that mean she is a failure? Is it her fault that he abuses her? Does that add more guilt to the already ashamed victim?
So many women I have encountered that are fans of 50 Shades of Grey, get angry with me when I use my story. The “you never know – you could have changed him,” logic is unfathomably stupid and insulting. What it says to me is that “love” was more important that my life or even the life of my son. No man is worth losing my life over.
Women defend the abuse in these stories because I don’t think people in the United States are informed and educated about what domestic violence truly looks like. It isn’t just the man or woman who physically abuses their partner. It is the individual who intentionally uses any means necessary to gain power and control over their partner or spouse. It never starts out with the beatings. The emotional abuse always starts first.
According to Safe Horizon, the leading victims’ services agency in New York City, Domestic Violence is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence.
Does Christian Grey fit that description? Yes, he stalked Ana, manipulated her, threatened her, used physical violence against her, raped her, and used fear as a tactic to gain power. Christian Grey is not the ideal man. Ana would never live happily ever after with him in reality. Her story would have ended with her escaping with her children to either family or a shelter somewhere. Or, Christian Grey would have murdered her. That is how domestic abuse and intimate partner violence normally ends.
Don’t believe me? Here are some DV and IPV statistics from the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.
Nearly 3 in 10 women (29%) and 1 in 10 men (10%) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by a partner and report a related impact on their functioning.
Females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence.
Most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender, including 77% of females ages 18 to 24, 76% of females ages 25 to 34, and 81% of females ages 35 to 49.
One in three females homicide victims are murdered by their current or former partner ever year.
Domestic violence costs more than $37 billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical and mental health treatment, and lost productivity at companies.
Those are just some of the bone-chilling statistics surrounding domestic violence in the United States. When I look at them, and when I think of my own story set with the story from 50 Shades of Grey, I can’t help but call it what it is: domestic violence and intimate partner abuse.
The wounds of domestic violence never heal. I haven’t been assaulted in almost 8 years, but I still carry the scars of the horrific abuse I suffered. I have panic attacks, nightmares, and sometimes just looking at my son makes me cry. The first argument my husband, Josh, and I had left me sobbing and shaking because I was terrified he would hit me. He had never really understood the toll the actions of one man had had on me until that moment.
This last set of statistics left me sobbing in my bedroom when I read them. I was so incredibly thankful for my escape. My son doesn’t have to see the abuse or suffer it himself, but what about the children who do?
A child witnessed violence in 22% (nearly 1 in 4) of intimate partner violence cases filed in state courts.
30 to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household.
I encourage you to reject the “romance” in 50 Shades of Grey. Women of America, you deserve so much better than the abusive, manipulative, stalkers. You deserve love and respect. You deserve real romance, not this cheap, abusive crap being peddled by Hollywood and EL James.
Christian Grey is not the perfect man. He’s a monster wrapped in a pretty package.
I was Anastacia Steele, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.