I’ll be completely honest… growing up domestic violence was normal. I remember my young mother and father fighting until blood was drawn, and thinking there was nothing wrong with this. I didn’t like it, but as I fought with my sisters sometimes, I just assumed that people who live together sometimes fight. I never thought in a million years that it was something that needed to be addressed. It wasn’t until I was older and more mature, that I realized how serious this issue is. My husband’s mother was held hostage in her apartment by the father of her youngest children, for saying she was going to leave him. Although she played mind games with the man often, nothing warranted her being held against her will by knife, as her youngest children laid beside her in the bed. It took hours to get her boyfriend out of the house, and once they did, he was immediately sent away for approximately five years due to additional charges against him. Even then, I didn’t realize the extent of this issue and its hold on the people around me.
Early in our marriage, my husband and I would fight like two bickering siblings. I used to chalk it up to the both of us being the eldest children, and our need to have everything our way. I didn’t think we were taking what we learned from living with our parents and bringing it into our own home. We used to laugh about holes in our apartment’s walls. We used to joke about the time I threw his clothes out the window, just to find that some thirsty neighbors stole them in a matter of minutes. We had no children at the time, but our behavior was far from acceptable, and we knew it. Our idea of marriage was skewed and very much an influence from what our parents went through and allowed. My mother told me that a man wouldn’t waste his time hitting you when he could be on top of another woman. I used to believe that, but something happened that eventually erased that notion altogether.
A few years into our marriage, my husband’s uncle died while in the middle of a heated altercation with his wife. His uncle was yelling and screaming, and reportedly died right there in the middle of their kitchen, shocking his wife and two daughters. My husband was so distraught from the ordeal, that right after the funeral we had the longest discussion of our relationship. He told me he wanted to have children with me and that we needed to do better than our parents did. He vowed to never lay a hand on me, and I promised the same. He stated that if we need to talk about something, we do it as soon as possible, but never raise our voices or lash out in anger. He said he didn’t want to end up like his uncle, dying while fighting with his wife. Although we were young, we made up our minds that being together in a healthy relationship was more important than having our way, and that we would communicate versus resorting to violence. We promised each other that we would never bring violence into our home, and that our children would never see that from us. It’s sad to think how reckless we used to act, believing that it was normal aspects of every relationship. It’s also sad to think that someone had to die for us to realize that what we were doing was detrimental to our relationship and our own well-being. Therefore, for years, we haven’t fought. We still bicker and tease every now and then, but we don’t yell and scream at each other ever. I don’t regret what had to happen to make us change, because as of today we have one of the healthiest relationships around.
Nevertheless, many individuals can’t testify the same as me. I saw this first hand at the DVA Brunch this weekend, presented by Yoshiko Entertainment and Sanity Gurlz, inc. at Crave Restaurant and Lounge. One of the most powerful discussions surrounded the fact that so many of my peers have experienced serious accounts of violence in their relationships and in their families, that some people wouldn’t imagine. One woman testified to being shot in the face, standing there talking to us, she was indeed a survivor. She wore glasses to cover her eyes and the damage done by her former husband, who shot her in front of her children. Another woman talked about being dragged by her hair and beat so bad that she can’t open her mouth all the way. As I took footage and pictures, I was holding tears back. I felt the conviction of someone who once took this issue lightly. When every woman in your family has been hit once or twice before by a man in your family, and still stayed with him, I assumed that this was a regular aspect of tumultuous relationships. Never did I believe that tumultuous was never a good thing when it came to relationships. I was standing there thanking God, for coming into our lives and fixing the mess, we were creating as a very young couple. We were blessed to have that event intervene and teach us a valuable lesson.
Some of these women were blessed in different ways. Although many of them endured the hardship that they suffered, they were still there. There were stories of people losing friends to domestic violence filling the air, which made me sad to think that things can and will go that far. However, I looked around at the miracles, the ones that survived their ordeals and were in a position to talk to us about what they went through. Women that could have died after what they went through, speaking proudly… “I am a survivor”. While everyone is fighting and walking to celebrate breast cancer awareness, the CEO of Sanity Gurlz pointed out that it is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month as well. We ought to think about the many women fighting for their lives, not because of cancer, but because they’re in the hands of another human being who wants to control them.
Sanity Gurlz is a movement dedicated to creating and promoting healthy minds, bodies, and spirits of those affected by domestic violence all over the country. They are empowering victims through services, programs and education, in order to stop the cycle of abuse. A cycle it is indeed. If it weren’t for the positive circumstances in my life, which led me to a great partner, my own self-acceptance, I may have ended up in an abusive relationship, thinking it was cute, because that was what I was raised to believe. These women didn’t ask to be abused, and it was obvious that they were still hurting from the experience. I felt compelled to share that most of the stories ended when another individual intervened and showed them just how valuable their life really was.
The question came up, about whether to leave a friend dealing with a similar issue. The majority vote was “Absolutely NOT!” Never leave a friend side who confesses to being involved in domestic violence, be patient, and be compassionate was the overall consensus. It can be an emotional roller coaster, especially for a friend that won’t leave her partner, choosing to stay in hopes that they’ll change. However, our job as friends isn’t to judge or ridicule someone for their decisions, but to be supportive, protective, and sincere and wanting the best for them. As the tears ran and dried, I believe that so many of us walked away learning something new and feeling the compassion flooding the room. Women, who were not even scheduled to talk, were getting on stage and telling their stories. The more testimonies I heard the more I felt cheated. I wish I knew this early on in my life, I wish I had someone tell me that this was wrong. I could have made better decisions growing up; I could have been a better friend to those friends that were suffering. All the thought that ran in my head, I finally realized that it’s better late than never. Its better that I saw this happen now, so that I can tell you all to be better friends to each other, and yourself. I can share with you now that despite what you grew up with, violence is never acceptable. I can also share that if you are ever in danger, never fear protective yourself with a protective order, but also educate your self on your rights, learn to protect yourself, and find comfort in a compassionate friend.
Things to Remember:
It is not normal to be abused or to abuse another, even if you grew up seeing this.
You are more valuable than you’ll ever know, never allow someone to control you
Learn to defend yourself; there are classes and workshops available
Call police, get documentation, write down/record your altercations – Keep a paper trail
Confide in a trusted and compassionate friend
Never fear being alone
Learn to love yourself
Seek education on how to be an advocate, mentor, or survivor through local programs
It’s crazy how you never what someone has gone through just by looking at them, but after knowing how much domestic violence can affect people of various backgrounds and lifestyles, it important that were are just better people for each other.
I want to thank Yoshiko Ent, Sanity Gurlz, Crave Resteraunt and Lounge, Neco’s Cupcakes and RepNVA for their hard work in putting together such an excellent event that educated and inspired us all. Joe’i said it best, “We need to be better towards each other, be good to each other”. I couldn’t agree more.
Also, email them at SanityGurlzinc@gmail.com
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram: @GaptoothDiva