Saturday, September 13, 2014

Domestic Abuse: The Sick but Secure Cycle

I don't watch the news every day. Sometimes, events have to be in the news for a few days before I take notice. For example, ISIS --  at first I thought it was something to do with the Egyptian goddess. 

One event that has been in the news for a couple of months is the NFL and Ray Rice’s domestic abuse case. I watched the first video of Rice dragging his unconscious now-wife out of the elevator which made me sick. This week, I watched the newest video of the event that occurred inside the elevator which made me even sicker. If you didn't see the newest clip, here's a link:  Ray Rice Beating His Wife Video

I don't know of any man or woman, no matter the race or nationality, who can say that it's ok for Rice to treat any other human being this way. He's just a jerk and now, an unemployed jerk.

Yesterday, I saw his wife's response to these recent events on Instagram.

She, like most women in an abusive relationship, defends him and their marriage. She, like most women in an abusive relationship, thinks she loves this man. She, like most women in an abusive relationship, thinks she has to stay in this relationship because of the child and to save the marriage.

I'd like to say that she’s wrong and foolish and that I'd never be in a relationship like that, but I can't. I was in one of them for a long, long time. My abuser destroyed many of my personal possessions during his drunken fits, tormented me in front of my children, caused me to flee my house in the middle of the night, and generally made all of us walk on those proverbial eggshells. And I did just what Janay Rice is doing  -- forgive and forget, turn the other cheek (literally for Janay), say how wonderful your abuser is, etc. 

How do we women get in situations like this? Now that I'm away from it, I can see my mistakes, but I had to get the "stinkin' thinkin'" (AA term) out of my head. I had to let go of the idea that he or the situation would change and that I had any control of anything. I had to let go of that good Christian's belief of forgiving not seven times, but up to seventy times seven, as Jesus said. Mostly, though, I had to find MY voice, not HIS voice that kept going through my head. I had to figure out for myself that I was the only one I could control. I had to realize that I didn't have to be alone because I had tons of friends who would help and support me.   

Was I scared of breaking away? Sure. I was comfortable in the routine of abuse/make up. I knew what to expect, so I was secure. When I left, I didn't know what I wanted in life or in a relationship, but I sure as hell knew what I didn't want. I was done with being told I was wrong, that I was not a good person, that I was fat and ugly, that I was a terrible mom, and on and on. 

Since then, I use every opportunity I can to show my daughter and granddaughter, as well as all of my female students, examples of a good relationship. I teach books about abusive relationships and have very frank and open discussions in class. In essence, I preach about finding your voice and using it for your safety, your future, your life.

As terrible as this Rice event is, good has resulted. Many women have come forward about the abuse they experienced. They are sharing their stories, especially via social media, to help other women gather strength and leave their abuser. Tweets at  #WhyIStayed allowed women to explain their reasons for staying in the trap of abuse and to encourage others to get out. Many more women are reporting domestic abuse to authorities since seeing the Rice video. 

Tonight, I had to watch the beginning of the Baltimore Ravens football game because it interrupted Jeopardy -- one more reason not to like football. I should have been shocked by the women wearing Ray Rice's #27 jerseys. How can women support this man who beat his daughter’s mother and then dragged her unconscious body out of an elevator and into a hallway? It’s because they have no idea how it feels to be abused. On the other hand, it’s because they are just mindless and misinformed. (Note: My husband said I shouldn't use the words stupid and ignorant to describe them, so I "niced the words up" with euphemisms.)

I sound like an angry woman, and I am. I'm angry that men who claim to love these women treat them that way and that women allow themselves to be treated this way. I'm angry at myself for staying in it so long and exposing my children to it; however, I and my children are also extremely lucky. We are out of that sick but secure cycle of abuse.