“We don’t have to celebrate Christmas per se… we can simply go out to dinner,” I whined, sensing that I was on the losing side of this argument.
“Going to dinner on Christmas day,” he shouted from the bathroom, “is celebrating Christmas in my eyes and I told you that I don’t celebrate Christmas. Get it through your thick skull!”
I let out a heavy sigh to keep from crying. It was Christmas of 2003. I was never a big Christmas person who went into debt to purchase gifts, went overboard with decorations, or hooked up a banging Christmas dinner. I always went over to other people’s houses and ate their food. And I only bought presents for my closest relatives. But I did enjoy the “Christmas spirit” because people seem to be nicer during the holiday season. I knew that my boyfriend didn’t celebrate Christmas, but I did and I thought we could make a compromise. It was Christmas for crying out loud.
As I waited for him to return from the bathroom, I looked at his bare bedroom walls and longed for a brightly lit Christmas tree, mistletoe, or anything that reminded me of Christmas. In the midst of my longings, I heard him talking on his cell in the bathroom. I went to the door and cracked it open just enough to eavesdrop.
“Hey, Sharee! It’s me,” he said kind of giddy. “I was just calling to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. Did you and your daughter get a lot of presents?”
My heart pounded. My ears burned as I clinched my fists. I couldn’t believe he had the audacity to take me through all of these changes over celebrating Christmas, yet called his ex-girlfriend to wish her a merry Christmas.
Just as I burst into the bathroom, he hung up the phone and stared at me like I was a crazy woman. I tried to yank the phone from his hand, but he shoved his forearm into my throat and pinned me against the cold tile on the bathroom walls.
“What the fuck is your problem?” he yelled at me.
I wanted to spit in his face, but I saw something in him that I had never seen before. His angry eyes were bright white, almost hollow. I felt like I was looking straight through him. I knew I had to get away from him because an eerie feeling came over me. I felt like I was his prey. I broke free from his hold and ran into the bedroom to gather my things.
I didn’t drive my car over to his house that day so I called my best friend to pick me up and take me home. Just as I explained the situation to my friend, my boyfriend charged at me like a raging bull and came smashing down upon the left side of my face with his large, bare knuckles. He hit me so hard that I dropped the phone and fell back on the bed, slamming my head against the wall. Everything went black for a second as I lay there on the bed trying to comprehend what just happened to me.
When I was finally able to sit up, his six foot 200 pounds frame was standing over top of me. His fists were balled. His nostrils flared as his shoulders heaved up and down with each deep breath he took. I cupped the left side of my jaw and checked for blood as tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t believe he did that to me. My face throbbed, but my soul ached like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I used to always hear my stepdad say that you should never hit a dog because you’ll break his spirit. I now knew what he meant because my boyfriend broke my spirit that day.
I knew that whatever bruises I sustained from that blow would eventually heal, but I wasn’t sure if my heart and my soul would heal. I felt violated because I trusted him and he hurt me. I mean really hurt me. I couldn’t bear to look at him. I was angry. I was hurt. I was scared.
After he apologized and begged for forgiveness, he drove me home. I slipped past my sister, and scurried up to my room so she wouldn’t see my swollen left eye. I was so ashamed. Things like this didn’t happen to women like me. I was educated, had a great job, and a “head on my shoulders.” This happened to weak women, not women like me. For two weeks, I avoided his phone calls. Finally, my sister asked what was wrong with me and why I wouldn’t take his calls. It took everything in me to tell her that he hit me.
“What!” she said, jumping up from the bed. “I will fuck him up. Who the hell does he think he is putting his hands on you?”
Telling my sister made me feel worse because she is such a strong person and she wouldn’t dare let a man put his hands on her. I wish I could’ve fought back like she would have.
This event pressed on me so much that it began affecting me at work. I couldn’t concentrate and I couldn’t stop crying. Finally, I sought help through the employee assistance program at work.
I didn’t want to talk to the therapist, but I knew I needed help. The therapist, this elderly light brown skinned African American woman with a petit frame, cut right to the chase.
“He hit you once, you know he’ll hit you again,” she said matter of factly.
I shook my head. “Well, he said he’ll never hit me again and that he’s really sorry. I just won’t get on his nerves as much.” I don’t know why I was lying to myself because he slapped me two days before the Christmas incident, but he apologized and I went back to him. He said he’d never hit me again and I believed him. I felt very stupid when he hit me again on Christmas.
“Young lady, you’re playing a very dangerous game. You need to go down to 11th Street and get a protective order against him. He means you no good.”
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” I shot back.
The therapist shook her head. “I’ve seen this scenario play out a thousand times and it’s rarely a pleasant ending. Shalena, a man doesn’t just one day up and punch a woman in the face the way he hit you. There was a build-up. That punch was the manifestation of something that’s been brewing for a while.”
I knew exactly what she meant, but I said nothing. She was right. He would always put me down by saying that I’m ugly and that I would look better if I were light skinned. He always told me that he wanted a light skinned woman on his arm so other men would be jealous of him and gawk at her. He had me so messed up over not being light enough for him that I started hating on light skinned chicks. Although I had a good job and was making good money, he would always say that I could do better. He used to hide my car keys so I couldn’t leave him or drive home. He would become angry if I surfed the Internet at night because he thought I was cheating. He wanted me to come over to his place as soon as I got off of work—no stops in between. He hated when I attended political mixers and strongly discouraged me from supporting those kinds of events. He was also accusatory. In his mind, I was always cheating. He wanted me to be totally consumed with him and nothing else. He was always friendly and “affectionate” in front of his family and friends. To the outside world, it seemed as though I was the bitter girlfriend and he was the doting boyfriend because I’d always resist whenever he tried to playfully kiss me in front of his family. If his family knew the truth, they’d know that I was upset with him because he shoved me or disrespected me in some way the day before. I began to notice that he was only violent and verbally abusive behind closed doors.
“Why do I keep going back to him?” I burst out in sobs during my session with the therapist.
Handing me a Kleenex, the therapist said, “It’s because you’ve seen this behavior before.”
She was right, my father used to beat the crap out of my mother and she’d always take him back. I had no idea that I was repeating what I witnessed as a little girl. I was repeating this vicious cycle and I didn’t even know it.
“Honey, you have to save your life. You have to get out of this relationship. If a man truly loves you, he won’t hit you.”
My sessions soon ended with the therapist and I eventually found the courage to sever all ties with my boyfriend. I realized that he had a problem and that I didn’t have to feel guilty for what he did to me. It took me some time to heal spiritually, but I got myself together.
From this experience, I’ve learned that iclereal men don’t hit women. I also learned that physical abuse almost always starts with verbal and mental abuse. Sometimes, those are the worst forms of abuse because they mess with your mind and your self esteem. Those kinds of relationships are toxic and deadly. I also learned that physical abuse does not have a face, color, or socioeconomic status. Any woman can fall victim to domestic violence. Many times, looking in from the outside, a woman can appear to have it all, but when she has low self esteem, she finds herself tolerating a lot of things that she wouldn’t normally tolerate if she thought more highly of herself. There are some women who only need a man to look as if he’ll hit her and she’s either busting him upside the head with a frying pan or calling the cops before she dumps his sorry behind. But when you find yourself tolerating the abuse, you really need to take inventory of your self esteem like I had to. After I got out of that relationship, I spent a lot of time building myself back up.
Ladies, we have to look into that D.I.V.A mirror and determine what we are worth and what we want in our lives. Remember, life will only give you what you demand of it.
Are or were you in an abusive relationship? Do you know anyone who is or was in an abusive relationship? What did you/they do? What lessons did you/they learn? Please share your story because you could help someone reading this blog. Your story could help set them free.
If you are in this situation, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224 (TTY)
Anonymous & Confidential Help 24/7. You can also visit the website at www.ndvh.org.
Also, if you know of any resources that someone in this situation can utilize, please list them.
P.S. Remember, everything has beauty—including YOU. It just takes a true D.I.V.A to see it!
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