"Call—call the police!" I stammered through the phone tenuously gripped in my trembling hand. I was kneeling in my mother's living room in the midst of broken glass and a carpet stained with drops of blood—his blood. He had punched out the glass in the patio door and the panes in the living-room windows.
I had run out of the house before he could direct his rage at me. I knew the direction this nightmare was going. I had sprinted across the street, pounding on a neighbor's door, crying out for help. I had forgotten she was picking her kids up from school. Another neighbor simply ignored me and continued watering her plants as if a woman pounding a door in distress was a usual occurrence.
When he finally emerged from the house, I was still standing in my neighbor's front yard, my heart pounding, poised to run and scream. If he was going to hurt me, he'd have to catch me first. We stared at one another for an eternity. Then he got into his truck and took off.
I walked back into the house on legs that felt like water, shaking and terrified. I made the call to Mom at work and ended up on the phone with the sweet receptionist. In five minutes maybe, two Brandon police officers were taking my statement. I kept apologizing for the trouble I was causing them. One of them cut me off.
"Ma'am, you quit apologizing. You didn't cause this. He's gone domestic," he said. He didn't have to clarify anything for me. I knew what he meant. Both were astoundingly kind.
I had left my first husband three weeks before he ransacked my mother's house in a fit of rage. I had been staying with her and my stepfather. I had sneaked out in the middle of the night with my dog and a few garbage bags loaded only with what was essential. He was passed out. I was afraid to pack a suitcase. It might wake him, and I wasn't sure what he would do if he woke up to the sight of me leaving at 5 o'clock in the morning.
He had never hit me, but he had hit walls, and he had lunged at me too many times when I had accidentally wakened him. And, of course, there was the yelling. He had become too volatile. I no longer felt safe.
The police promptly arrested him, but his parents followed the squad car to the police station. He filled out his paperwork, and out the door he went.
I haven't revisited that memory in a long time. It took some time to get through the aftermath of the ex. I didn't sleep well for six months. I couldn't bring myself to date anyone for about a year and a half. I didn't trust myself not to get into another messy relationship. I tensed every time I saw a pair of headlights move past the window, and I kept my curtains pulled shut.
I remarried, this time to a good and gentle man who would never lay a hand on a woman. I still startle easily. If I don't hear you coming and you say "hello," I've been known to scream and jump back—even now, after all this time. I didn't get physically hurt, but what I experienced took a psychological toll. I was one of the lucky ones. I got out before he directed his rage at me.
I keep thinking about the women who weren't so lucky. I also think about the woman who just kept watering her plants while I was calling out for help.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. NCADV goes on to say that partners kill nearly one-third of female homicide victims reported in police records.
Abuse of women is all about control. Abusive partners often withhold money, threaten violence or suicide, belittle their partners in front of friends and family, and isolate partners from their families.
This week marks the eve of the sixth annual JFP Chick Ball. The money raised will go to the Center for Violence Prevention to establish a legal fund for women fleeing abuse. I dodged a bullet. So many other women didn't. I attend in honor of their memory. I hope I see you there.