We argued about the garlic
in the guacamole. He stormed outside. I stood at the bathroom mirror focusing
my shaking hand on my mascara when I heard the front door open and his
footsteps on the stairs. He opened the bathroom door, punched me in the stomach,
and calmly said, “Now you can tell your friends I’m abusive.”
I was young but I was strong,
confident, and independent. How was I reduced to justifying the purchase of a
two dollar tube of lipstick and defending why I wanted to see a movie with a
girlfriend? How did I stay with a man
who threw the bowl of my freshly made pasta against the kitchen wall as I set
the table, cracked the windshield with his bare fist as I drove, and smashed
the bouquet of flowers against the mantle as I wept?
Even though I knew that
domestic violence is the misuse of power and control, I couldn’t see it clearly
when I was in its midst. I compared myself to those I considered “real”
victims—the ones with blackened eyes and broken bones and battered
children—-as I denied my own reality.
October is Domestic Violence
Awareness Month. Despite decades of
public education and the fact that one of every four American women reports
being physically abused by a spouse or partner at some point, many people still
don’t understand domestic violence. Being a divorce attorney taught me that whether
you are a welder or an accountant, rich or poor, a Gen Xer or a boomer—you
are not immune to domestic violence.
How was I able to move on?
First I had to tell the truth to myself. What helped was others gently asking
about what I failed to see. “Is this the first time he hit you?” “Do you think
that’s normal?” The concerns of others—shared without judgment—helped me to
see the seriousness of my situation. “I just called to see if you were safe I’m
worried about you.”
I was lucky. I had enough
income, a number of options, and lots of support. The thousands of victims who
die each year from intimate partner abuse weren’t as lucky. If you or someone
you know is experiencing the warning signs of domestic abuse, let in support
now. Call the 24 hour domestic violence
hotline at (800)799-SAFE.(7233). Develop a safety plan. Call an attorney
knowledgeable about protection orders. Don’t wait.
Domestic Violence Awareness
Month is the time to be aware of the risks, your rights, and the next small
step forward for your family’s future. As
for me, the only regret I ever had about my first small steps was that I didn’t
make them sooner.