I’ve been debating writing this post since the Ray Rice scandal (quite literally) exploded on the front pages of every social media page and news source in the US.
I’ve seen the memes. I’ve seen the video. I’ve seen the apology videos (both of them, a term I use loosely). I’ve seen the “jokes” about taking the stairs instead of elevators and others that are equally asinine. Don’t get me wrong, I have to use humor at work so I don’t lose my goddamn mind or get burnt out by the time I’m 30 years old.
However, as someone who has gone through domestic violence and come out on the other side, there is nothing even remotely funny about victims and their stories of survival.
There is nothing funny about the fact that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. It’s 2014. Why do we still need to discuss this? Why does the term “domestic violence” even exist? Domestic violence isn’t always physical. It is verbal. It’s control. It’s calling someone a slut, ugly, fat, worthless, and instilling in their mind that NO ONE will ever love them the way their abuser does. What the victim doesn’t realize at the time, however, is that no one will ever love them like that, and that’s a damn good thing.
There is nothing funny about the fact that 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men are stalked in their lifetime. Remember when you wanted your parents to get off your back? Imagine your exboyfriend calling and texting you so much that you have to turn your phone off, since it’s useless to try to contact anyone else. You can’t get through. Imagine your exboyfriend just appearing at the restaurant you’re at. My ex showed up at a dinner after 12 hours of drinking and chased me around town in his BMW. He also once showed up at a party I was at and locked me in a bedroom when I wouldn’t talk to him. He held me down until I fought back enough to get away from him. It was terrifying.
There is nothing funny about the fact that 1/3 of female homicides (femicide) are killed by an intimate partner. Personally, I am positive that my ex would have killed me if I would’ve “stuck it out.” I stuck with him for 3 hellish years, something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
It breaks my heart to watch that Ray Rice video and to watch the “apology” videos that have come in the aftermath. Rice’s now wife has been with him since they were teens; do you think that’s the first time he’s laid hands on her? The violence always escalates. Always. And the “honeymoon” phase gets shorter every time. I have been her. You are convinced it’s as good as it gets; that you deserve to be treated that way. When you love someone for that long, you forget how to have a normal, loving, healthy, AMAZING relationship. This is your new “normal.”
If you watch the apology videos, not once does Rice apologize to his wife, but she certainly apologizes enough to him. And let me tell you from experience, reporting domestic violence against a man who has prestige in the community is so difficult. My ex was a cop. I didn’t report the stalking, abusive behavior because I knew he’d lose his job, and nothing would be holding him back from making my life a complete, living, hell. It was easier to take it, to be unable to move on with someone else, to sneak around and meet him because I thought it wouldn’t get worse.
What got me out? My ex cheated on me and got someone else pregnant. I thank God for that woman every day, because without her, I don’t know what my breaking point would’ve been. For someone you know (or yourself) that is experiencing domestic violence, I don’t know what his or her breaking point is either. I do know that the worst thing you can do is turn away. If one of my friends would have sat me down and explained that they were concerned, that this isn’t right, I’m not sure if it would’ve changed things. I do know it would have helped me somewhat. Abusers make their victims feel alone, isolated; like they have no one to help them. Do not inadvertently help the abuser isolate the victim.
And if you are reading this and are being subjected to domestic violence, here this; I love you. We are forever tied. You are beautiful, smart, funny, charismatic, and worthy of safe love. Love that you don’t have to fear. Love that you know won’t break into your home and terrify you. There is help.
And please, I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me. I am thankful for this experience so that I may help others in this process. I just want the world to know that domestic violence has a face, and one of them is mine.