I originally wrote this post in September after the elevator incident and scandal involving the NFL authorities' reaction. I am revisiting this post because of the news that the domestic violence public service announcement played during the Super Bowl came from a real 911 call. I also was recently invited by BlogHer to participate in participate in a media partnership with She Knows Media and Public Radio International on a groundbreaking journalism project launching FEBRUARY 3, called Across Women's Lives.
I revisit this story in honor of the Across Women's Lives initiative in hopes it may help other women who want to escape. You can.
I have a special message for Mrs. Janay Rice. I understand your pain. The last time, in January 2001, he hit me in the head from close range with a tennis ball which he kept throwing at me over and over again, calling me a bitch with each throw. He smacked me and kicked me as I lay curled into a fetal position trying to protect my face. Why had it started, my little puppy had chewed a pen and then walked through the ink leaving cute paw prints on the floor. I made the mistake of laughing. He said I was insensitive because it had taken both of us a whole weekend to lay the tile.
When he left me and then went to the room where he kept his loaded gun, I fled into the night. I knew my marriage was over. I would never be able to trust him again, but it had taken 11 years and abusive incident after abusive incident for me to come to this decision. I am not alone. A lot of women stay in their relationship for a variety of reasons. Some stay for the children; others because they feel financially they have no other choice. Abused women also face a lot scorn from the public.
That night I faced scorn from the police officer who was supposed to help me. Later when I read his report, I was shocked to read that I was rubbing red spots on my arm so hard that they must be self inflicted. He also wrote that the bruise on my forehead looked like it had been rubbed and self inflicted. He also told me that night that if I insisted that my husband be arrested that he would have to arrest me too because he did not know if I had hit my husband first which caused him to hit me. Thankfully, my husband had fled the house and was not there so I did not have to go to jail.
I decided after that night to end my marriage of 11 years. Why did I wait so long? Why did I live through incident after incident of abuse? First of all, because my husband only seriously abused me about four times during our marriage. In 1997, he took a cane to both my knees and beat up our dog so badly that the dog limped for weeks. It took a month for the bruises to fade from my knees.
I called the law then too, but I was concerned about him. He had HIV and I excused the abuse because it had to be his medicine. In lieu of arrest, he agreed to admission into a mental hospital and agreed to anger management counseling. He was going to change he promised me. I didn't want to walk away from almost nine years of marriage, throw it all away then. I wanted to believe in him even though years earlier in 1993, he had knocked me to the floor and covered me with the full weight of his body and put his hands on my throat.
I was not a gluten for punishment. I was an educated woman with a Master's degree, a school librarian, and former reporter who covered the issue of domestic abuse and wrote stories about the statistics. I really understand Mrs. Rice. She is a victim caught up in a nightmare not of her making. She is caught up in a vicious cycle of abuse and then hope and then abuse. My husband kept telling me this is the last time. Things will get better. He will never touch me again. I also believed that the abuse could be a little my fault too. If I hadn't said this or reacted this way or made this mistake, he would not have had a reason to hit me.
I have had the same internal conversations Mrs. Rice has probably had. He just needs counseling. This time he promises to complete the program because he loves me so much. There is hope. He will change because he loves me so much. I also used his HIV status as an excuse. His medicine made him violent. My most profound argument: "If I leave him, I would have thrown away so much of my life; all that time wasted."
What changed? What woke me up? The sight of my blood on his busted knuckles and the fear that he was going to kill me if I stayed. It was a long process of waking up to reality. I knew the statistics; almost half of women who are murdered are murdered by their intimate partners. I also knew that there was a dark anger in my husband that I could never change. He had to want to change or he would always make excuses for his behavior.
If I could sit down with Janay I would encourage her to leave and get to safety. If her husband is going to change, she needs to be at a safe distance while he gets help. Statistics are against her though. He may never change. I'd encourage her to read Diana Moskovitz article on Deadspin. I would also tell her no matter what she did, even if she got in his face because she was angry too, her husband had no right to hit and knock her unconscious to the floor. He could have killed her. I would also tell her that he doesn't deserve another chance to kill her. That is the bottom line in this story. I found my happy ending and left and am now remarried to a wonderful man who has never hit me in 12 years. I just pray Janay finds her happy ending and that she doesn't end up a statistic.
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