By the time I was six, I knew the drill all too well. There would be a little bit of yelling, things would be thrown about and Dad would strike Mom. She would cry and apologize and I would hide. That was my job, when things got ugly I was to be invisible and I had gotten incredibly good at it.
A few years later, it was important for me to be visible and to cry for help because the strongest woman I know was at her weakest moment in life. She was being choked and didn’t have a voice. I was afraid for her life and got help the only way I knew how – by dialing 9-1-1. The police came. They handcuffed Dad and put him in the police car – this wasn’t the first time they had been called to our house on account of domestic violence, but it was the first time that Mom’s friends decided that it was time to get involved.
They knew some of what went on at our house. They could hear it and they knew that the police had been to our house before. But they were never willing to talk to Mom about it. Maybe they didn’t know what they would say to her or maybe they felt as if it wasn’t their “place” to say anything. But one thing is certain: Mom couldn’t escape the abuse alone. Dad owned her. Her self-esteem was at an all time low and she really believed she was good for nothing. She was afraid to leave – afraid that would put her (and me) in more danger than just enduring the pain. He paid for everything we had and was financially responsible for us. And, above all else, she truly loved him. It would have been difficult for her to make it on her own and she didn’t know the first step in getting out safely.
She was never willing to press charges and, as a result, Dad never had to sit in jail for long. Mom’s closest friends were aware of this and went to work quickly. They reminded her of what she had and helped boost her confidence. They gave her the willpower she needed to change her thinking from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can.’ They told her that his behaviour was not okay and reminded her that she had a small child who was looking up to her as an example to life.
Mom cried. She didn’t want to continue living this way, but she didn’t know how to get out, she’d been living this way for so long that it had become the norm for her. Mom’s good friend offered to let us live at her house, at least for a while, until we could figure something else out. Her friends encouraged her to move – to get out. They promised her they’d hide our location from him.
They promised we wouldn’t be alone.
Her friends helped her pack up our whole lives into a few boxes and we escaped to another town. Mom was saving herself, she was saving me, and she was doing what she had to do. She is one of the strongest women I know.
I often think about how different life would have been for both of us had Mom’s friends not gotten involved. I suspect that Mom would have continued to struggle with the relationship week after week, month after month and year after year. Mom couldn’t do it alone. She didn’t have the strength; she didn’t have the finances and she didn’t have the know-how. Domestic violence IS everybody’s issue. Many women don’t know the first step to take. They need a friend. A friend they can trust; a friend who is willing to help, willing to listen without blame.
Our new life would not have been possible without the help of Mom’s friends. Know your neighbors; know your friends. If someone is hurting your friend or family member, it IS your business. Get involved. Stop domestic violence NOW!