“Where are you going to go, huh? No one’s going to help you. No one cares to help you.”
I did everything I could to suppress my sadness and stifle my tears. I couldn’t let him see me cry. He didn’t deserve to see me cry.
But once he walked away, all bets were off. The tears that had been blurring my vision came pouring out.
How did we get here? How the hell did we get here?
I had been asking this question for 10 years now. Ten long and painful years. And after crying for another hour, I came to the same conclusion: I don’t know. I just don’t know.
I fumbled for my cell phone in the darkness, and stumbled out of the bedroom towards the bathroom mirror to face the truth. To face my face.
Through my right eye, I could make out a gash across my nose. I could see the puffiness above my brow bone, beneath the eyelid and across my cheek, and I could see colors. Shades of red and eggplant, burgundy and black. But I wasn’t able to make out the true extent of “the damage” until the swelling went down. Until the bloody bruise encasing my left eye began to heal. And by then, apologies would be exchanged, and the “whys” and “hows” would slowly become insignificant again.
What matters is tomorrow. I can only look towards tomorrow.
The truth of the matter is that when we first met, our tomorrows looked very bright. Sure, we were young and stupid — naive high school sweethearts who were reckless, rebellious, and in love — but we found hope in each other’s arms. There was happiness. There was promise and potential. And there was love. But then things happened. Life happened. Sh*t happened. Before I knew it, the sweet little boy I had met in 7thh grade was an alcoholic.
A full-blown alcoholic.
And when that boy — now my husband — drank, he became violent. He has hit me, slapped me, punched me, and kicked me. He has pushed me, poked me, choked me, and once, even held my head beneath shallow water.
That’s right. He tried to drown me in our porcelain bathtub.
Make no mistake, I know this isn’t right. I know this behavior is not normal. This wasn’t the boy I once knew. This wasn’t the same person I fell in love with. These weren’t the eyes that I looked into when I said “I do.”
Could I walk away from him now? Should I? And even if I did, where would I go? Who would hear me, and help me? Would anyone believe me?
To make matters worse, I believed his alcoholism was my fault. I believed his actions were my fault. And I believed that I deserved it.
Somehow, I deserved to be abused.
So I stayed. For an entire decade, I stayed. But then one night — after many years, and countless drinks, and more black eyes and bruises than I can recall — I decided I had enough.
I hid in an alley all alone, in high heels and an above-knee cocktail dress.
Thankfully, I had a few good friends who “answered the call.” I was able to get out, and get away. But not everyone is as fortunate as I was that night. Many women, mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives do not have a safety net, or don’t realize it. And that is where shelters come in. That is where help lines and hotlines come in. That is where the Office of Violence of Women comes in (indirectly, of course).
You see, the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) was formed in 1995 to help reduce violence against women. How? By distributing funds to states, municipalities, nonprofits, and other organizations that, according to its website, “develop effective responses to violence against women through activities … includ[ing] direct services, crisis intervention, transitional housing, legal assistance to victims, court improvement, and training for law enforcement and courts.”
What’s more, those who receive funding work with “specific populations such as elders, persons with disabilities, college students, teens, and culturally and linguistically specific populations.”
Well, maybe not. According to the current administration, funding for this program and office is no longer a priority, but a waste of both money and resources. In fact, it’s one of the 17 federal agencies that Trump plans to cut — along with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. But exactly how much money is being wasted by funding the OVW? According to Time magazine, each American spends $1.48 on this program annually.
One dollar and forty-eight cents.
And while I know this is hardly the time for levity and games, I want you to do me a favor. Look at the woman on your right. See her? OK, good. Now look at the woman on your left. Now turn and find just one more woman. Maybe it’s a mother walking her child to school or a senior citizen who is shopping in front of you. Hell, look in the mirror and face yourself.
Now, try and figure out which of these women have been abused. Which one has been beat, hit, strangled, punched, and choked. Because statistically, one of these women is the victim of domestic violence. Just like me.
Now look her in the eye and tell her she’s not worth it. Tell me that I’m not worth $1.48.
No, probably not. Because you are human. Because you have empathy. And because you are conscious that every person is worth it.
Every woman is worth it.