Some things are not meant to be kept as secrets. Everyone knows that I am a talker, however I am equally a great listener and confidante. If you share something with me and ask me to keep it private, I most certainly will. While I do not dispense unsolicited advice, should you share a secret with me you most certainly will hear my perspective before I shut my mouth.
Domestic violence is one secret that I will not be keeping a secret or shutting my mouth about.
Since childhood and for the last time in my 40’s, I was the target of domestic violence in its various forms. Yes, you read that correctly. Domestic violence is not restricted to men beating women, granted the most reported cases are in fact the ones with men as the perpetrators of violence. Women, however, inflict physical (and emotional) harm on their male partners. They also physically and emotionally harm and scar their children. If we should meet one day, I will show you the scars on my body that were left by my now deceased mother.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October is observed as Breast Cancer Awareness month and those who are active participants in the various events, etc wear pink. Another colour is also prominent for this month as well. Purple. It is the colour worn by those observing National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
As a survivor and “thriver” of domestic violence – at the hands of a parent and intimate partners – it would be remiss of me to let this month end without some reference to it. My attention to National Domestic Violence Awareness Month will be somewhat different though. Being focussed as I am on finding solutions and not merely gazing at the past, living in bitterness and regret and pointing fingers, while I am concerned about:
- the seeming rising in tide of misogyny around the world and the attendant violence being inflicted on women in their homes
- the increased reports of women inflicting harm on members of their families, including male spouses
- domestic violence in same-sex relationships
what I am sharing today is a story of healing. This story was first published on my former blog home (at Blogger) and with some edits and revision, I am recycling here today. You are invited to read it not as an apology for those who are causing harm, male or female, in their homes but as a window into what Love can do. It is a story about a time in my life when I was in the troughs of domestic violence and how a glimmer of hope shone through – one that a couple of decades later would result in a great healing. Here is my story:
A Man Who Loved To Beat
My first husband loved the feel of his hands. He especially loved how they felt on me.
The last beating I received from him landed me in an emergency room. It was the last time a man or anyone for that matter would lay a hand on me.
He is a very tall man, my first husband. Large in stature and in personality. Intelligent and charismatic but with his partners, he did not understand that gentleness is strength. His perception was that a woman like me was best “controlled” with the fist. Little did he know that his mouth would and had done a better job of taming me, at least temporarily.
No, I am not talking about oral sex. That can be the topic of another post.
This man was eloquent when he wanted to impress someone. When we were courting, where we lived did not have the amenities of Western societies. As such, coffee shops, fine dining establishments, movie theaters and the places that courtship might occur in other countries were either too expensive for our budget, needed reservations well in advance or we would be too “strange-looking” in them.
We talked a lot. Our political views were very similar and so that formed the basis of many of our conversations. However, it was another use of his mouth that moved me and showed me a level of gentleness in him that was never displayed.
The Window Of Gentleness
Soon after our daughter was born, I was having major difficulties with breastfeeding her. Obviously I was not following the instructions as it could not have been that my nipples were just too small or big or something why this child refused to feed!
After a few weeks of trying and failing, my nipples and in fact my entire breasts were inflamed. The darn pump that a friend loaned me was barely able to suction a tablespoon. Using it made me cry for mercy and asked to be punished in some other way. I soon gave up on the idea of breastfeeding or using the pump but my breasts kept swelling.
One night, they got so huge, the skin stretched to bursting point, shiny and fire hot. I swore they were either going to erupt or I would take a knife and cut them off! The screaming baby was beside me on the bed, possibly hungry but I was in too much pain physically and emotionally to do more than put a bottle of formula in her mouth.
“What’s wrong?” he said to me, coming into our little studio apartment and finding me curled into a tight ball on the bed with a pillow over my face to muffle my screams.
“My breasts are worse and I think I’m going to die!” I responded or something to that effect was all I could muster.
This man, who a few weeks before had slapped me senseless, went and got warm water and something else – what I am not sure. He knelt at the side of the bed, removed my blouse, spread a towel on me and washed then massaged my watermelon-sized breasts.
Weeping cannot begin to describe my reaction to this demonstration of tenderness. Hysterically happy, thankful and totally blown away would aptly describe my responses when I felt his mouth against my breast.
It lasted maybe 10 minutes but they were some of the sweetest minutes of my life.
The lion, my husband, the wife-beater of a man, sucked enough milk from my breast to ease the debilitating pain and the agony that I was undergoing. Never mind that it was the last moment of gentleness I would experience at his hand – one that was pure, unmotivated by sex.
In life we get moments and from those moments our memories come. In later years, after the bitterness of our divorce had subsided, memories of those 10 minutes would always leave me subdued and glowing. That was exactly what he always wanted – to tame me, to lessen my admittedly aggressive nature, wary of men and marriage. He never did understand that the definition of gentleness would have taught him how to go about it and what to expect:
- Considerate or kindly in disposition; amiable and tender.
- Not harsh or severe; mild and soft: a gentle scolding; a gentle tapping at the window.
- Easily managed or handled; docile: a gentle horse. (Source: The Free Dictionary)
Many people resort to domestic violence to control their partners and/or children. They are themselves out of control and out of touch with their own emotions. They might have witnessed domestic violence growing up or were targets of violent acts. No one taught, showed or modelled for them a gentler, kinder and loving way of being.
This year, as we observe National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, let us in all our reporting of statistics also report about those who have learned and adapted a different way of being family, lover and friend. Share your stories, as I did, of change, hope and love – no matter whether it lasted for 10-minutes or a lifetime.
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Be blessed and be a blessing today!