One of my first memories is sitting in the backseat of the car, my mother behind the wheel, the sun shining through the windshield as she drove…and his fist slamming into her jaw. It’s burned in me as if I am the one that received the blow. I don’t know what it feels like for a man to lose control and take his rage out on me. I don’t know what it feels like to be beaten night after night for the simple reason of because he can but I know the fear of it. I know my fear for her.
I don’t remember any other aspect of their relationship. In a blink of an eye he was there and then he wasn’t. A child’s memory. I don’t know how long that it really lasted in the grand scheme of things but that moment – that moment lives on in me every single day. Her experience was my lesson learned.
I never have allowed a man to hit me. I’ve never been in a situation where one could even pretend that the act could be justified. Oh, you’re getting upset? Let me just clam up and walk away. Silence and disappearance from someone’s life can leave a lasting effect. I learned early on from my mother that that kind of thing is just not acceptable and you know why? Not because she took it but because she walked away.
Fast forward in time, I witnessed another man try it. Another man got so out of his body that his go-to reaction was to put his hands on my mother. I remembered the helplessness that I had felt as a toddler when I’d seen her get punched in the face while driving like none of our lives mattered. I remembered thinking FUCK THAT I’m not a baby anymore. She will never have to endure that again.
I picked up a bat.
My aunt stopped me.
Throughout the years I continued to watch my mom and her relationships. No more fist fights but definitely fights. Definitely third parties to her relationships that she stuck around for. Kids produced during her marriage. Standing by and just taking it all. As an adult I can’t imagine acceptance of it but my next steps in my life were replications.
I was 19 years old. First real boyfriend since prior to I was not actually allowed to date. Completely head over heels because I had never known anything personally to equate it to. I took so much away from the relationship. One being that a man will test you (if that is the type of man that he is) to see what you will accept. He grabbed me one time and when I tell you that all of those childhood memories of what I had seen fell upon me! “If you ever put your hands on me one of us is going to jail and one will be dead!” The response was of shock and of fear and a promise that he would never put his hands on me. It never happened again.
What did happen was mental abuse. You see, as a child I didn’t understand that there was another layer. I didn’t know that there were variants in how someone can dominate and abuse you. I only understood that physical abuse was a big no.
What I experienced was a person coming in and climbing so far into who I was that I had no idea who I was without him. He separated me from my family and friends and it was sugar coated with wanting to spend more and more time together. It transformed into needing to know where I was at all times, checking my phone and social media, taking my car and transporting me from my home (or his) to my job. It was staged arguments and lies in order to push me away just long enough to step out with other women and make up soon after with me completely unaware of their existence.
“Has he hit you?” Was a question that I received from a girl that at the time I had come to hate because of whom he had drawn her out to be whereas now she is someone I’ve come to love as a sister. “He ever put his hands on you? You’re the only girl he dated that he didn’t hit” from his friends. He didn’t hit me but he sure as hell damaged me. He secluded me, he alienated me, we had two miscarriages, he had a baby with another woman that I only found out about after he was born, and still year after year I stuck with him.
You don’t have to stay in a bad relationship…I stayed until he took his life. I stayed for years after locked into his last wishes to make sure that his son by another woman grew up right. I stayed because I didn’t recognize that abuse was abuse. I hadn’t learned from my mother to walk away because I didn’t understand or feel strong enough to walk away from this because he hadn’t hit me. SHE only walked away when they hit her.
This is tolerable.
My last boyfriend…I swear I dated the same man in a different body. He picked up where the first one had left off. You see, they come in and they are so wonderful to you, they say all of the right things, they’ve got this crazy sex appeal…and baby mommas, side chicks, no job – things that are clear red flags but it’s acceptable because they have all of this time to give you the attention that you so desperately desire and when you’re already damaged you start accepting things you otherwise would not.
Bae, you look good don’t get me wrong but if you was thick like these other girls out here you’d be bad as hell.
Who are you going to believe, me or her? I’m your friend! You barely know her.
We broke up this one time (because we were forever breaking up and getting back together) and he needed to get his things out of my apartment. My mom had told me to call my uncle or someone to be there when he came and I had dismissed it because I knew him. I didn’t need back up for him to move the hell out.
Rape is this terrible dark and ugly word that no one likes to use. We don’t like to make it real. Victims try to water it down because somehow we internalize it and try to make it our faults in some shape or form. I should have listened to my mother. He also should have listened to me when I said no, stop, get off of me, leave me alone…to the physical cues of me trying to fight a six foot plus muscle bound mass off of me…to the eventual evacuation of my soul through my clouded over tear blurred eyes as I just waited for it to be over…
One of my best friends lived within walking distance at the time. I couldn’t articulate what had happened but she felt it. She rushed over and I cried into her shoulder until there was nothing left. There was nothing left.
I felt like I raped you was the beginning of the apology via text the next day. I’m sorry.
This was a man that was quick to anger, had admittedly struck his exes but not me, had been accused of going too far sexually with other women during our on and off again relationship but because it hadn’t happened between us I had told myself that it never would. It must have been a misunderstanding or something they had done that had provoked these actions. Just like a woman to blame another woman and excuse a man.
We did the song and dance for a few more years under the guise of just being friends because in your youth apologies are truth and his fear of losing you is so strong that it must equate to love. I still hadn’t learned to walk away because, ladies and gentleman, just because you see it sometimes you still have to go through it. Otherwise it is just a fable.
My mother tried so many times over the years to force me to leave this guy in the past. The thing of it is that only made me cling tighter to him. She could see what I couldn’t but she couldn’t see that if she had just loosened her grip on me that maybe he would have done the same.
I always talk about cycles. We will repeat a lesson, walk a repeated path, until we learn what we are meant to learn. A quote from my great grandfather was once you end a relationship do not take him back because once you do you will remember why you left. These two horrible relationships — I kept taking them back. They kept repeating the same behaviors. I’d constantly relive the same pain.
If you get a cut and it heals the spot may remain a bit tender. Why would you keep cutting that same spot? It hurts worse and worse every time especially if you never allowed it to properly heal.
You’re not done yet. You will KNOW when you are done.
He was in jail. How you keep up relationships with multiple women under those conditions I don’t know but he was managing it. Women that were getting pregnant and miscarrying and at least one baby alive and well right before I finally left the state. God will sometimes move you away from the things that are only meant to hurt you because if he does not create that distance you will never escape it.
You have to pay for calls with inmates. You only get x-amount of time to say what you need to say. I talked for about an hour and for the first time in four years he was forced to listen. Listen to me cry. Listen to my pain. Listen to all of the things I had sacrificed for him while throwing it in my face that I was never good enough. He had to call back every ten minutes for an hour until I was done and I cried through it all because this man was the reincarnation of the first that I could never escape.
I said it with such finality. Probably the only sentence that I hadn’t cried through. Probably the first time I had truly understood what it meant to walk away. To disconnect. To break the cycle.
He sent letters to no response. He called repeatedly to no response. His mother contacted me to let me know when he was released. Praise God I replied to her. I’ve had not contact with him since.
I do not understand letting some man (or woman because we can be abusers too) pound on you day in and day out but I can understand how a person can get there. Maybe it progresses because no person walks into your life with his fist drawn back and you’re oh baby oh baby in love.
What we teach our children is important. What they watch us do will attach to them. What we tolerate they will tolerate and what we won’t they won’t. Talk to your children – teenage years on up – have the uncomfortable conversations and be transparent so they don’t have to go through it but let them make mistakes. Be the example because no matter what you are whether you acknowledge it or not and when they do make their mistakes know that they are not yours. Just be present.
We are still queens and no one can force us to abdicate our thrones.
Pick your crown back up.
And you know what?
My mother taught me that.