Recently there was a report being circulated about a prominent celebrity chef who appeared to be involved in some kind of domestic abuse situation. Someone had the gall to take pictures and others had the gall to publish them. Where were the people who should have stepped in and said to the abuser that that kind of behavior is utterly and completely unacceptable! I don’t care if you’re a celebrity or if you’re a beggar, no-one should have to be subjected to abuse, let alone have an audience to a deeply traumatic experience.
I was devastated that the pictures published included some of the distraught victim crying and walking to her car. Where is common decency? Why are we enabling this behavior by using it as fodder for print, or gossip, or someone else’s fifteen minutes of fame? Why was no-one running to her aid at the very time this incident was taking place?
I have been at the receiving end of abuse on many levels in my life. Many of them over a prolonged period and some fleeting, and yet, each just as damaging and soul-crushing as the other. I cannot begin to form into words the slow and excruciating stripping away of one’s dignity, self-worth, and joy. I had reached out to many, on many occasions with the hope that one voice other than mine would say to my abuser, ‘This is not okay!’ I didn’t find it.
I remember one particular incident (of many), when I was being strangled to the point of blacking out. I managed to run to the phone and in my desperation I rang someone I knew who had bragged about putting an end to violence in someone else’s relationship. Surely this big, burly man who had done this for someone would do it for me, right? Wrong. I pleaded with him to tell my abuser to stop. That’s all he had to say. Just to make him know that someone would step up. His response: I don’t want to be involved. By that stage, the phone was yanked from it’s socket, I was being spun around the room by my hair and flung to the floor – my punishment for ‘making him look bad to others’. Minutes later I had a knife to my throat and warned that if I pulled a stunt like that again, I would be dead.
I am still healing. But I feel as keenly today the feeling of degradation and helplessness that I felt that day.
The idea that someone has gone through that trauma of anguish and sorrow so publicly makes me sick to my stomach. How can we call ourselves a civilized society and still stand aside and tolerate this abhorrent behavior? What will it take to move us to action?
I get that public awareness is a good thing. I just take issue with the fact that someone photographed an actual incident taking place and didn’t have the decency to step in. Am I wrong? Are we to just allow these things to happen before our very eyes and not say anything? Are we so concerned about how we will look, that we forget that what an abuser does is infinitely worse than being someone who ‘interferes’?
If I could have a moment with that woman, I would say to her that I can relate to the heart-wrenching battle she must be waging within herself. An interesting part of abuse is that it’s often the comfort of the abuser that is the most desired. Don’t ask me why. Maybe because you just want to believe that they ‘didn’t really mean it’, that ‘their love for you is still more powerful’ that ‘they must feel so horrible, I have to let them know I’ll be okay’. Mostly, I think it’s that you don’t want to believe it actually happened to you. Then there’s the other side of you that is incensed that they dared to do that to you! ‘Oh, you’re going to pay for this’ and maybe even ‘You hurt me, I’ll hurt you by leaving you’ but then your horrible little mind start to replay all your happy memories together and you ache because you love this person so much. Surely they didn’t plan on doing this, and now that they feel bad about it, who in their right mind would do that again to someone they love, right? But then…. and the battle rages on.
I know many people would say to leave, but it’s almost never that straight forward. There is a very real fear and danger. Also, you worry about the people around you, especially when children are involved. I know it sounds completely irrational, but you don’t want to cause them sorrow by taking them away from someone they love. After all, they don’t hurt the kids. The kids are safe. Right?
People are also under the misguided impression that the authorities are supportive of women in domestic violence situations. You’d be surprised to learn that most of them are indifferent at best. I once had the added trauma of being bounced between the police and the Chamber Magistrate because each insisted that it was the other’s jurisdiction. In the end, I was back with my abuser after being sweet-talked into believing that things would change for sure this time.
Current reports suggest that this celebrity is going to divorce her husband. There is speculation that if she doesn’t, it will hurt her career because she will be seen as a woman who tolerates this sort of behavior. Can you imagine the pressure? I wish there was some way I could say to her:
‘The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.’ ~ Caroline Myss
It’s a lesson I’m still trying to teach myself.
Before I finish this post, may ask that all of you who read this, please never stand aside and do nothing. You never know what your courage will do to change the life of another. It is always better to speak up. Always. You may never understand the value of your voice, but I assure you, all it takes is one.
I know that when Dr. Suess wrote The Lorax, he was addressing environmental issues, but a quote from that book is so relevant to my post today and I want to share it with you. Yes, you. And you may already know what it is, but read it again now as if for the first time, with the eyes and heart of someone who will never tolerate domestic abuse. Let it sink in.
And that’s all I have to say about that…