Quick- think of four women in your life. Your mom, your sister, your best friend, a co-worker. Now, if statistics are accurate (and I feel that they are), one of those women has been or will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. I know it’s true because when I think of me and my three BFFs, I know that one of the four of us has experienced domestic violence. It was me.
This month, a lot of attention will be given to breast cancer awareness, which is a horrible disease that affects one in eight women. I hope we find a cure someday. I will be wearing pink at some point this month in support. But October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month– and there won’t likely ever be a cure for domestic violence.
Just as many women probably think breast cancer will never strike them, I’m sure most of us also think, “I would never let a man beat me.” I felt the same way. How could a woman stay with a man who has ever hit her? I honestly don’t know. But I did it. I married the man who was the first– and only– man to ever hit me. And I married him AFTER he hit me. Was that stupid? Yes. But at that time, I loved him, and I truly believed him when he said it was “an accident” and he would “never intentionally hurt” me. Right. Love is a powerful thing. It makes you blind. And, let’s face it, stupid.
It’s not terribly noticeable, but my nose is slightly crooked. I could get it fixed but I see it as kind of a battle scar. You see, a few months before I married my ex, while we were engaged, we were driving to a concert and he was parking the car. I can’t remember why but I teasingly tapped the top of his head. The next few seconds were a blur as something hit me square in the face. It was so disorienting… I had never been punched in the face. It hurt, I thought my nose was broken. Hell, maybe it was. But I never got it checked out. Because what had hit me was my fiance’s fist. I couldn’t believe it had happened. Before then, he’d been so sweet and wonderful. His excuse… this is rich… was that because he was a Marine, it was “a reflex.” When someone hit him in the head, apparently his reflex was to punch whoever that was in the face like he was in a boxing match. He apologized. Of course. And for some reason, I let him get away with that. After my nose stopped bleeding, we went into the concert and I pretended nothing had happened. HOW DID I DO THAT?? I don’t know. When I look back on it, I feel as if I was having an out-of-body experience. Love makes you blind and stupid.
He never did hit me again, but in the months in early 2001 when I began contemplating leaving him, I remember one day that I brought it up, and he said, “You’ve never hit me in the head again, have you?” and I was like, “Uh… what is that supposed to mean?” and he said, “You know what’ll happen if you do.” So, this was his way of “keeping the wifey in line”? Holding that over my head, that if I ever touched his head again, I’d get punched in the face again?
At the time, this was but only one of his weapons. Though only physically violent the one time, he was emotionally violent for our entire marriage. Whenever I got a new haircut, he would tell me not that it looked great, but more along the lines of “Why did you do that to your hair?” Whenever I got dressed up to go out, my outfit was always wrong. “Why did you wear that? You look like you’re trying to be a teenager.” Oh, and then, there was the time that he threw all of my clothes into a pile on the floor and said they were all awful. For some UNKNOWN reason, I let him take me shopping the next day for clothes HE liked. Again, blind and stupid.
I want to cry and hug that girl and tell her she’s going to be okay. She is now. She’s single but that’s okay. Never again will she settle for a man because she thinks she’s not good enough for anyone else. Never again will she let a man make her feel like she’s nothing. Never again will she stand for any man laying a hand on her in any way other than in a loving way. She deserves better than her abusive ex-husband.
All women deserve better.
So, while you’re pinning on your pink ribbon this month, maybe wear a purple ribbon too, and remember those of us who didn’t make it out. Like Lisa Bianca.
When I was covering a domestic violence vigil in 2010 as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I wrote this, and I have never forgotten the story:
In the 1980s, a domestic violence advocate named Lisa Bianca was murdered by her husband, who was granted an eight-hour leave from prison, where he was awaiting trial on charges of abusing her. “He went straight to where she was living,” Karen Baucom, executive director of the Anson County Domestic Violence Coalition (ACDVC) and Rape Crisis Center, said. “He broke down the door and chased her down, and bludgeoned her to death with a shotgun in front of their 6- and 10-year-old daughters. He hit her so hard that the handle of the shotgun shattered.”
Purple was Bianca’s favorite color.
Since then, purple ribbons have symbolized Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
They symbolize to me, not only the remembrance of Lisa Bianca, but the thousands of others who were not as lucky as me, and who still can’t seem to find a way out.
It’s never OK. If you’ve been abused, don’t wait until it happens again.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Someone will help you.