In the beginning.
Sassy. Firecracker. Funny. Engaging. Free Spirit. Smart.
Pick me up place me on his lap, hold my hand and guide me in his direction,
order for me at restaurants, remind me to take my coat," it's cold outside, do
you have a coat?" compliment my outfit "I love that dress on you."
And slowly but surely.
Bitch. Loudmouth. Nasty. Slut. Crazy Whore. Stupid.
Pick me up and throw me through a window, out the front door, across the room,
throw drinks at me, hold my throat in his hand and choke me over the counter, up
on the wall, in the car against the passenger side window, TELL me what to wear
"you NEED to put a coat on, and button up, "you look like a slut in that dress,
who are you trying to impress?"
I wanted to protect my mom. My family. My husband. My boyfriend.
Yesterday's video of a woman being knocked out cold by her fiancé did not
surprise me. My parents modeled that kind of behavior for me as a child.
Constantly. It did surprise me that she didn't suffer major brain damage or die.
After all, when I was 18 years old and looking forward to graduating and moving
on with my adult life, my brother was killed by a blow to the head similar to
the one Ms. Rice sustained. Except instead of it coming from an NFL running
back, it came at the hands of a townie at a bar in Corvalis Oregon. Ms Rice is
lucky to be alive. For now.
The swift and often repeated refrain from the pundits, armchair and
professional, after such an incident is exposed is ALWAYS the same. Why does she
stay???? I'm always baffled by this question. It makes me sad that people are so
naive with regard to complicated human relationships, and are so desperate not
to see themselves or their loved ones in such dangerous, sad, belittling, and
degrading situations. Of course there's always the requisite victim blaming, but
I digress. I can speak to my own pathology insofar as I even understand it.
It's actually pretty simple. I learned it. From my parents. Where exactly do we
learn how to be married, or have an intimate relationship? I learned from my mom
and dad. My dad was a military officer. He is a retired Colonel. He also coached
college basketball for a small college in my home town. My dad graduated from
University of Virginia. My mom was a teacher. She graduated from James Madison
University, and has no fewer that 5 masters. Music, English, philosophy,
history, administration,and has done most of her work to gain a phd. I point
this out because there is such a stigma attached to the "type" of person who
abuses and the type of person who is abused. I think the image that most people
have is oh, let's see, maybe poor, uneducated, maybe you know, not
white......maybe if they are white they're like not white like you know like
nice middle class white. Maybe they live in a run down house or, gasp! A trailer
park! Well news flash, none of those things applied to my parents, or me. But.
And this is a big but. It happens in all of those demographics too. It happens
everywhere where there is a unbalanced and unhealthy power dynamic.
I swore. Swore. That I would never let a man hit me, belittle me, shove me,
humiliate me, and degrade me. But I did. I simply just really didn't know any
other way to be. It felt normal. It felt like love. It felt.
Once that wheel starts turning and the plan is set in motion it's hard to
explain how difficult it is to leave. Once my self esteem was so damaged by
insults, broken ear drums, swollen arms, bruised neck, bruised back, and lies to
doctors and relatives, about how I got them, why I had to decline engagements at
the last minute, why I couldn't get back in my house to change a soaking wet
outfit, how the glass shower door got broken, and just too many whys, I didn't
see how I could exist without this person. When I did pick up the phone to call
911 it was met with tears and pleading, " I'll go to jail, I love you, I'm so
sorry, please don't send me to jail" when I left it was often met with threats "
I'll throw you in a river and they'll never fucking find you." And mind you, I
have no children. I wonder if I would still be there if I did.
When I was little my parents fought. Violently. A lot. Many nights I would jump
out of bed, in my night gown, run to the front door, throw on my dad's enormous
golf cleats and shuffle down to the neighbor(bless them) I would bang on their
door in the middle of the night and they would let me sleep on their couch. Can
you imagine? I still feel shameful and weak for doing that. Other times, my mom
would send someone to my grade school to pick me up and we would hide from my
dad at another teachers house or another friends. Then my dad would eventually
find us and we'd go back home. My mom wound up in the hospital a few times,
broken ear (she still has very limited hearing as do I from being smacked upside
the head) cracked ribs, fat lip. I remember a particularly dramatic evening when
my sister found her knocked out on my parents bedroom floor and my father
standing above her. Sound familiar? I always thought this was her story to tell.
But I realize, it's mine too.
My husband asked me yesterday, why Ms Rice stayed. I'm trying to piece it
together. This is part of my answer. But only part.