We stood there just beyond the checkout line with our elementary-age daughters, people bustling around us toward the door with their carts and goods. My daughters and I envied them. We couldn’t leave yet- the man I was married to decided he needed to keep us there to make a point.
As he stood there, cussing me out, on display for the good people of Costco, I was humiliated by the sympathetic and uncomfortable looks we were getting. I was good at hiding this stuff from the public, but there was no hiding place here. One professionally-dressed woman I would guess to be in her 40s caught my eye as she walked by, and she shook her head and gave me what I perceived as a dirty look.
His cussing didn’t bother me, that was light compared to the behind-closed-doors activities I was so good at hiding (I’ll just put a poster here to hide the hole he punched in the wall).
I couldn’t stop thinking about this woman though. Why would she give ME the dirty look, when HE was the one being a jerk in public?
Hindsight tends to be 20/20. She saw mid-20s me there, with my young daughters close by, watching me take a verbal lashing. She saw my cowering body language, and possibly heard my placating tone as well. Looking back, I imagine the dialogue behind that glare. “How dare you teach your daughters to enable that kind of behavior? You have power, so why stand there acting powerless? This shouldn’t be normal for you or them, and it isn’t right.”
I don’t recommend giving people dirty looks or judgy glares when we encounter this, but I can tell you that the look she pierced me with got me thinking. Maybe this wasn’t just a normal part of marriage. Maybe my mantra shouldn’t be, “every marriage has its troubles, but sometimes it’s really good. I need to count my blessings, stick with it for the kids, keep praying, etc.” Maybe I didn’t have to accept this as my fate.
It was the beginning, just a spark in the hurricane that was my life, that started me on the path to freedom and peace, and eventually a career Empowering others; and I will never forget her.
Abuse thrives in silence. Please, break the silence! When this kind of behavior rears its ugly head in public, you can be sure there is much more going on in private. There is help! 800-799-SAFE is the number for the National Domestic Violence Center Hotline. You can call (or do an online chat) just to talk- about your situation, or if you suspect someone else is in this situation and want to know how to bring it up, or if you even should.
Domestic Violence affects all genders, ages, races, and income brackets, in every neighborhood across the US.
According to the National Domestic Violence Center Hotline:
· 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
· 1 in 3 adolescents in the US is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner in the past year.
· 1 in 10 high school students has experienced physical violence from a dating partner in the past year.
· $5.8 billion each year is the cost of intimate partner rape, sexual assault and stalking — $4.1 billion of that is for direct medical and mental healthcare.
· 8 million days of unpaid work are lost each year due to domestic violence issues — the equivalent of 32,000 full time jobs.