I know I've been rather mute with this blog, and honestly, I had every intention to update often with fun posts, informative posts, and helpful posts when first created not too long ago. This one post probably won't be classified as any of these in the lighthearted sense, but it's a very real and visceral one, if that matters.
I have a friend, or rather had. She was amazing. Vibrant, energetic, first to make you laugh, first to make you feel better. She would light up a room and not even realize it, and she was a wonderful mother, teacher, and friend. Her hilarity seemed endless; her humor, often blue, was steadfast and appreciated by all whose lives she touched. She had the ability to make a person feel welcome and at ease in her company, and there was no adventure too extreme, or antic too crazy. I admired her ability to just jump in and have fun. It made her so incredible to be around, and the unbelievable thing is if she saw this today, she'd brush this off and probably "pshaw" most of what I just shared about her. Her humility was just another wonderful aspect of her personality.
On the outside, her life looked pretty good. Two kids, good job, and a husband. And a "husband"......
Domestic abuse is one of those funny things in life. It's still in the veil of taboo for so many. "Not my business," "what happens behind closed doors," "if it was really that bad they would say something," are all those go to phrases that roll off tongues and creep into thoughts all too easily still. Yet, I seem to encounter more and more people who have a story to share, be it about former flame, current partner, or someone from way back when. And the scary thing, more often than not, the stories all start with, "Don't tell anyone about this, but....."
Why? Why do we do this? The victims act the roll of the guilty party and the offenders continue off carelessly in life with a horrible secret shared between the two, and maybe a few select others.
It breaks my heart that my friend fell into this. It tears me up that she finally was getting things ready to get out but time ran out. It terrifies me that it wasn't enough..and that her story isn't an exception to the rule.
A couple days after Christmas, I received the agonizingly heart wrenching news that she was gone. No longer one of us in this world. It's etched into my mind seeing the news article while talking with two mutual friends on my phone and practically screaming out "No, no.nononononono!!!!" My cell phone was quickly tossed aside like a scalding stone, as if doing so would take back the news. My husband and father were not too far away and both came into the bedroom wondering what happened. I can only remember wailing, "He killed her. He strangled her and killed her."
But here's the thing, the violence wasn't the ultimately shocking part for me. There was a history, and it was something she only shared with a small group of friends she trusted and who knew about it. The horror for me was that she was in the process of taking action to get out, but it was almost a situation of too little, too late. For some awful reason, it wasn't enough.
It wasn't supposed to happen like this. She was doing the right things to finally get away. She knew it wasn't a good place for her, or her children, any longer. But somehow between doing everything to get to a better place in life, and the untimely end of her life, things went horribly, terribly wrong.
And now we're here, the friends and family who loved her, wondering what could we have done. How could this have ended differently? What steps could have made all the difference in the long run? Question, after question, after another raging, raw question.
Domestic abuse needs to be pulled out further into the light of day. We need to turn the tables so victims feel safe enough to voice their fears, and offenders give pause enough to realize they could be crossing a dangerous line. Some how, the whole "had it coming" concept needs to get pushed aside to "they (the offenders) should know better."
And please notice, I am not throwing around "he" and "she" here. This is not something that only happens to one and not the other. I've known victims of both, and it isn't right or acceptable either way.
Since I don't have all the answers, as much as I wish I did, I can only share a story and hope that others in a similar situation may realize it can go from bad, to worse, to the absolute worst in a blink of an eye. I am also including links to groups that are equipped to help and provide guidance to those who need it.
And if you are in a domestic violence situation, please, I am begging of you, reach out to someone, to a group, to whomever you feel safest with, and get help to get out so your story won't parallel that of my friend's. This world is a little dimmer now without her vivacious joie de vivre. You may think at this moment it won't matter, you don't matter, but it will and you DO. Your presence in this world means something to someone. Please, keep that safe and please know you are in my thoughts. Anyone who has been affected by this is, on a daily basis, now more than ever.
For help, please use any of the following to get started...
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
The Feminist Majority Foundation
For family and friends of those in a domestic violence situation...
Help a Loved One
To my beautiful friend, what I wouldn't do to hear one more of your riotously inappropriate observations about life in general. I can only hope that you will find a place of peace...You will always be in my thoughts, and forever have a place in my heart.
If you know someone who could benefit from reading this, please feel free to share this post. If it means another life can be saved, then some good can come of this story.- VSM