Gideon Wright – Part 1 of Image Interpretation Series

When I was researching verbal abuse again, trying to find something to prove to myself that silent treatments and guilt trips really *are* verbal abuse, I stumbled upon an article that used this image.  I was unable to download the image from that page, but found the credit for the image at the bottom of the article.  I downloaded the image from flickr.

Gideon Wright has captured so well what it felt like living with Bubba.  In fact, it is a bit difficult for me to look at this image for very long.  It may well take me all day to write this post, but I want to share what I see when I look at this.  This is my interpretation of this image.

The first thing I see is the man, towering over the woman – his victim.  He has positioned himself so that he can inflate himself; puffed up with power while diminishing her as much as possible.  His position alone conveys power and force and his utter control over her.

Next, I see the expression on his face.  He is beyond angry and he is reveling in it.  Under the terrorizing aspect of his facial expression I can see that he likes what he is doing because it helps alleviate all the ick swirling around in his own head.  It is a release for him.  He unleashes his inner anger on her; it is a relief for him to get it out, all the while blaming her.

I then moved on to noticing his body.  His body is contorted in such a way that I am reminded of a demon’s body.  There is an exaggerated hunch in his back; he is revealing himself for the monster he is.  His arms are irregularly shaped too.  They are not overly huge but the power in them is unmistakable.  Again, they remind me of demon arms, almost as if large dark wings will sprout and attach to them.  His hands are what scare me most.  Although they are not bunched into fists, they are curled, almost talon-like.  Talons tear and destroy flesh.  Even though he isn’t touching her, she knows that at any moment he can use those talons/hands to tear her apart.  He may never have touched her before, but this just might be that first time he does.  He postures himself to purposely convey that she needs to be afraid because he could very easily rend her limb from limb.

His lower body is disproportionate to the rest of him.  For me, I see this as very sinister.  I spent so many years being raped by Bubba that I see this man’s exaggerated lower body as the promise of the large amount of pain he can inflict with that part of his body.  The zipper is extremely long, hinting as to what it holds back and why it needs to be so long.  Yet another tool he employs to hurt her.

I think he is the first thing I see in this image because that is what we are supposed to see.  It is always about him.  It is always about the abuser.  It is his rage, his anger, his need for power and control that center in any abusive relationship.  She is minimized by him, for his benefit.  It is always all about the abuser.

My eye was then drawn to her.  She has assumed the “duck and cover” position.  Instinctively she covers her head to protect that most vulnerable spot.  She is terrified of the blows that she knows can happen at any moment and she is working hard to protect herself.  She has curled herself into a ball to make herself as small as possible.  “Maybe if he sees that I am scared and doing what he wants, he’ll stop.  It will be over sooner if I can just hide.”  She has no idea that it won’t be over until *he* decides it is over – that she has paid her price for whatever it was he’d decided she’d done wrong.

There is such abject sadness and despair conveyed from her posture.  She is helpless and defenseless and she knows it.

There are storm clouds all around.  They are in the middle of the storm of his rage.  If she looks up now, the storm raging is all she will see, yet….

Behind her, where she can’t see and probably isn’t ready to see yet, is a ray of sunshine – of hope.  There is light shining through the storm and it is the hope of freedom.  It is shining behind her and it is beckoning her.  His rage and anger and power cannot thrive in the light.  It is her salvation but only if she gets up and walks to it.  She is still too afraid to look up and look around her.  She is still too afraid to comprehend that this torture is not the only possibility in her life.

Hopefully, one day she will have enough of feeling like this and will stand up and catch a glimpse of the sun in the edges of her vision.  I remember when that happened for me, the night of The Incident.  Now it feels as if I stood up, turned around, and saw the sun streaming down and knew – finally knew and understood – that there was a different way.  Suddenly the fear of standing still and cowering again was so much more than the fear it took for me to take those steps toward standing in the sun.

It wasn’t until after I wrote all of the above that I found out the name of the image is “When The Sun Went Down.”  Yes, from the victim’s current point of view, this would be an accurate title.  From my point of view, the POV of a survivor, I would title it “Before the Sun Rises.”  “When The Sun Went Down” implies the beginning of the relationship; the beginning of the abuse dynamic where she is so definitively trapped.  “Before the Sun Rises” implies that soon, very soon, she is going to see that sun and she is going to find her freedom.

Although it was very hard to do this post, dissect this image, I’m glad I did.  I can see how far I’ve come in my healing.  I’m looking forward to continuing this series.


  1. Yep, pretty apt image. Mine would even like to slam his hand on the furniture or slap his fist in his hand. I’d never say anything until one day after the long separation, I finally got brave enough to tell him I did not like it and it made me afraid. He had slapped his hand real hard against the car’s dashboard. His only rational was he did it for emphasis. It didn’t stop, but I was glad I finally spoke up about it.

    • He did NOT do it for emphasis. He did it to threaten and intimidate you. The hidden message is that next time it could be YOU he hit. That is the danger of phychological abuse that most people (including my FOO) do not understand. They see it as him being emphatic about something. We, however, understand the real threat.

      If you are still in this situation, you are in danger. Who knows, he may never hit you, but he is slowly killing your soul.

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