There's a lens and stigma that separate us from domestic abuse. Maybe it's the word "domestic" which implies 'private' which implies 'not my business', 'too much trouble here', 'walk away'..
You get an uneasy feeling in your stomach when you hear shouting and crashes and bangs coming from the house next door. Something breaks, someone screams, a door slams. Part of you knows, part of you pretends not to.
Most of the time we turn the music up and look the other way. I know I did when I heard it in the hallway outside my tiny Danforth apartment in Toronto. I was 21 and I looked out the peephole to see a man shove his girlfriend into the wall and leave her a crying heap. I didn't go outside. I didn't call for help. I was scared and I didn't want to get involved. (And I notice I've already made 2 excuses for not doing anything in this very paragraph).
You see a ‘domestic’ in a department store, share an eyebrow raising glance with a stranger and walk in the other direction. We use it as a joke: "don't have domestic!", "they're having a domestic".
Years later I secretly hoped that my neighbours would react to the same sounds of a 'domestic' and come bursting through my front door when they heard screaming, when they heard the Turkish chandelier smashing to a thousand pieces on the floor. When they heard the bathroom door I was hiding behind broken down. I wished somebody would come.
Domestic abuse. Domestic violence. Domestic bullying. One person having such a profoundly heavy effect on another person that it changes them forever, is something that we need to talk about. These are not just stories for inspirational movies and autobiographies for us to make heroes of ourselves and each other in hindsight. People live this reality everyday and they live behind the shadow of the fear and stigma that goes with it. This is the first thing I have publicly shared about this because I didn't want to be filtered because of the choices I didn't meant to make.
What do you mean you were locked out of your own car in the desert? What do you mean he put his hands around your neck? What do you mean he gave you a bloody knee? What do you mean there's broken furniture everywhere? What do you mean? [by telling me this]
These things live so far under a rock in a society we never fully acknowledge they are there. But this is where our heroes and movies come from. They’re based in realities of people who live with abuse and bullying on a daily basis and never really know how to talk about it because of the weight of that rock. Because in the end it’s always a reflection of themselves, not the other party who continues to walk and survive and function and succeed in society. Unjudged.
Being in that kind of relationship you've got so many different versions of desperation. There’s a desperation to get away and a desperation to go back and make it work. There’s a desperation to look into your lover’s eyes and see love that’ll make them drop to their knees.
But the reality is that when someone is caught up in a system of self validation through violence and belitting of another person, it has nothing to do with you, and the lens and the rock and all these metaphors for whatever it is that distances us from these truths, needs to be lifted.
Domestic abuse is not just a black eye like the posters show you. It’s not just cuts and bruises. It’s not just a Rihanna courtcase tragedy song. Domestic abuse is being told that you’re shit. Being called names. Being judged. Being belitted and berated. Being treated like a princess in public and emotionaly tortured in private. Domestic abuse is being threatened to be hit in the face with a wooden bat on your birthday. "Domestic abuse [...] is the systematic suffocation of another person's spirit" (Joanna Hunter).
And not understanding is not, not acknowledging.
"But why did you stay?"
Nobody wants to admit love in hindsight.
Nobody wants to admit weakness in hindsight.
Nobody wants to admit. In hindsight.
This is not a cry for attention or help. I have already fought my battles and I have won. I say that with utmost pride and triumph. I'm not a victim, I'm not a survivor, I don't want to be anybody's hero but my own. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And if we can apply that to bullying in schools, or to saving someone from a burning building, then we should be applying that to saving someone from a situation of domestic bullying, violence and abuse.
So make some space for the people that hurt in silence behind closed doors. Leave a seat for them to come sit in when they're strong and ready. Or better yet, go sit next to them and make a case for domestic abuse. Lift the stigma, lift the rock, light the shadow. What we don't talk about, doesn't matter.