In 2009, I was the victim of physical assault by the man I loved.
I am a well-educated, kind, charitable, positive person. I come from a wealthy family, I speak multiple languages, I have 5 University degrees. I am a devout Christian, I practice Buddhism, and I am physically fit.
About a year ago, I watched a TV show about domestic violence and felt called to write what I will write now, but I was still too ashamed. Last night, a good friend in the States wrote to me. She knew I’d worked at Genesis, which is a shelter for battered women and children, (genesisshelter.org) since the age of 17 and currently volunteer at a shelter in Luzern. She wrote to me looking for sympathy and help.
I give you sympathy and empathy.
I am someone who has always worked tirelessly with women and children (and some men) who suffer domestic abuse (mental and emotional, as well). I heard countless stories involving frying pans to the head, telephone wires being used to whip and/or bound, hot oil used to scald, knives used to disfigure. You name it, from the years of 1993-2009, I had heard it. I’d been told the signs, I “knew” what to avoid.
The most important thing I can say is that I stand in solidarity with millions of women and men against domestic violence. Black women, white women, single women, married women, CEOs, stay-at-home moms, women from big families, women with no family. Violence does not care who you are.
The second most important thing I can say is how I got out of the flat that night without losing my life.
My hope, in sharing the paragraph below, is that every woman who has never experienced an act of physical violence will read this and take it in. You do not have three seconds to waste with “is this happening to me?” The answer was given when the question was born. The only information you need to know is “how do I get out of this situation?” Here is how I did it.
During the attack, I was dealing with a person in a state of rage. I was immediately immobilized after being pulled out of bed, in a deep sleep, and landing on my left kneecap. I knew my physical mobility was compromised, so I would need to be “allowed to leave” (fully or semi-immobilizing injuries are common). I stayed as calm as possible and I did not speak (also common that your voice will aggravate). After a rather swift blow to the head, he paused. I sensed he might be amenable to hearing my voice. I calmly and quietly asked him if he would ALLOW me leave (giving him the “respect” he deserved). He agreed and I left.
I was lucky.
In 2013, according to the DOJ, there were approximately 960,000 cases of domestic violence. 25% of women in the States suffered an episode of domestic violence last year. Every day, on average, three women were murdered by their partners. The health costs of domestic violence last year averaged 5.8 billion dollars. Over 6 million children witnessed domestic violence last year. Little boys saw “this is how men handle anger.” Little girls saw “men do this when they are angry.”
Only a dozen people, including a medical doctor and a therapist, know the entirety of what I’ve just shared. I do not believe keeping quiet has helped me or allowed me to help others.
I am open to any and all communication regarding this post, if I can be helpful.
National Domestic Violence Hotline (in the States)
Case of emergency: 117 and say it is domestic violence (remember “haus” and “Gewalt” if you can and ask for someone who speaks English)
http://www.frauenhaus-schweiz.ch (Click the Union Jack to read info on leaving. Next, on the left side of the home screen find your Canton, click on CONTACT TELEPHONE NUMBER)
Update: I have had four women and one of my guy friends write to me, since I posted this blog 6 hours ago, to ask me about any signs I might have seen before this event. Were there signs? What were they? I isolated these back in 2009 with my therapist.
-extreme and unpredictable responses to mundane, daily occurrences (ex: 5 text message in a row when I didn’t answer my phone ending in some broad statement like, “Clearly, you don’t care about me anymore.” This was showing me he couldn’t control his emotions.)
-my friends and family did not “approve” of him (He would say, “Nobody likes me because of xyz. I am so lucky I have you because you accept me.” This was demonstrating his desire to manipulate and isolate me.)
-“joking” about sexist behavior with our friends and also in front of his work colleagues and speaking badly about past loves (This was showing a fundamental disrespect toward women.)
-drinking excessively (This was demonstrating a lack of self-restraint.)
-“shaming” behavior (Again, lack of respect for me and others.)
-lack of long-term friends and family (He ostracized his own friends and family for a reason.)
Update September 12, 2014
Recent events have raised awareness regarding domestic violence (violence from a partner/spouse/loved one).
I was fortunate to have the resources (financial, family, work, therapeutic, medical, etc.) to leave an abusive situation. I was also fortunate to know, thanks to Genesis, no one is allowed to hit me for any reason. I was very clear about that in my head.
Because we have all lost loved ones, we can have compassion for anyone who must severe a relationship with a loved one.
My steadfast prayer is that all women will someday be very clear that abuse is not a way of expressing love. Not under any circumstances. It certainly makes it somewhat easier to let go of an abusive relationship when you realize it was not loving.
I would also urge any woman, as I’ve said above, to seek immediate refuge if she has been the victim of physical assault. Call your local police or contact a trusted friend or family member.