“But he said he loved me.” “He really didn’t mean it.” “He was just mad” “He only said that in anger”.. all these phrases are commonly used in masking domestic violence. Domestic violence comes in many forms such as physical, emotional, sexual, psychological, and even financial. October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness month and for many it hits close to home. Way closer to home than some are willing to admit. For me, it would hit home in so many ways that even if I wanted to ignore it I longer could.
Domestic violence at times is hard to recognize because every situation is different or so I thought. It would be an encounter with a stranger in the cosmetic aisle that would make me realize that although every situation is different, the coping mechanisms are very similar. I had just gotten into a verbal fight with a boyfriend at the time that left me feeling some type of way. The harsh words spewed out of his mouth like sharp two sided daggers that left me shook and emotionally crippled. I looked myself in the mirror and questioned if everything that he said to me was true. As tears rolled down my face I thought to myself “You know what, we both said some things we didn’t mean, we’ll get past this.” I decided to try to shake those words off of me as I had been made to do countless times before.
I thought a little retail therapy would suffice, I knew it would make me feel better. I told myself that getting dressed up and spending some time out for the night would help me shake the situation. So, I got myself together and went looking for the “perfect outfit” to slip on and drown my emotional scars in the bottom of a glass of wine, maybe even a bottle, who knew at that point. I walked in the store trying to force a fake smile if anyone looked at me like pretending life was so amazing. Because after all, I didn’t need any help right? This was just another fight we’d just get over. Or better yet that I’d get over. Because, he loved me. He didn’t mean what he said. I somehow convinced myself that this was normal. That everyone went through these type of things behind closed doors. Maybe I was overreacting, maybe I said too much that triggered him, maybe this was my fault.
I walked in the store and browsed around looking for that perfect dress to put on to make him second guess everything he said and reassure myself nothing that he said was true and again, he knew he didn’t mean that, he loved me, there was NO way he couldn’t see what I felt. Because truth be told I was LIT. I was amazing. And it was a privilege to have access to MY life. Right? I wanted to him to see what I felt when I wasn’t emotionally and psychologically imprisoned. Like Lizzo said, “I just took a DNA test and turns out…” well, you know the rest. I decided after finding the right dress I was going all out, I was buying new everything makeup included. I walked into the cosmetic aisle and this was the defining moment that I knew after this encounter I could never go back.
I stood side by side next to a woman who was also looking for makeup. Different situations. Same coping mechanism. I will call her “Beth” as I never got her the courage to ask her name. “Beth” was noticeably a couple of shades lighter than me. But somehow we both reached for the same foundation at the same time creating this unforgettable moment for me. “Sorry” as I managed to get a chuckle out as I really wanted to scream HUG ME! I didn’t even care who hugged me at that point. “Beth” looked at me and asked “Do you think this one has maximum coverage?” I really hadn’t even looked at her fully as I was in my own head, in my own situation. For a split second I thought “any foundation will cover acne, so why are you asking ME?” I kind of rolled my eyes until she took off her sunglasses. I never second guessed why she had on sunglasses in the store because I tend to wear glasses in the store too. But, “Beth” was trying to cover a black and bruised eye.
My heart kind of dropped to the floor. At that moment I felt like my situation didn’t even compare. I didn’t know why she had a black eye but I tried to help her anyway. Holding up different shades to her skin as she put her glasses back on. “Um what about this?” I asked. Tears rolled down her face and she replied “Thanks. I normally don’t wear makeup.” It was an awkward silence for a second and she followed up with “Men suck right?”. I knew at that moment that she was in this aisle trying to cover up her wounds just like me. Except her wounds were visible and mine were internal. Different situations. Same coping mechanisms. I said “yeah, they are definitely pieces of work.” I didn’t know WHAT to say! She grabbed the foundation, thanked me, and walked out of the aisle. But, before she completely left the aisle her phone rang. I’m assuming it was her mom or maybe a friend, she answered the phone and said “I can’t do this anymore. He has put his hands on me for the last time. I don’t deserve this. I’m in this store looking for makeup I don’t even wear!”
Little did she know “Beth” set alarms off in my head and in my heart. I was at the right place at the right time for a life changing AHA moment. If SHE could have enough courage to walk away from someone who threatened her well being, then what the hell was I doing trying to justify staying in relationship that threatened mine? I knew it wouldn’t be easy to walk away because I thought I loved him. I thought I NEEDED him. But, deep down I knew LOVE didn’t feel this way, even in anger. From that day forward I made two vows. #1. Never make ANYONE see my worth. #2. Never stay in a situation where it costs my peace because it was too expensive to try to afford. I didn’t leave that same day or even that same month. I had to break so many ties to be free but I knew that everyday would become easier because I made up my mind that because of Beth I knew if I made the decision to walk away I wasn’t alone.
To the endurers of domestic violence in any form: May you always remember that YOU are not alone. May you always remember that YOU ARE ENOUGH and anyone who threatens that mindset has to be removed, may you get tired of justifying damaging mistreatment and mask it by labeling it love. May everyday you get up, you make small steps in equipping yourself closer to gaining strength enough to walk away.
To the survivors of domestic violence in any form: May you never look back, may you never convince yourself it was YOU. May you always stay strong enough to stay away from debilitating situations in your life when it comes to love and relationships. May YOU be the “Beth” in someone else’s life that needs to see it can be done. May you someday be bold enough to share your story because someone DOES need it.
To the friends and family members of domestic violence victims in any form: May you never tire of validating the dignity, worth, and potential of the victim. May you always remember you can not save the victim but you can “ready” them with tools to save themselves. May you always be the constant in the victim’s life. And most importantly, may you always remind the victim that the abuser no matter what form, embodies behavior that is no one else’s fault or responsibility.
“One in three women may suffer from abuse and violence in her lifetime. This is an appalling human rights violation, yet it remains one of the invisible and under-recognized pandemics of our time. ” – Nicole Kidman