So, yesterday, we talked a little bit about why women stay and the reason that they give over and over is fear – fear of being alone, fear that their abuser is right and that they are worthless, fear of not being able to make it financially and, of course, fear of violence. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have experienced some sort of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. One in five women and one in seven men have experienced some severe physical violence at the hands that intimate partner. Think of all the people you know, then plug those formulae in. Kind of shocking when you think of it that way, huh? You probably don’t know just one person who has been the object of violence, you probably know several. But, regular reader, even if you really don’t think you know anyone, you know me; so, yes, you do know one.
The Goddess is One
Several years ago, I dated a man (we’ll call him Michael on account of that was his name) for just a few months. The relationship wasn’t really serious; but, it was fun. Although he was a burly guy, he had never hurt me or been aggressive in any way; he was just a guy. One evening we had plans to get together and cook dinner at his place. He had been out playing golf all afternoon and drinking beer; but, I thought nothing of that since I’ve spent lots of time with people who both golf and drink beer and have never had a problem. When I got there, I noticed that his behavior was a little more aggressive than usual; but, I didn’t think a whole lot about it. After dinner, though, things got a little weird and, eventually, very bad. I won’t go into the details because you don’t need to know them all and, frankly, I don’t want to relive them all. Suffice it to say that he assaulted me.
Now, MANY years ago, I took a women’s self-defense class that I called my Wednesday night kick and scream. It was fantastic and was very instrumental in getting me through this episode. After the initial shock, I was able to return to a relatively calm mental state and assess the situation. Could I defend myself? What would happen if I tried? I determined that I would be unable to incapacitate him and would likely only enrage him with my efforts; so, I switched gears. You see, I knew that there was a loaded handgun in a drawer that was very near to him, but too far away from me. I didn’t want to give him a reason to reach for it; so, I watched my own behavior to see what I did that made him worse and I stopped doing those things. I told myself over and over that all I had to do was to get home. And, get home, I did.
And I did not file a police report.
Before you get all indignant, you need to know that he left no visible marks on me that could not be explained. In the end, it would have been his word against mine, and although I’m sure I could have made him leave marks that would have bolstered my story, I was afraid to. So, I just left and told him the next day (from a safe distance) that he was never to contact me again in any way. He knew where I lived and, for months, I was terrified that he would be waiting for me when I got home from work after dark. In fact, I often ran from my car to the front door. However, I was one of the lucky ones, he never came after me.
For far too many women (and men) this is not the case – their abuser stalks them. In the case of one woman I know, her abuser stalked her for years! He terrorized her on the subway, walking down the sidewalk, around her work and her home. He never let her forget that he was there. One in seven women and one in thirteen men have been stalked by a former intimate partner in such a way that they feared for their own safety or for the safety of those they loved.
So, think again of all the people that you know. Many of them have lived this nightmare; but, no one around them has any idea. We don’t talk about it and because we don’t talk about it, the abusers live freely in the silence.