When she decides to go…

A young woman that Lil Miss knows was beaten by her boyfriend this weekend. Lil Miss is very upset because her friend is doing everything in her power to protect the boyfriend. She didn’t call the police because she didn’t want him going to jail. She didn’t seek medical attention because the nurses and doctors are mandated reporters. She didn’t tell her friends and family right away because she was afraid of what they’d do to the boyfriend. Then she participated in hiding the boyfriend. According to Lil Miss, this girl’s face is demolished. She said that she’s sure the girl’s eye socket is broken. She said:

“Mom, he didn’t even try to hold back.”

The young woman is supposed to go to Las Vegas with Lil Miss this week. Her boyfriend didn’t want her to go. Nagging and pleading didn’t deter her from a couple of days with the girls so… He did this to stop her. Lil Miss says her friend is still going, but I’m skeptical. Her friend got the message: No, you stay home.

I didn’t have to tell her that her friend would ultimately have to determine her own fate. Being in a relationship with a domestic abuser isn’t as simple as folks who’ve never been there seem to think. Especially if the abuse is normalized by family history and attitudes. It takes a serious catalyst to convince a victim to leave her abuser. This girl has already decided this was her fault and she’s already forgiven him. And so will begin the honeymoon period. And ’round and ’round they’ll go.

I was raised around domestic abuse. I honestly believed it was a normal part of life until I was forced into counseling. I believed that no family could be as calm as those mofos showed on tv. My mother regularly got beat in front of us, she and my brother would regularly beat me and then I met men who took the role over from them. My mother encouraged one of my boyfriends to “just beat the shit out of her”. I’ve never been submissive enough to be able to hide these kinds of things like other people I knew1. It’s often been noted by some members of my family that I can “take a hit like a man” – as a point of pride.

I didn’t think anything was wrong until well after Lil Miss was born. Then I learned that people who love each other normally don’t beat each other’s head off a wall. It’s not just a “family matter”2, but a family curse. When our daughters watch the women get beat then the daughters become victims and when our sons see it they become the perpetrators. I didn’t want that for her. I didn’t think I was showing her that this was ok. A seed was planted. The next time he hit me I thought she’d seen it. She was in the house and I thought she was at the top of the stairs3.

That was the last time I stayed in a domestic abuse situation. I went through therapy and even met some people who’d never experienced domestic violence in their lives. I spent 6.5 single as a result. If a man so much as looked at me with the slightest hostility I’d stop messing with him. Flat out. My catalyst to stopping the cycle of violence in my life was thinking that Lil Miss would be next in line. I wanted her to be stronger than me. For me, having boundaries is hard. I feel guilty and wrong so my boundaries are often fluid. Except in this case. I will not tolerate a man hitting me ever again.

But Lil Miss’s friend isn’t in that same frame of mind. She’s got no catalyst except for herself. Lil Miss wants to save her. I admire that. I’m very proud that she’s such a good friend to this young woman. She’s very protective of her friend. She told me “Mom, she’ll never be the same again. He blackened a part of her soul. She’ll always be afraid in the back of her mind. She’ll always blame herself.”

We’ve seen it so many times in our community. I don’t know if she started out relatively normal. From what I understand her mother just advised her to ice her face. I’m guessing she’s didn’t have an easy childhood. I imagine there was trauma growing up and so this is her normal (as it was mine). She has no idea that there are men out there who would rather walk away than hit someone they love. Lil Miss probably won’t be able to get through to her. And she’ll become just another woman who’s given up and pretends to be strong just so they can get out of bed every day.

He will charm her and convince her that he’ll calm down – maybe go to see an anger management counselor. He’ll promise to get better. He really loves her. Until she dares step out of line again. She got the message because she knew not to even seek medical attention even for herself. Lil Miss will continue to try to talk sense into her, until her friend cuts her out of her life. Because her friend loves her man in the only way she even knows how – by becoming what he wants and losing herself. She thinks she deserves it. She thinks that’s how love works. She thinks if she is just more reasonable then it won’t happen again. She knows better as she’s seen it played out in her life by her own people. But she’s hopeful. And that honeymoon period is going to rock her world. Until he does it again and the next honeymoon period is stale and he does it again and the next one after that is even staler… until she’s dead or maimed.

I told Lil Miss the best thing she can do right now is to just be there when her friend finally breaks free. But she’s got to do it herself. Maybe take her around people who have “normal” lives after they’ve left that cycle behind4. I have no idea. I had a combination of counseling and Lil Miss to catapult me away from the man who abused me. I had to choose for myself to get free. Then I called up the troops and away we went.

I hope her friend ends up ok. I’m sad that her friend will never look at love the same again.

I like geeky stuff, politics, squirrels and monkeys.

  1. My grandmothers told stories of getting beat too. It’s why my great-grandmother encouraged me to “Never get married. Keep all the bills in your name, Jennifer, and when you’re sick of him kick him out.” []
  2. This was back in the mid-90s. []
  3. She confessed she’d never seen him hit me, but she’d seen the aftermath. []
  4. Not me, thankyouverymuch. I am not ready to help guide someone else when I can’t even manage my own shit. []
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