Recovery from abuse requires one to overcome the stigma placed upon them that they somehow deserved the punishment they received. Unfortunately, people use the fact that you have been mistreated to justify treating the survivor with disrespect and contempt, searching for a reason to condemn them for the situation they have found them selves in when they are in desperate need of compassion and understanding.
I was the victim of a violent crime once. I was at a friend’s studio helping him organize his closets. A recent convert to Buddhism, he was anxious to simplify his life, organizing things is my second favorite activity. Thus one sultry, summer evening found us emptying the contents of his life onto his living room floor to decide what would stay and what would go.
He was in the main room talking to his down stairs neighbors who had stopped by. I was standing in his walk-in sorting his clothes by color and season when I heard the room outside erupt in broken glass and ill-tuned guitars. I was scared because I thought he was having a seizure which I had just witness happen only days before.
As I stepped from the closet to help him, the younger of the two black guys rushed in, punching me in the face. My body dropped like a wet rag into a pool of blackness on the floor among the mass of discarded clothing.
Through a fog I heard crashing and my friend pleading for them to stop, take what they want, and go. My body was frozen, the blood had turned to ice in my veins holding me trapped in this place as thoughts of never seeing my precious children again ran through my head. I reminded God that He promised me a host of angels to protect me as I sojurned in this world. I became aware of my phone in my pocket but before I could reach for it, he was in the closet again.
He bent over my body still huddled on the ground, I felt his hands on me and I looked into this boy’s face, searching for some answer as to why he was doing this to me. Hatred? Anger? Revenge? I caught his eyes for only a second before he looked away in shame, but he still tried to sound tough when he growled, “Keep your mouth shut and I won’t kill you.” as he slipped my phone from my back pocket.
I actually thought, “Who the fuck do you think you are to decide if I live or die?” But I submitted, because that is what I’ve been trained to do, and it was a good thing. I was just about to find out that the other guy had already decided to kill us both, and the younger one was showing me mercy. I had just met him earlier that day and we spent some time chit chatting about his first job, which he had just started. I treated him like a friend, which explains why he couldn’t look me in the eyes, but it didn’t explain the desperate fear I saw in his face. In retrospect, I recognize he was as afraid of the crack head in the other room as I was, and was doing what he was told to do so it wouldn’t be done to him.
He was gone again and the room outside had fallen mostly silent. The skinny older man cursed, “Did you kill that fucking bitch?” I couldn’t understand the younger one’s answer, I was afraid the Buddhist was dead, I have never felt more alone. The door to the closet swung open and a shadow sucked the light from the bare bulb on the ceiling. He kicked my body repeatedly and through the vacant slit of my eye I saw his dirty, toothless grin that smelled of death and alcohol before he stomped on my head. Once. Twice. I saw both his feet jump in the air and just as my lights went out a second time, I heard the room outside erupt again, this time, in an earthquake of bodies, furniture, and a battle cry that would put fear in the blackest heart.
I felt hands pulling me from the darkness and heard panicked sobs tearing through the soul of my friend, “Please! Baby girl. Answer me.” His face was covered in blood and barely recognizable it was already so swollen. They had beat him with anything they could get their hands on; a giant bottle filled with change, his guitar, a golf club they actually bent in half they hit him so hard. He was a foot taller than me, an enourmous bear of a man who was trying to be mindful of his new faith, so he let them. They needlessly pummeled him until his body went limp and they left him for dead to pillage through his stuff. My comparatively tiny body would not have survived what he went through. It wasn’t until he realized that the old man was going after me, that he was up off the floor and busting heads. They stumbled out the door, stealing our cell phones, his wallet, my purse. Maybe a few hundred dollars worth of stuff. We nearly paid with our lives because we had something they wanted. I’ve given away far, far more.
My run-in with violent crime reminded me what real fear feels like. It would rear it’s head in the form of panic disorder for months afterward. If I saw a certain sort of man dressed a certain sort of way…walking into a gas station, standing at the bus stop while I waited in traffic, at the bar when I’d go to watch the fights. My breath catching in my throat and that black spinning void filling my head, while ice slides up my extremities leaving my fingers and toes prickling like needles and cold to the touch. I had to teach my body to overcome it’s prejudice with deep breathing, and logic- constantly reminding myself it was only two specific misguided people who perpetrated that act and it wasn’t happening NOW.
Unfortunately, it is a feeling that I would get all too familiar with; a year later, I fell in love with a man and the violence I endured at his hands was far more terrifying. It happened repeatedly, in my home, with no way to escape without suffering further consequences. After several altercations my nervous disorder progressed until my legs would give out and my hands shake in uncontrollable convulsions when he would yell at me. I was pregnant with our first daughter when one day he would tell me he was the luckiest man in the world, the next he would accuse me of having sex with my gay co-worker, say the baby was not his, and he was going to kill us both if it didn’t look like him. No amount of logic or reason, could dissuade him if he decided he was going to punish me it didn’t matter what I said or did, often the expression on my face was enough to set him off further. If he didn’t do something to violate my body immediately, he would; punish my children, gamble money we needed to pay bills, fuck some nasty random tramp, lock me out of my home or business so I could not take care of my life, spread some lies or gossip about me to anyone who would listen, call the police on me, break something important to me (2 lap tops and more than 3 cell phones) It is an unbelievably long list of ploys to manipulate a person with not only fear, but their own love as well.
He has stolen far more than those thugs, but the police don’t consider it a crime, because there is no blood splatter, and I agreed to live with him. It doesn’t matter that he has told me for years that if I leave him he will hunt me down and kill me after he wrecks me in the courts and has my kids taken away, making me too afraid to leave. He is still trying to do those things, he just hasnt been successful yet. No one has the balls to tell him it’s not ok to treat people that way. Except me. Even his family who watched at least 3 of his adult relationships end with his girlfriend in a mental ward-(I am not kidding) and have no doubt witnessed his berserker rage do nothing to defend me from his insidious attacks. In their opinion, I am wrong for leaving him.
I wonder what is the core difference in a man that determines whether they think women should be abused or protected. What is the fine line? Why aren’t there more men like Kai out there? I know that they exist because I know of several who have fought men like my ex for similar behavior. I think society as a whole could be improved if men with a conscience told the cavemen to man up and be respectable.
I wonder about all those dads, who have daughters… If this behavior goes unchecked, if men are allowed to do this to women just because they can, soon there will not be functioning compassionate people on this earth, because violence and the mental illness it unleashes is a disease that spreads quickly and consumes your will to live, it affects every other relationship you have, it is at the core of addiction because drugs and alcohol are the easiest escape from it’s stifling grasp. Psychology has proven that having a mother who is depressed creates adverse psychological effects for the rest of a child’s life. What of the children who see their mom crying all the time because dad can’t stop doing her wrong? Why is it so hard for you to say to those men, “You dont get to treat women this way.” simply because you do not want it to happen to your daughter.
I understand there are a lot of women who behave like animals and I have run into more than one I have wanted to punch in the face just to shut up the idiocy streaming unchecked from their mouth, and prevent them from further tainting the goodness of mankind with their spiteful, jealous, diatribe. But I don’t, because it just makes more sence to take myself away from the people who say stupid, judgemental, shit than to subject myself to their hateful energy. Honestly, it’s better for both of us because misjudging others, exspecially when you then try to punish them because of how you are feeling creates really bad karma. Everyone could make the world a better place if they took some responsibility for their mouth and made sure what comes out is at least some of these things: relevant, true, honest, important (to someone besides yourself) And if you can influence someone to step up and treat people better, do it.
I still deal with PTSD and panic disorder symptoms, though I have found a lot of ways to minimize them and keep it in check. I haven’t been completely incapacitated by an incident in at least six months. But if I have any sort of confrontation, or have to talk specifically about what I have endured I have to fight the urge to run, which makes me squirm, my hands shake- (I force them into my pockets or under my legs if I’m sitting) and I have a hard time maintaining a normal tone of voice- IOW I start to yell. It is humiliating to not have controll of your body, people make judgements, they assume I do drugs or am a bad person, not to mention being socially ostracized simply because I am the chick with the crazy ex… I had the audacity to fall in love with someone who is too damaged to have a real relationship.
Being a survivor of a violent crime taught me to not trust strangers. Being the survivor of domestic violence taught me to not trust anyone. Recovery from both is about finding a way to stop the ice that takes over my extremities from taking over my heart as well.