I spent 10 long years working through the repercussions of my bad decisions in my youth. Many times I believed that I was completely free of them, and then out of nowhere they reappeared stronger, and more powerful than ever. Thankfully, I’m in a great church that truly cares for full healing and freedom who walked with me to reach just that.
Then, the Ray Rice incident blasted social media and news outlets, and my past was in my face again, but this time it was different. I have always tried to keep a low profile on this topic for reasons that I still don’t really understand. When this came up, I decided quietly to keep silent because it was such a sensitive issue, and I wasn’t prepared for the negativity that is naturally attached. That was until a few weeks ago when I was sitting in a mostly empty restaurant bar with a co-worker while 2 men sat on opposite sides of the bar as the story once again appeared.
“Well, she married him now, so it couldn’t have been that bad,” said Man #1.
“Yeah, you can’t much dumber than that,” scoffed Man #2.
“She probably just did it for the money. Now she can divorce him and get half of what he’s worth,” taunted Man #1.
And so on, and so forth.
My co-worker could tell that I was upset, and initiated our departure. I’ve spent the next few weeks trying to convince myself that I was ok, and that I would not allow that kind of ignorance to fester inside of me, but alas, that didn’t last. I continued to hear both me and women make comments about this woman that have made my blood boil.
“How does such a smart woman make such a stupid decision?”
“Why doesn’t she just leave?”
“Maybe she secretly likes it.”
Bear with me, because this is going to be a bit cathartic.
My first abusive relationship started when I was 17. I didn’t understand exactly what was going on, but I knew that I was so in love, and couldn’t see my life without him. I slowly began to push my family away, I lost nearly all of my friends, and couldn’t see any way out. I wasn’t who I used to be. After I finally left him I hurt even more than I did when we were together. I started skipping class, making excuses to family for staying out, missing work, and failing classes. I started drinking, and starving myself, and even attempted suicide.
All of those things were terrible and self-destructive, but the worst part of it all was that I was alone.
I used sexual promiscuity to try to numb the pain of it all, and in that stage is where I met my now ex-husband, and my 2nd abusive relationship. Without going in to more detail than necessary, I can safely say that it was 200% worse than the first one. Emotionally, physically, mentally; you name it. I was shamed, mistreated , and once again, exiled from family and friends. There were days that were amazing, and when those days happened they justified to me the reason I stayed. Because in my heart I knew that he loved me, and he really didn’t mean it. It was my fault. If I had just been quieter, lost more weight, not burned dinner, put gas in the car, cleaned the house better… Well, you get the gist.
All of those things were terrible and destructive, but the worst part of it all was that I was alone.
At no point did I have anyone standing by me loving me. Everyone seemed to let me drift away, and I could never understand why. No part of me could comprehend why people who knew what was happened did try to help me.
My neighbors who heard the screams.
Our friends who watched it happened.
I was still alone.
When I was out of the relationship was when good-hearted people started saying not-so-good-hearted things. If you’ve never been there, you can’t really understand the heart or mentality of an abused person, so I wanted to help provide you with tools to help.
1. Install value: Simple compliments like “Your hair looks so pretty today,”, or “You’re such an amazing parent,”, or “I’ve never seen anyone do a, b, c as good as you do!” The abuser first tears down their victim by destroying their self-confidence. Kindness combats.
2. Show love : Words can be painful and powerful. They have the ability to completely destroy a person before anyone has laid a hand on them. When we say things like “I don’t understand how you could get yourself in to this. You’re such a smart woman!” we are in essence blaming the abused person for what happened to them. Use love words.
3. Take action: So many times during an incident I just prayed that someone would finally call the police. We were in cheap apartments, and the walls were thin. I knew that the neighbors heard what had happened, and I knew that our friends knew as well. The victim may even be angry with you, but you could be saving their life.
This past year the Lord revealed a piece of my heart that I had not allowed him to heal, and that was forgiving those who did nothing. I had forgiven my ex’s many years ago, but I had never forgiven those who had stood by and didn’t help.
To sum this up: No, she’s not that dumb, no she doesn’t want his money, and don’t ask why she doesn’t just leave unless you’re prepared to help.