“Domestic violence is the wilful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behaviour as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.” (National Coalition against Domestic Violence, at www.ncadv.org)
This year will mark three decades since my last high school class reunion, and I recently ran into an old friend that I hadn’t seen since graduation. Having attended an all-girls catholic high school that transformed girls into women of faith and vision, we scattered into the world seeking to secure our own foundations.
The old friend and I took a brief nostalgic moment of remembering our high school days and then we spoke about life since graduation, then we made time to meet within the upcoming week to further chat at a curbside café.
The day arrived and her story both warmed and haunted me. She explained that her life purpose was not to meet a man right out of college and have him become her abuser. With college degree in hand, goals, and lots of potential, she was on her way until love happened.
Never aspiring to become a victim of domestic violence, she soon learned how to survive by living within herself. With a poker face to the world, she learned how to keep her cards to her chest and her true feelings concealed. While praying and cradling the pillow that held her tears each night, she found herself in a weakened state, and at one point she experienced the fear of being alone with her thoughts.
Her abuser came home to find her emerged in water with an empty pill bottle on the floor. He got enraged over her thoughtless act and soon after she was disciplined by him. The beating put her into a slight coma. No longer trapped within the silent coffin of her mind, she awoke to having already endured the aftermath of his yelling, his fists, broken items in the room, and her screams before she had blacked out.
Yes, another domestic incident at his hands had brought her closer to knowing why a caged bird sings in sorrow. No longer did she want to look into the mirror and see blood streaming from any part of her body, this image only devalued her self-esteem. No longer was the make-up going to hide her darkened marks that were left over from the usual beatings. And no longer were her fabricated lies to others going to hold her fragile secrets.
Every woman has a breaking point. She knew it was time to wipe away the tears and reclaim her strength. She had become a woman who had seen some things, been through some things, and didn’t want to go back. To break his chains of mental, emotional, and physical bondage she knew it was time to light her way through the darkness of his tunnel and reach the end by reclaiming herself. Her story gave me a moment to tap into her pain and struggle.
Once her story had ended, I noticed her body and face change position, as though to say, “That was then, and this is my now.” For years she had been missing pieces of herself from an abusive relationship, but now in front of me she sat “whole,” because she relearned how to write herself back into existence.
Ellis is a freelance writer that lives in Minneapolis.