My heart is hurting for Jai, the man who lost his friend to an abuser she once trusted and loved, and also for Jai, the little boy who watched his mother, his brother, and himself suffer at the hands of another abuser. I don't know if his mother is still with us, but wherever she is, she must be fiercely proud of the man Jai is today.
So I watched that video, and thought about Jai's friend, Heather, and I remembered Patrick Stewart's eloquent discussion about the legacy of domestic violence.
And I thought about Dawn.
She worked for me years ago, when I was (as I like to say) "doing time in retail". I was not long out of college and not sure what I wanted to do but there were student loans to pay back and it was a job. I managed a small store for a small chain retailer who has since been sold off to some other larger retailer. I had a cadre of young mostly women, mostly twenty-something, with boyfriends and fiances and an occasional wedding to same occurring.
Dawn "had" to get married. She found herself pregnant and they decided to do "the right thing". It ended up being the wrong thing for Dawn.
There were bruises on her arms. Her legs. A black eye once. She tripped a lot. She was clumsy. He hit her, but it was an accident. She made him mad by doing something stupid and he didn't realize that he'd hurt her. It happened over and over and we all just shook our heads and told her she should leave him. Then she called out from work one day, and came in a few days later swollen and blackened and virtually unrecognizable. He'd beaten her across the face with a hair dryer. They separated after that, and went into counseling. She went back to him, and shortly after that she stopped working for me. I don't know where she is now.
Or if she is now.
Another of my former coworkers had to deal with abuse as well - her spouse didn't hit as much but he screamed and threatened and stalked her and accused her of wild things to the point that she was a wreck over it, all the time. I heard via a mutual friend of ours a few years after I left the company that she was finally divorcing the guy. She'd come home one night to find her husband holding a gun. He kept her at gunpoint all night, screaming about all of her supposed transgressions, threatening her and anyone she loved because he knew they were all coming between them.
I'm guessing that was a long night. And I'm sure she's a thousand times more glad than I am that she made it through, and made it through the divorce afterward. She's in a stable relationship now, with a child of her own and a good career and a lot of love that's helped her heal. But I know she still bears the scars.
I want to go back and shake my twenty-something self and say "Why didn't you do more! Why didn't you stop them from going back? Why? Why???" I don't really know what I could have done. But I should have tried. I should have tried more.
I know every one of you out there has a story. Maybe it's your own, maybe it's someone you know. A woman. A child. A man, sometimes. Domestic abuse doesn't care who it hurts. Or how long it hurts them for.
Here's what you can do:
- Call your local women's shelter. They need more than just money. They take donations of food, clothing, toiletries, books, and old cell phones.
- Offer to volunteer your time there. They need people who can provide rides to women who need to go to court appointments, lawyer appointments, doctor appointments, or to visit family members.
- Donate to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, The National Network To End Domestic Violence or any one of these listed domestic services providers.
We can all find a way to try more.