Today, I had an unprecedented experience.
But in order to get to that, I must first rewind and tell you a little bit about myself.
It is funny how some things seem to work in synchronization.
Early this month I was wanting to talk a little bit about my past and how I suffered at the hands of Domestic Violence. Mostly because this is Domestic Violence awareness month. The thing was that I wasn't sure what to say or how to say it.
What happened today was the catalyst to my being able to express what I wanted to in the first place.
For 11 years I suffered, in silence, at the hands of Domestic Violence.
I lived with, and eventually married, a man that was abusive; mentally, emotionally and physically. He broke me down to a point where I was no longer able to recognize myself.
This was made worse by the fact that he was an MP (Military Policeman), so even if I wanted to complain to the authorities, I really had nowhere to turn. He had convinced his fellow soldiers that he was the prime example of a loving, caring and giving husband, but in all actuality, he was anything but.
The abuse started off verbally. He'd call me names, tell me how little I was worth, how ugly and fat I was, and how my family sucked too, so he was the best thing that had ever happened to me.
When it got to the point where he thought his words were ineffective, he started playing mental-emotional games with me. He'd tell me things like "So-and-so wants me. She thinks I'm hot and wants to have sex with me. Look at what you'll lose if you don't do what I tell you to do." Not exactly in those words, of course, but along those lines.
Eventually, my best was not enough. If he came home from work and saw so much as one dish in the sink he would flip shit. He'd start throwing things, yelling, pushing me and the kids around, calling us names, until things escalated to hitting me.
I worked a full-time job, had 4 kids (one disabled), 4 pets and kept my home in immaculate condition, mind you. All he did was come home from work and do absolutely nothing but get drunk off his ass.
In time, the abuse had grown to an irreparable level. The culmination of it was a treacherous encounter of a gun being waved in me, my daughter, my son's faces. All while threatening us that he would "kill us if he found out that we were doing him wrong".
It was on that day .... at that very moment, that I fled with my kids, the clothes on our backs and a clunky station wagon that scarcely had her barings.
I! LOST! EVERYTHING!
To add insult to injury, I was NEVER able to get counseling for the trauma I endured. Never. I could not afford it. So, I silently suffered the onslaught of emotions that came from the entire fiasco—and trust me when I tell you that there was a lot! Mostly, because my family simply did not understand, my children needed my support, and I had to press on, move on, no matter how much I was dying inside.
Fast forward 8 years later, and I've recently realized how I am still suffering from the unhealed mental-emotional scars that the abuse left behind. Scars that never got treated, and in some way, have spiritually rotted and grown infectious. Festered from the time spent open and oozing.
Every day I see how I involuntarily react to things very much in the way that untreated survivors of Domestic Violence would react. I promise you that it's not on purpose.
As a matter of fact, most people don't even realize it. Of course, I'm not the type to go around telling everyone my business. I never have been. So, only those who know me intimately well can tell.
Recently, a good friend of mine got out of an abusive relationship. After talking with her about it for hours, together we decided to seek "support" in places that could help us cope or deal with the trauma.
That brings us to today.
After speaking about it, in depth, she and I agreed to go to a place that offered group therapy as well as one on one therapy. I decided that maybe I should do the group therapy and that maybe one on one was best for her. Nevertheless, we decided that whatever we would do, we'd do it together so as to continually support one another.
We arrived at the place, and while she was inside talking to someone, I waited for her in the waiting room as I was too late for group. So there I sat with my son in tow, chatting and smiling at him.
Suddenly, while I waited, I decided that I wanted to ask a question for future reference. So I walked up to the receptionist and said, "I have a question: I know that you have group therapy, and I'm interested in attending the next one should I make it on time. However, my son is developmentally disabled and I am wondering if you have a child care program catered to that, because if not I'd have to find an alternative."
She looked at me dead in the eyes and said, "Well, we wouldn't be able to help you, because we only help women whom suffer or have suffered of Domestic Violence."
There was such emphasis put on the words "we wouldn't be able to help you". As if to say, "What the heck do you want the help for, with your smiles and the playing with your kid? You need to be broken and beaten for us to help you!"
I couldn't help the words that followed. I looked at her in the eyes and said "What makes you think that I haven't?!" Her eyes damn near fell out of her head. She didn't know what to do with herself. She had no words.
My point ...?
No matter how often it's been said, PEOPLE STILL JUDGE A BOOK BY IT'S COVER!
If I am to go by what the girl said, then "I don't look like I am or have been abused." Since when does abuse have a look, a social status or even an ethnic group? There are a wide array of individuals that have been and/or continue to be abused. And those lucky enough to have gotten out alive, like me, may still be suffering from the ramifications of what trauma was left behind.
Queen of Spades said it best in her article "Testimony of Terror".
I say that to say this ... just because I'm smiling doesn't mean a thing. Clowns smile all the time, even when their pain runs deep.