Day 169: A blow to the ego

10629747_846094782097833_470623427123768474_nI’ll admit, I watched the tape.  There was a part of me that wanted to try to better understand the context…not that there’s ever an excuse for a man to hit a woman…but I was curious.  

What I saw was a couple that was clearly arguing as they made their way to the elevator.  It’s probably safe to assume that alcohol was involved since they were staying at a casino…and looked a little unstable.  I saw her walk up and slap his arm or back.  I watched as he ignored her and entered the elevator.  That’s where shit got messed up.

You can tell there’s an exchange of words…tempers flare…she comes at him and he levels her with one punch to the face.  As if that’s not shocking enough, what happens after is almost worse.  When the elevator doors open he attempts to drag her limp body out but drops her in the doorway of the elevator.  Another reason I’m pretty sure they’d been drinking…how could he not manage to pick her up and carry her out of the elevator?  Oh I know, because he was in a compromised state and didn’t really care to pick her up.

Next you watch as a security guard or hotel staff of some sort comes and stands in the elevator…then another.  Finally another woman walks up and attempts to console her.  She begins to come to.  He walks over to her and she pushes him away…don’t blame her for that at all.  They finally get her to her feet and she walks off with someone as he stands there with his hands in his pocket.

I’m obviously talking about Ray Rice and his then finance/now wife.  I’ve been wondering how they moved past that incident to end up walking down the aisle together.  What kind of apology could he have possibly offered…what excuse could have been given…to make such a brutal physical response ok?  And not just ok, but worthy to decide to wed yourself to him?  The answer isn’t that black and white.

In college I dated a guy who grew up in a home where his step-dad hit his mother.  He saw firsthand the damaging affects of domestic violence and vowed to never repeat such behavior….until he did.  He was one of those frat boys that had a way of making you feel special…and worthless all at the same time.  His temper was an undercurrent that shown itself usually after one too many adult beverages.  Looking back, I can see how insecure he was and how those insecurities drove his anger…his fear…his behavior…but back then I was too close to it.  I was too insecure myself to understand what was going on.

It started with verbal put downs…escalated to shouting matches…slamming doors…and eventually resulted in a punch to the face.  I distinctly remember a time when we were arguing and he said he wanted to talk.  He told me he was going to pick me up and we’d drive out to a park where we could be alone to hash things out.  When I hung up the phone, I told my roommate where I was going and that if I didn’t come back tonight to call the police and tell them who I was with and where he’d taken me.

Why did I go?  Why would I date someone that I thought might hurt me…really hurt me?  I didn’t think anyone else would want me.  He had convinced me that I was lucky to date him…that I wasn’t as pretty as other girls.  That he could have his pick and he’d chosen me.  That no one else would make that same choice.  And I believed it.  He had identified my insecurity…my need to be loved…and exploited it to his advantage.

As his hold on me started to loosen and I began to gain confidence, he became more desperate to tighten his grasp.  One night he told me he was going home for the weekend so I decided to go out with my roommates.  We went over to a friend’s house for a party…drank a little and smoked a little.  Most of my night was spent leaning against a wall watching people have fun as I pondered my relationship.  Why was I alone on Friday night…where was my boyfriend and what was he doing…or more precisely who…

My girlfriends decided they wanted to go out to the bars so we walked back to the apartment for them to freshen up and drop me off.  As I sat down on my bed to take off my shoes and get ready for bed, I got the distinct sensation that I wasn’t alone in my room.  I paused but chalked it up to the pot and went back to what I was doing.  Before I could process what was going on, my closet door opened and he jumped out.

He said he’d decided not to go home after all and had spent the night following me around…watching me through windows.  He accused me of doing things I hadn’t done so I told him he needed to go.  Clearly he’d been drinking…and was lying…and I’d had enough.  I was over it.  I had reached my limit of put downs, accusations, insults.

I started to stand up from my bed when it happened.  I was face down on my bed…spun around from the impact…my nose was bleeding.  I got up and walked into the bathroom to assess the damage.  With tears in my eyes — not because I was crying, but because my nose was broken — he yelled “I’ll give you something to cry about.”  Charming…

I walked from the bathroom to the phone in the kitchen (this was before cell phones) as he ran ahead of me and blocked the door.  As I rounded the corner, he told me I wasn’t leaving.  I politely told him he was right. I wasn’t but he was.  I told him he might want to run…to get a head start…because I was calling the cops.  I could see he thought I was bluffing until I started talking into the phone.  He bolted.

Perhaps the best part of the night was finding out that it was a giant blonde police officer that found him and arrested him.  Somehow there was just a bit of sweet justice in him getting cuffed by woman…after hitting a woman.

I’m not proud of what happened next…but it explains how these situations are never cut and dry…never easy.  In Indiana, if you call the cops for a domestic altercation, it’s out of your hands whether charges are pressed are not.  They do that because far too many of us decide not to…and I tried.  I called the prosecutor and asked her to drop the charges…begged her to drop them.  To her credit, she refused.

We went to court…after I had my nose fixed…and he lied on the stand.  Not surprising.  He did that a lot back then.  He got off with anger management classes and the bill to fix what he’d broken…my nose.  A few months later, he wandered into my work and tried to get me to come back.  Had I not humiliated myself by going out with a nose cast…telling everyone what had happened…I might have considered it.  But I had backed myself into a corner by being so public about the incident to ensure I wouldn’t go back.

When it happened, I was full of questions as to why.  Why had this happened to me?  How could I have become a statistic…a victim of domestic violence?  I believe it was so I could empathize with other victims.  So I could personally understand how complicated the situation can be…how hard it is to end the relationship…how easy it is to want to stay.

At the same time, though, I know how a split second decision can change someone’s life.  How a man can carry a label as an abuser because of one bad decision.  How unfortunate it is for everyone involved when someone resorts to violence.

I don’t believe there’s ever an excuse for a man to hit a woman.  But I struggle because as a woman, I know there have been times when I’ve pushed a man…or gotten in his face…or used my words to egg on a response.  Still no excuse…but we know when we’re starting to cross a line from which there may be no return.

I feel horrible for Ray Rice and his wife.  I feel horrible that the incident occurred.  I feel horrible that we’re all talking about it.  I feel horrible that they have a daughter that will be impacted.  I feel horrible that this event will follow them for years to come.

I hope, though, that it was a one time incident for which he’s found help.  I hope they’ve sought counseling to work through their problems.  I hope they raise their daughter in a loving home.  I hope that someday we stop hearing stories of men hitting the women in their lives.  I hope we learn to walk away…take a breather…to calm down before exchanging, especially physically.

I hope we learn to love ourselves enough to not be in such a situation to begin with.

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