“I can’t believe I’m one of those women.”
That’s what I thought as I packed my getaway bag and stashed it in my car.
“I’m one of those women.”
I thought I knew what domestic violence and its victims looked like. It was sad, but it wouldn’t happen to me. I came from a loving, middle-class family. I had good friends. I was bright, educated, and talented. Not like one of those women.
I would never allow myself to be treated that way. I would know better. I would recognize an abusive man a mile away. I wasn’t weak, ignorant, or pitiable. Not like one of those women.
I had a clear picture in my mind of who those women were, and I wasn’t one of them.
Until I was.
I quickly learned what an abuse survivor really looks like:
She is poor, homeless, well-off, jobless, professional, godless, God-fearing, well-connected, utterly alone, young, old, gay, straight. She has a history of abuse and an idyllic childhood. She needed rescue or simply fell in love and can’t figure out how it has gone so wrong. She has no idea how she ended up in this nightmare, but she knows it’s her fault. She will keep trying to defend and fix her relationship until she can’t anymore. She will leave when she is ready. She may never be ready.
She is stronger than she knows and hates having to summon that strength each minute of each day. She has no idea how she will make it through another nightmarish night. She still hopes: hopes she is wrong, hopes things will get better, hopes he will change, because without that sliver of hope, she is lost.
Most importantly, she is real. She is not a statistic or a sad story or a political tool. She is a hurting human being. Whoever she is, she is doing her level best simply to survive.
She needs compassion. She needs safe people who will show her love, kindness, and patience, because her home life is hard enough. She knows she isn’t an easy friend, but oh, how desperately she needs that lifeline.
I was 23, fresh out of college, and was scared out of my mind. I was finally ready to leave.
I was one of those women.