October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but the people who experience it want you to be aware of it all of the time.
My first personal experience with a victim of domestic abuse was in my early twenties. I met a stunning woman who worked at my office and we became friends. Betty (not her real name) had dark hair worn full and glossy to her shoulders, porcelain skin, beautiful dark blue eyes, and a slender, feminine figure. We were talking one day and I expressed admiration at how lovely she was. She looked at me with a strange grimace on her face and said, “I didn’t always look like this.”
I laughed and said, “What, a little gilding on the lily?” She grew very quiet and pensive and I suddenly realized this was hard for her. I quickly assured her I didn’t mean to pry and she said, “No, you are a friend,” and she shared her story.
She married young to a man who was ten years older. Although she had no idea at the time that this was not the usual way to express love, he spent the next five years of their marriage isolating and tearing her down through emotional abuse. By the time they had a child, the abuse had become physical, but she was afraid to leave because he told her he would kill her if she ever left him and she believed him.
One night when her son was about four, the physical abuse affected him as well and she finally fought back. She never had before and she said, “It was like it was what he had been waiting for.” Continue reading