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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Last Resort

It's always been hard for me to talk about it, at least partly because of the assumptions that are made about me. Because of the questions that are asked. You seem smart, how could I not have known? I know the judgments that are made...and they are made. Silently. Because they really don't want to know. No one does. There's a part of me that is curious to know what people make of the idea that I went back, since it's so much a part of the pattern, and part of me is glad that I don't.
Back to those assumptions.
How could I not know?
It wasn't like he had a great big A tattooed on his forehead. He was handsome, with beautiful blue eyes.  He was more romantic than almost any man I met, hearts and flowers. If he was a little jealous, well...when you're nineteen it just seems sweet. After all, isn't that what they show on TV and the movies, the guy who's just a little bit jealous because he loves you so much? And if he's just a little uncomfortable that other men are looking at you? At your clothes and how well they fit. He just doesn't want to lose you. What's more romantic than that...even if it's a little overboard. That's the first time that he gets a little too heated, though, and his anger is just a little disturbing. Frightening. But you forget, you let it go, because he loves you, and he's so sorry. Until it happens again. But still, he's loving, and there's the flowers. And you're nineteen, isn't this how it's supposed to be? That's how they do it in books and movies. When he proposes, its on one knee, and it helps you forget that his temper and criticisms of your clothes are getting worse. You quit the job to make him happy. Maybe now it will be better. Except of course it isn't and it doesn't. It gets worse. Only now there's no one to talk to, no one to tell. Every little thing can cause a temper tantrum. There are guns all over the house. And then one time he pulls the gun, spins the cylinder, and points it at your head.
I was lucky. I got out. But, like many, not the first time I tried.
Most domestic violence victims run to family the first time. It's easy to track them down. They have no money - he controlled all that - so where else can they go?  It was easy to track me down, but a neighbor got me out of the house. It was my pastor who betrayed me, under the guise of 'trying to save my marriage.' I told him I didn't want to save my marriage, I wanted out. He said he'd help me convince my husband. I asked him if there would be other people there. He told me there would. What he didn't tell me was that they would be in another part of the Church, and many wouldn't even know we were there. What he didn't know was that my ex-husband would show up with a gun. He's lucky to be alive.
That's what many women face, in addition to the rest. Even so, most don't go back because of threats of violence, but because of poverty. For their children. Without jobs, battered women have no money to support themselves or their children - while their exes do. Child support doesn't really kick in until after the divorce has been decided. Meanwhile the ex has the house, the children's toys, their pets. Even if they can find a shelter - many counties don't have one, in fact you're more likely to find a dog shelter - they will live one family to a room and subsist on charity. For many of these women, returning to the abuse is better than living poor. Of seeing the judgment in eyes of others as they pull out the food stamps.
After being stalked for a time, I found shelter at one of the resorts, living on property where there would be no record of my residence.
For me it's been a few decades, but one of the things I noticed when the discussion about domestic violence comes up among those who survive is the victim mentality.
So, being a writer, I wrote. The idea was to create an entertaining mystery novel about a victim of domestic violence who not only survives but thrives. I based the novel on real events taking place at that time. To my amusement the book has been criticized for having too much going on, and yet all of that was happening around the same time. Life is messy, it doesn't always go predictably, and when you don't have enough time, it throws even more at you. That's the way it goes sometimes, and I'll stand by that.
More than anything else, though, I want to stand for those women who want more than what society expects from them. I want to show them that it can be done, that what doesn't break you makes you stronger and you can survive. You can even live happily ever after.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0052UX3V6

20% of all proceeds go to Domestic Violence charities.