“More than one in three women and more than one in four men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime” (American Psychological Association).
For a large part of my life I never considered myself a writer and I still remember my stinging cuticles (because I bite them when I am nervous) as I walked into one of my first university courses called “The Writing Process”. What could have easily been a traumatic experience turned into an incredibly positive experience; with the help of a wonderful and supportive professor, I learned the importance of “voice” and the impact it could have on a reader.
The more I wrote, the more I could feel these ideas in my head, forming words, sentences, and paragraphs.
And as much as I enjoy my feeble attempts at writing humor, I also feel compelled to write about domestic violence. I realize it is not a subject that people look forward to reading about and even though I am well aware of the statistics, I never can get over the initial shock when I hear tell of another woman (particularly a woman that I have known for sometime) escaping her abuser. I freeze up and at first, I am not able to process her story as I remain on the “cause/effect”: he abused her and she left.
He abused her, she was abused by him, he was her abuser; she escaped.
In many situations I find myself comforted to know I am not the only one: I’m not the only mother who has almost baked her cell phone, I am not the last parent in the car pool line because the baby decided to have a diaper blowout on the way out the door, or I am not the only person sitting in rush hour traffic on 95 south from D.C. at 3:00 P.M. on a Friday afternoon. But, I would be more than happy to be the only person who ever had to experience the during and after effects of domestic violence.
As if experiencing domestic violence wasn’t enough, survival after escaping is even more difficult; but this can be overcome.
When I escaped I faced homelessness and I won. Even though the protection order gave me possession of the house, I was weary of living in an environment where he was familiar with every nuance. Likewise, many well-meaning friends offered to allow us to stay at their houses and I declined out of concern for their safety. My children and I lived in a domestic violence shelter for nearly a year.
I overcame poverty. He controlled the finances. My paychecks went into his account and I never had access to the money. He decided if and when the bills were paid. One morning, I was getting the children ready for school and as I turned the faucet to brush my son’s teeth, water did not come out. I found out later that he simply didn’t bother to pay the water bill and he also saw no need to inform me of this; he bought a gun instead. Needless to say, when I escaped, he drained the bank accounts. I had about $20. Despite this, I applied for any aid that I could receive for my children and myself, as we escaped with next to nothing. After sometime, I was able to continue working full-time and continue taking college courses.
I overcame adversity. This might be difficult to believe, but some people treated my children and I as though we had survived the plague. When I told a person, in confidence, that we were living in a shelter, they asked if we had been exposed to TB. I was also scorned for using food stamps and welfare money (even though I have been a working taxpayer since I was 15 years old.) The thing that hurt the most was when I was told that the abuse that my children and I suffered was “a direct result of my life choices.” Those words not only angered me, they ripped me apart and I can’t say that I was told them, that person actually yelled them at me.
I want the reader to realize that I never chose to be abused, when I married my husband I married a Christian, police officer who seemed, by all outward appearances, to be supportive, loving, and stable. He had a great sense of humor and was supportive of my goals. There were no warning signs until about a year into our marriage. Suffice it to say that it wouldn’t have mattered if I would have married the neighborhood drug cartel; NOBODY DESERVES TO BE ABUSED; NOBODY.
How incredulous to believe that somebody, more specifically myself, woke up one day and said, “you know, I think that I am going to go find a dickhead that is going to push me down a few times, call me a bitch, keep me constantly pregnant, and then use our precious babies against me as though they weren’t even people, simply weapons that would ensure that I behave myself.” Sounds like good times right?
Even though I lost a lot, I would never take back my decision to escape. When I say I lost a lot, I mean stuff. I lost a lot of stuff: A LOT! But I gained so much more: the most important being my children, they are happy and confident; free to be children and we are embracing every precious drop of this! They are strong, survivors in and of themselves and throughout this they have exhibited a courage beyond their years. I gained independence, slowly but surely I have learned who I am and I have regained a sense of self: my voice, my passion for writing, and self-respect.
I once confided to someone that if I ever did get out, I wanted to someday share my story with others. To let them know that they are not alone. That person condescendingly told me, “Sure, if you really want to put your life out under the public microscope.” It’s not that I want to, it’s that I need to. These stories need to be heard, domestic violence survivors need a voice: they need many voices! I think I have about thirty people who see the articles that I post, and even if only five read this then that is five people that have heard my voice and even if zero read this then at least I have had a chance, for my own healing, to process this trauma through the art of writing.
My poetry professor told us the other day that when people write comments and blogs, then they should leave a name and take ownership and I am not afraid to put a name and face with what I write. I will spend the rest of my life, whether it be a year or many, many years writing and speaking out against domestic violence.
I DO NOT LIVE IN FEAR; I LIVE.
I am going to try to attach a video, I am not technology savvy so I hope it works. This is a good friend of mine whose mother I knew growing up. Even though I spent many a night over at her house, I never realized that abuse was occurring in the home. This was one of those jaw-dropping, heart breaking moments for me and I hope, if I can get the link to work, that you all take six minutes and listen to my friend’s story.
Surviving Domestic Violence