“He hit me and it felt like a kiss
He hit me and I knew he loved me
‘Cause if he didn’t care for me
I could have never made him mad”
~The Crystals, “He Hit Me (and it Felt like a Kiss)”
My main passion in terms of sexual violence is primarily sexual assault. Today I am going to talk about another form of violence, that all too often, coincides with sexual violence. I am speaking on the topic of domestic violence and choosing to compose this after a horrific domestic violence situation in my hometown community. This specific story involved an estranged married couple who made morning news involving a murder suicide within their home making the morning news on April, 19th, 2016. The most unsettling part, the murder victim, was a local journalist/broadcaster who told the morning news. The casualties were her life and three young children left orphaned.
Domestic violence is prevalent in our society and something no one wants to talk about. Sadly, its more common place than we think and is all too often not brought to proper attention until severe harm has been done. The recent revamp of the OJ Simpson case in the FX TV Series , “The People vs OJ Simpson” brought back one of the most famous celebrity domestic violence/murder cases of our time. The jury rendered their decision, I like many, have my own personal belief on how justice should have been served. This case brought to light years of domestic abuse shielded due to the male abuser having significant ties to the community, celebrity, fame, and an image that others refused to tarnish. The reality was threats of life, constant verbal abuse, 911 calls made out of fear by the deceased Nicole, and physical documentation of violent beatings leaving her bruised and battered. The reality was a domestic violence situation between and estranged couple that escalated to a tragic ending. Years later the very famous and late Phil Hartman suffered a domestic violence tragic ending. His wife took his life and then her own in a murder suicide. This left behind two children. Today’s events were of a public figure, in a warm community, a breast cancer survivor…that left three children without parents.
Just like sexual violence; domestic violence is often segmented against women as the abused or victims. I had my first brush with domestic violence in a personal matter at the young age of 24. I was dating a man who, to put it lightly, was “the devil in disguise.” He lied to me about every part of his life from the beginning. He fabricated his entire life, his age, his values, his intentions in the seriousness of our relationship and more. He truly was one of those people who become stories on Dateline NBC about living a double life. Part of his controlly mechanism ( I was too young to recognize at the time) was to emotional abuse me and manipulate me in every way possible. Once his reality started to come crashing down around him, the lying turned to threats and more. A long story short, I was terrified he was going to harm me. I couldn’t eat and lost an enormous amount of weight, I was working two jobs, barely sleeping, and in a constant state of “on alert.” What’s sad was everyone kept complimenting me on how “great I looked” losing all this weight! I look back into photos and stare into the eyes of the myself then and it breaks my heart. My self esteem was at all time low, I was beautiful. I was thin, constantly tan (spray tans from the 3 weddings I was in that summer), smiling, on the go, progressing professionally, in a large group of friends, and suffering on the inside. During one of the busiest times of my work time (change over of apartments in the property management company I worked for) the final straw of months of torture came to a jolting end. I had blocked his number and yet he phoned me and left over 10 minutes of haunting voicemails.
Long story short, I found myself in front of my (amazingly supportive) supervisor, with tears running down my face, explaining how bad it had gotten and why I needed to leave work. She looked me in the eye and said,” take care of YOU and please check in with me tonight.” The threats he had made against me were not something I took lightly. I was allowed to leave work during my busiest time, went down to the nearest courthouse and filed for a PPO (to start the process.) My very good friend who had met this man, stayed home, and was as stunned as I was, came to stay the night on my couch to help me feel safe. I will never forget her asking me when I opened the door, “Why are you dressed so nicely? You went down to court? You’re supposed to be a mess!” nacks, and comfort and recall replying, “I wanted to look like I was okay on the outside so I put on this dress and some make up.” Her eyes of sympathy bore into me. I couldn’t believe I had wound up in this place.
Looking back at this moment and reflecting upon today, I can understand so very much about domestic abusers and their victims. Its hard for me to think about, much less share with anyone. I wound up being legally protected from this man, and even offered support to the other female victim he was further hurting (told you he had a double life.) He eventually went to jail for stalking her some 6 months later. I supplied information to her lawyer to help. Stalking is a felony in the state of Michigan (thank God!) I finally slept the first night I knew he was in there. Finally felt peace. Finally felt the eyes of worry, concern, judgement and more go away. I am reflecting on this as I heal from my sexual assault six months ago, absorb the news of this beautiful female piller in the community, and think about how close to home domestic violence may be to all of us. It was for me, and I’ve always valued my strength and feminist independence.
(The picture below is of me the summer I went through the turmoil of everything in 2009 at the age of 24. Pictured in a wedding with two of my best friends. These photos are a reflection of external portrayed happiness and internal despair. A true oxy moron)
The bottom line is that as a culture we do not wish to intervene into the cues of perceived notions or clues of abuse. Often times the person who tries to help a victim out becomes the enemy or the threat of violence worsens. As a culture; we have not successfully closed the gaps of women being victims of abuse and violence. All of these encompassing emotional abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and sexual violence. We owe it to ourselves to do more.
The statistics are haunting and staggering.
Were you aware that every NINE seconds in the United States a woman is beaten or assaulted?
Did you know that domestic violence is the leading cause of inury to women? This is higher than car accidents, muggings, and yes even rapes combined.
For those of us with Human Resources, domestic violence victims have to call into work more often; enough to constitute nearly 8 million days of pair work annually. This is ust in the United States. (Look around your professional work space, take a deep breath and think about who amongst your professional peers may be in the category.)
A number as high as 92% of women surveyed wished for reduction of domestic violence and sexual assault as their TOP concern. Not equal pay, not maternity leave as paid family time, but violence of their own gender in this capacity.
When I worked in Residence Halls on a large college campus I observed an influx of what I perceived to be forms of domestic abuse at an alarming rate. I believe the new generation coming into the world and the exposure of social media opens them up to a new type of domestic violence and abuse. I would often hear students state, “he hacked into my Facebook again and threatened all my male friends to stop talking to me.” “He was able to see exactly where I was due to my instagram…that is how he found me there and dragged me out to talk to me.” “He couldn’t handle the rejection of us breaking up so he kept making up new screen names to harass me, call me names, and threaten me.” “I’m not allowed to have my own passwords apart from my partner, that would make him/her very angry.” This is all abuse in my opinion. Its a hidden form of abuse that is condoned as misuse of technology and another control tactic. Where does the line get drawn between healthy sharing and controlling another person?
This morning I awoke to an unsettling news story that opened with reports of a “murder suicide.” I instantly felt an icky feeling in my gut and thought how awful. The idea of things don’t happen like this in our small town crossed my mind. Then there was a face put with a name and a community in shock. I put out there some of my own brushes with domestic violence and have been very vocal about sexual violence that came into my world. I have grown a lot since I was 24. I now understand what are forms of emotional abuse and control are (and NO they are not love.) I also sadly still witness them in relationships around me and wish I could intervene.
The person that chose to inflict violence on me last October was a complete stranger. As difficult as it is to move past what happened; today I had a thought. How much harder would this be if the face of a stranger was replaced with a partner I loved? With a boyfriend? With a friend? With a husband. Sadly, many victims of severe domestic violence, sexual assault, and escalated domestic violence (usually resulting in death) are at the hands of a person that was once of love, affection, and comfort. How difficult is that thought to swallow?
I am thinking tonight about what happened and how as an individual, as a woman, as a community, as a MAJORITY we need to take a stand that the very behaviors that lead up to domestic violence will not be tolerated. I think far too often we see the aftermath, the guilt, the shock, the disbelief, and the photo of the smiling woman who no longer has a life with us. We see the person we used to make eye contact with at the grocery store and smile at. The woman who always volunteered at our children’s school and was so sweet to the children. We seem the high profile cases and faces of those like Nicole Brown Simpson. We think about how senseless this control game of violence was that escalated into taking their lives.
As I close this piece, (which I admit is a bit rambling for me) I have to thank a few people. These women stuck their neck out on the line for me and made themselves available. My supervisor in property management during my trying time who made it very clear to me, “she would support me in any way she could, that no job, busy time in housing was more important than my safety and well being. That she would be there for me day or night and could help find me a place to stay if I didn’t feel safe.” She was an amazing women and supervisor. She also could’ve dismissed my concern, put the tireless hours of work in housing first, and potentially even disciplined me for missed time in office.
To another friend, who worked with me at the same company in my first office location starting there. She was bold enough to pull me aside and say, ” I don’t care how busy/on the go you say you are and trying to be healthy. Something isn’t right with you and I suspect I know what is going on. I’m your friend and I’m worried about you. If you lose another pound I am going to sit down and hope you will really talk to me. This isn’t about work, its about YOU!” What a rare find and the first to not “celebrate” my shrinking appearance.
To my dear friend who stayed with me during this time and listened. She did not judge. She was just as alarmed as I was at how rapidly the situation escalated and how deceitful this person really was to me. She was reassuring with words like, “who cares what they think!” (when the mutual friends that introduced me and this man turned on me during this mess.) “Anyone can paint a pretty picture, you know the truth and are using the law as your tool for justice and safety. You are making sure this never happens to another person at his hands again. You’ll get through it.
Lastly, to the women who moved a community with her zest for life, drive to use her own experience with Breast Cancer as a foundation for philanthropy/awareness, a mother to three children, a daughter, a friend and more; you deserved move. You will be missed and I sincerely hope whatever kind of good can come from something like this prevails.
Resources because LOVE should never hurt:
And for Denise:
Statistics obtained from domesticviolencestatistics.org for proper credibility