I have been reading my friend Katie’s blog every day this month as she recounts the ways that intimate violence has shaped her life and her family. Her posts are poignant and (as always) beautifully written. They leave me wondering who else in my life carries those wounds silently into their present and future. I know that I don’t have much by way of readership or influence in the online world, but I do want to help get the word out. Especially in light of the rise in domestic violence calls at a time when both sides of the “law and order” budget are being cut. Really – go read, comment and spread the word.
I am so thankful that my own husband – even with his temper – doesn’t get physical. I’ve seen him hit a table or desk in frustration. And sometimes his passion and salty language come out of no where and startles me. But I’ve never feared for my safety, nor my child’s. Back in the day, my own parents were certainly not afraid of arguing. Nor of the paddle as a method of behavior correction. But they never raised a hand to one another or against us kids in anger. It was not until I was in my 20s that I found out why.
Both of them had been married before they met one another. My mom’s first marriage ended the day after her first husband hit her. My dad stuck in his first marriage longer, but his abusive first wife did some real damage to his psyche. It explained a lot, really, like the way that he would withdraw and yell rather than confront. It probably was also part of the depression and low self-esteem that dogged him in his later years.
I was shocked when my dad revealed these stories to me. Not just that either of them had been married to someone besides the other… I was amazed that either of these strong, smart people had ever been duped into a position that led to their abuse. How could that have been?? And yet, that’s where we miss the point when thinking about violence like this. It’s not about how confident or strong you are. Gender doesn’t matter. Education doesn’t matter. Someone you know and love can shift the balance of power (swiftly or subtly) in ways you don’t see until it is too late.
I wonder, if I had known about my mom’s first marriage I might have been able to tell her about the time I was almost date-raped in high school. As it was, I was ashamed to tell her – or anyone else – because smart girls ought to know how to avoid those problems. I wonder how many other girls he went on to intimidate because I was silent.
Katie’s goal in telling her stories is not to shock or embarrass anyone. Her goal is to tell stories that are too often left untold. To shine light into the darkness and maybe give others the confidence they need to break the silence.
If you are interested in resources, a good place to start is the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.