The Unlikely Face of Domestic Violence, Mine5/04/2011
Yes, I know domestic violence. Sure, I’m not the type of woman you’d think would have been exposed...
Yes, I know domestic violence. Sure, I’m not the type of woman you’d think would have been exposed to domestic violence. But I have. More than once. I’m ashamed at how easily I became a statistic. I am one in four women that has experienced domestic violence. I blame it partially on the type of men I choose.
Absolute responsibility for your actions lies with you, the individual. So matter how slick my mouth is, no matter how much I seem to provoke him, no man has the right to put their hands on me. On you. Conversely, women don’t have the right to put their hands on men. We’re all adults. Let’s act as such. Some friends are shocked to learn that it has happened to me, but then again, it isn’t something that I broadcast.
Until now. I’ve let opportunities to talk about this subject go by, but no more.
A violent man will show himself. It came early in one relationship and late in another. But in neither instance did I have the strength to end it. My relationships ended because one of us left the area – not because I was courageous enough to stop the violence being committed against me.
Often these relationships start out so sweet. Will* was a great teddy bear, quiet, introspective, but he’d seen a lot in his life. He was the protector I sought at the time. I felt safe with him when we were out. He never had to flex his muscle with me or anyone else, it was apparent. They always say they don’t want to be violent. So they show it in other ways. Controlling behavior, jealousy outwardly expressed – “ strong-arming” you, derogatory speech. You start to wonder where your boo went.
I’m not making excuses for anyone, but I have a smart mouth and a sharp tongue. Often I forget that I’m talking to someone that I care about when I lash out. And one night in Will’s apartment, I did say something flippant. He crossed the living room floor faster than normal and pinned me to the wall, grabbing my neck, my head bouncing against the wall. It was a tense moment with few threatening words. He composed himself and pulled away. I, shocked, remained against the wall in fear and my own anger. To this day, I wonder why I didn’t run out of his apartment immediately.
Over time and with other experiences I began to understand how women would be drawn and even loyal to their abusers. Maybe it’s the nurturing spirit in women. Maybe it’s a hope that this will never happen again. But it does happen again. And “we” don’t leave. I remained in a relationship with Will for a few months before his luck ran out and he left the area.
I guess I considered that a minor offense. Our time came to an end, I didn’t experience any more violence with him. That would come later in another relationship. This violence came rather quickly from someone who demonstrated a serious temper. *Chico always said it was me who instigated it or pushed him to these violent outbursts. And he never thought he had done anything wrong. And he was convincing.
He was/is (I take it these aren’t traits you let go off quickly) possessive and fiercely violent. Arguments started in public places and violence came in the shadows of crowded streets, in his apartment, and in mine. Between these occurrences, I told myself that I would leave. But I couldn’t. I read somewhere that it takes up to 50 attempts to leave an abusive partner. I can believe it. But imagine the toll that it takes. I had convinced myself (with his help of course) that he loved me, and that it was sometimes my fault. And that I should hold my tongue and not be so slick with him to not provoke that behavior.
The last time it happened, I was bold enough to be physical back with him. I emerged unscathed, empowered in a bold frenzy. But I recognized how foolish I had been and how disrespectful and uncaring my “lover” was. This behavior could not continue. His. Nor mine. I had to start choosing something different. Someone different. At our last incident, Chico disappeared into the night and I changed my phone number when I moved. That didn’t stop him from contacting me via email. I had to filter his address to get some peace.
That’s my domestic violence story. A few instances, not the pattern that afflicts between 600,000 and 6 million women each year. No I didn’t report them to the police. It was my cross to bear. And from the day that Chico pinned me down in my apartment, choking me, and then flinging books across the room at me and through a window, I pledged to myself that I would never allow myself to be with someone who expressed themselves this way nor would I be physically violent with a mate. We should all learn to act from a place of love. And if you’re angry, leave. But the last thing you should do is put your hands on someone. That’s not love.
I guess the whole point of this piece was to show you that anybody could be facing domestic violence, because I know I never thought that it would happen to me, or that I would continue in relationships with men that had the potential to be abusive. I’m a lady, and I deserve to be treated as such. Any man that would put his hands on me doesn’t value me. I’ll be more discerning in my choices of mates going forward, looking for traits early on that forecast danger.
*Will is not actually “Will” and *Chico isn’t “Chico”, but names have been changed to protect privacy, mine.
Najeema Davis Washington is an entrepreneur, pop culture writer, public speaker and blogger at HeLLinAHandbag.me. She is a social media enthusiast and networking practitioner focused on making professional and social connections for urban professionals.