The perfect metaphor for domestic violence: Abusers trying to slowly choke their victims to death, the victim determined to survive, and, with a little help from someone who cares, the hawk/survivor finds freedom and flies away! Awesome!!!
The reasons for abuse are almost always the same: abusers need to have power over someone else to help them feel better about their own deficiencies, low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.
"There Were Times I Wish He Would Hit Me..."
Thirty-five years ago today (at this time, in fact), I was burying my husband, Jack Cherry. He was killed in an off-shore accident in the Gulf of Mexico eleven days after he was hired by Tidewater, Inc. in Morgan City, LA. Upon hearing of his death, I became aware of what gravity was all about because I felt like I should be floating away.The last time I saw him, the sheriff's department was involved. He was in a rage and I knew I had to take the boys and go. Beyond that, I had known for some time that one of us was going to have to go PERMANENTLY. Now, with one phone call, I realized that the permanent fix I had hoped for had actually happened.
Immediately, I felt light and free and heavy and responsible, both feelings occurring at once. It was emotional whiplash, and I'm still, after all these years, able to recall exactly what it was like. I hated him AND I loved him AND I was terrorized by him AND we raised some beautiful gardens together. And we had created Jason together. All shades of gray; no black and white here.
Three weeks earlier, I tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of muscle relaxers my Ob/Gyn had prescribed for me to try to calm my "nerves." Jack found me out in the garden and held me down. He told me he was going to "watch me die." Then, out of the blue, my friend Mary Ann Toy came driving up and he jumped up and told her that they needed to get me to the hospital immediately. After drinking Ipecac Syrup and being interviewed by someone from Smoky Mountain Mental Health ("Why did you want to kill yourself?"), I was sent home, back to the intense terror that made my "nerves" so bad.
Suddenly, just like that, the source of my "nerve disorder" was gone. But what did that mean, exactly? How was I going to put these puzzle pieces together so I could make sense of everything that had happened? What part of this was my fault?The next few days were sharply clear, but they were also a blur. Jack had been extra-alive. He was the strongest and most physically-fit man I had even known. (One time, he walked on his hands a half a mile UP the mountain with absolutely no problem. I walked, on my feet, right beside him, in awe.) Now, he was dead. Cold and hard. Dead. Twenty-nine years old. How does someone as strong as Jack die? I had always thought that he would never/could never die, that nothing could touch him.
I got to meet with SC Gov. Nikki Haley and a diverse group of citizens from around the state who want to do whatever is necessary to stop violence against women and children (and men) in their state. She wants to work to create a "cultural shift" in the state rather than simply write/ pass new legislation. Wonderful!
and children in their communities live in such fear, as a matter of course, is something they find completely unacceptable, and they work their asses off to address it, to stand together as one and say No, and Hell No! to the violence. The survivors are wise beyond words, for they have been tested, and they have made it through. God and Goddess, it is so humbling to hear them, to witness their strength and their grace. I cannot thank you all enough for sharing your time, your stories, and your knowledge with me. I'll look back through the photos and be reminded of it all. My life has been made immeasurably richer because of each and every one of you. 2015 is upon us. In 365 days, what will we be writing about? Will we be calling attention to more division, more violence, more bigotry (and all the other isms), or will we be celebrating something new? I am no Pollyanna, but I must be hopeful for better times, better days, better and more respectful connections that take us to a safer, healthier, more loving place. Hatred kills. It destroys the opportunity for growth, for challenging our own preconceived notions about those who are not just like us. That, to me, is a form of death. I'm so grateful for every chance I have to learn something new from every person I meet. As my late (and beloved) aunt Alberta told me years ago: If you pay attention, darling, you'll meet a hero every day. She was right.So here's my wish to you all for 2015: Love, joy, warmth, security, laughter, tasty treats, good health, lots of time with Mother Nature to soothe your souls, great music and great books, and whatever makes you happy and helps you expand your horizons. I hope the next 365 days are wonderful for you in every way. Peace to us all.
Happy New Year!
I know you'll be reading many New Years wishes tonight and tomorrow. I hope that you're reading them in close proximity to those you love, admire, and feel safe with. Throughout the year (every night, it seems), I post stories about the darkest behavior man can conjure up. It breaks my heart to do it, but I cannot stick my head in the sand and expect things to ever change or get better, so I post. And post again. And again. I look forward to the day when I'll have to LOOK for those dark stories rather than have so many to choose from. Here's the other side of the coin, the silver lining to the storm cloud, as it were…..Throughout the year, I have stayed connected with old friends and made some new ones. My travels took me to places I've never been before and gave me a chance to meet all kinds of beautiful, determined advocate/hell-raisers who (also) refused to stick their heads in the sand. The notion that women
I was wrong.
Yesterday, I drove up to the graveyard where Jack is buried. I remembered it like it was just happening. Jason was 14 months old when his dad died. The day Jack was buried, Jason was dressed in a cute, striped playsuit with the number 1 on the front. Jack's dad, who had been MIA since Jack was ten years old, rode in the limousine with us. He seemed to be in a good mood, holding Jason and playing with him. To call it surreal would be a profound understatement.Jack was a Vietnam veteran/semi-survivor. The Marine Corp Color Guard was there to salute Jack's casket as it passed. I wept as I watched them. (I knew that Vietnam had been both a source of glory and a source of grief and terror to Jack.) Looking back, I wonder what it was about that "final salute" that broke my heart. I chose a message for the grave-marker that said "We'll always love you. Jason, Matt and Kit."
Domestic violence is a complicated thing. Abusers NEVER start out abusive. They want their prey to fall (hard) in love with them first. I fell (hard) in love with Jack. Then he became violent, controlling, physically and sexually abusive, and comfortable with blaming me for his choice to be/do all those things. My orientation to him, and to the world, was altered forever. Now, all these years later, I still wake up every morning and thank the Universe that I am free. There were times that I hated Jack, before he died and after, but now I have come to realize that it was not HIM I hated, but the things he did AND the life experiences he had that turned him into what he became.
I am happy that, for close to thirty years now, I have had the privilege of working with other women and children who have experienced domestic violence. Being a victim of domestic violence DOES NOT mean we have a character flaw. It means that we believed what had been presented to us, and it means that we were following the social cues and dictates girls and women (often) grow up with.When I listen to battered women today, I am struck by what has changed and what has NOT changed. Society STILL blames women for being beaten up or raped, which is bizarre in the extreme. By blaming them, society is sending the message to the abuser that his behavior is NOT his responsibility, which makes no sense AT ALL.
The abuser commits the crime and the State and society drives the get-away car. I have also been thinking about what might be called Male Liberation. Many men are still so heavily socialized to be aggressive, "strong", in control, stoic, misogynistic, homophobic and one-dimensional. Many of them are either happy or pissed off. What if more men stood up to society and declared that they are more complex than they are "allowed" to be? Why do men have to bond only through some kind of battle? What if men like Jack had been able to be more fully human, rather than just intensely all-male? Perhaps he would not have been so driven, so lost, so furious, so determined to work out his rage on women. I'll never know the answer to that, but I feel determined, every day, to do my part to make the world the kind of place where women and men can be the complex human beings they are. I think that will lead to greater acceptance between the sexes, more appreciation for strengths and weaknesses, and a capacity to see each other first as human beings and second as whatever our sex organs tells society we are (or vice versa).
And tomorrow, I will wake up and again thank the Universe that I am free.
Very powerful op-ed. The exact same thing could be said about the battered women's movement. Battered women (survivors) are (all too often) props for fundraising initiatives with the majority of the money going to pay the executives rather than provide direct services to women and children in desperate need.
"As I Lay Dying..."
Kit and her son, Jason at the Asheville Premier of Private Violence