“But Tash, I know he loves me. He just gets a lil crazy sometimes”
When I heard her say that to me, as much as I wanted to shake some sense into her, I completely understood what she was saying and why she was saying it.
You never truly know how you will handle a situation until you are forced into it. And once you’ve been on that side of the fence, things make sense that previously were nonsensical. The advice you’d give before you were ever in that situation yourself now seems trival and cold.
Seeing the world through a black eye inflicted by your manfriend/husband is already hard enough, but when you have everyone and their mother telling you what a jerk he is, life gets infitely more difficult. My friend came to me in tears looking for a different kind of solace when it was her black eyes, dislocated joints, and bruised ego. She came to lean on me because she knows I’ve been there and luckily made it through without losing myself.
I know some of you are probably thinking that I’m too young to have gone through some foolishness llike that, but my life has been filled with lots of stuff that no one, regardless of their age should ever go through. When I was about 15 I got involved with a guy much older than me, and while I thought I was slick telling him I was older (when I was 15 I looked older than I do now, go figure)he knew the deal, so shame on him already for being with a teenager. I was in “love” with this man, and damn near everything he said to me was the gospel. More often than not, I would listen to him over my mom and stepdad, and now I sometimes wonder how I manage to have such a good relationship with them now–the stuff I was doing was SOOO unsavory.
The first time he hit me, my face got all swollen and I cried, but I didn’t get mad at him. I was old enough then to have seen a few battered women, but I never understood why they didn’t just get mad at the man and walk when he raised his hand. Somehow or another, I found myself mad at ME for making him mad. He apologized profusely and kissed, etc away the anger so I thought it was an isolated incident. But it kept happening. Every time louder and more harsh than the last. I would show up at school with black eyes and bruises and explain to my teachers that volleyball or dance practice from the night before was exceptionally hardcore. I know they all knew the deal, because they’d hear me arguing with him on my cell phone at random hours during the school day. I got cornered by a guidance counselor and my favorite teacher and they told me to spill it, but I stuck to my story. I “loved” him, so I’d protect him at all costs. My mom knew the deal too, but she could never get the whole story out of me, so she couldn’t press charges.
I developed some type of dependency on this toxic relationship. At one point, I had a dream or out of body experience. I remember looking at myself and saying that I needed to get out of that relationship, but I couldn’t get the strength to just leave. After that dream, I broke down and told a few close people what was going on and how he would hit me if I didn’t suck,fuck,or cook it up enough or properly. Rather than hear what I needed to hear, I heard…”He’s a jerk, you need to leave”. I already knew it was in my best interest to leave, but what I needed to hear was that I had a support to lean on when I was ready to leave that I had someone to help me get ready to leave. No one seemed to understand that, and I figured out that these were people who were saying “I’ve never been in your shoes, but if I were you, I would…” What I needed was the support of someone who’d gotten out.
Things for me finally came to a horrific ending when on New Years Day 1999 we got into a stupid arguement, and he hit me so hard I felt a sickening crack. My jaw immediately fell out of line and I could no longer close my mouth properly. I don’t know what it was about him cracking my jaw that sent me into renegade “I need to get out of this shit” mode, but I finally mustered up the courage to call 911. By the time they got to my house, he was gone, but I gave a good enough description that they caught up with him and had him arrested. I had the opportunity to drop the charges, but something inside of me couldn’t do that. So I pressed charges and he ended up doing time. He’s since been released and beat up his pregnant girlfriend, ironically named Tasha as well. Although he got out, that event was the impetus for me to get it together and LEAVE.
So when my friend came to me and told me what was going on, sure my first impulse was to get her out. But I also knew that forcing her out would make her resent the people who actually love her and make her run to the man who is destroying her because she’d feel like her family and friends don’t trust her judgement. In this situation, you want to maintain the level of trust, and let that person know you’ve got their back when they’re ready to go. Of course I’m not going to let her husband beat her into oblivion either–if he lands her in the hospital, he’s going to have hell to pay. But she’s got my hand to hold. I’m not going to let her fall further into this vortex of abuse, but I recognize her need for autonomy in this situation.
Don’t judge the broken until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. “I love him” usually means I want to leave, but I’m scared and I need an ear. Give that ear, give a shoulder to cry on, and a hand to hold and you might be someone’s hero. Save the judgement and the “If I were you…” for the one being that’s allowed to do that–God.