*Trigger warning: domestic violence
Have you ever hoped for silence? Have you waited for minutes, hours and days for the absence of words, conversation and noise? I find myself here more than I should. Sitting at my bedside questioning my life and sanity, wondering what path I took to bring me here. A path I question but very well know the curves and bumps of each step. This isn’t a new occurrence, it happens often and every time I tell myself I’ll escape this moment of craving pure silence.
I feel like a caged bird, clipped of her wings and fragile but no caretaker to bring me back to life. When did I start feeling so lifeless? I’m here talking, occasionally laughing, socializing but nights like these remind me how dead I am inside. With each day my insides are rotting away regardless of how sunny things are on the surface. I continue sitting here soaking in tears, with things all over the place in a mess as big as myself.
I don’t really remember where it all started. Maybe it was when we were arguing that one cold November night. My memory plays games; at times I can feel the winds, hear the hollowness of the winter that resembles but other times, it’s as if someone put snow over my memory like a blanket. That night you got so upset you slammed your own fist down on our dining table. I had never seen rage like that from you. How did you manage to conceal it all those years of us dating? I felt like it was my fault and I’d pushed you too far to get like this.
[Read More: SAHELI: A Friend To Victims Of Domestic Violence]
Then a couple of days after that, my leg became the replacement for the dining table. It left a bruise the size of golf ball. You didn’t apologize, because it ended with me saying sorry and you promising it would never happen again.
“It’s not me, I don’t know what came over me.”
I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard that playing in my head like a broken record, even when your cold hands aren’t wrapped around my neck stealing every gasp of air I can find. I don’t know if you did it on purpose but your ‘love wounds’ as you would put it, were always in places I could hide. I couldn’t tell my friends or family because they wouldn’t forgive you and you truly loved me, right? Your love was all I knew at a tender age of 18. There was nothing else I could compare it to, so the many fights resulted in blaming you and myself until it got worse. The only question that ran through my head every second of the day was, when did I become your favorite punching bag?
Do you recall the night you hovered over me, pressing your hands and your thumbs down on my arms as placeholders as you shouted at me for something so minute? I don’t even remember what it was for, because a part of me blurs out all our violent dances. The one where you lead and I follow involuntarily. You’re not always like this, I told myself. You take care of me, we go out for dinner, watch movies and it’s not hard to fall back in love with you again. There are nights where I don’t know what to do or feel as I break down in sobs and you apologize and bring your arms around me – this time for comfort.
I can’t tell you why or how I feel safe with you. I always said it would never happen to me. But those moments didn’t last too long. It took one mistake, one late meal, one morning sleeping in too long before my face became home to your fist again. Those weren’t common because they were harder to hide and falling down the stairs became a classic tale in my book. I had read too many books, watched too many movies and even wrote too many research papers on these types of situations. Despite all my convictions and determinations, I was still dragged by the hair across the room.
It sounds dumb, but I don’t even want to go to my loved ones and reveal the monster behind your sweet smile. What would they think? I choose you. I fought and pushed and pulled with everyone’s doubt just to be with you. What did I know? I was only 18. So many thoughts that shouldn’t go through my head did. What would happen to you? What will people say? Will I ever be able to be normal with anyone again? Sometimes I look at your hands that hold my face lovingly and all I can think is that those same hands are usually on my neck taking me to a dark place between life and death.
My wake-up call was the last time you pushed my neck against the furniture, as I begged you to stop but my cries fell on deaf ears. All I could think was that I was going to die here, as you hovered over me making me feel as small as you say I am. I realized then that you do not love me. You were my prison, my drug, but I wanted to become sober. I tried to understand you, I truly did, but you lost respect for me the minute I let you get away with slapping me cold across my face. You ignored the standards set for how to treat a woman because I wasn’t that anymore; I was your punching bag. You weren’t afraid to lose me because you knew I’d always be here for you to crawl back to.
I’m tired of you stripping every part of me you can, to the point where I’m crippled and calling it love. This is not love, and love does not do this to a person. Love does not drag you by the hair across the room one day and use those same hands to hold you the next. In the depths of your hell, I found my strength, my voice and my freedom.
This isn’t my story. Instead, it’s every woman’s story pieced together to make sure their voices are heard.
In South Asian communities, domestic violence is almost seen as a small fight, a small mistake that women are expected to get over. Women are given the advice to let their abusers have another chance to treat them right, just so you can become a victim over and over again. It’s heartbreaking to see women who don’t have the choice to leave because their family is more concerned with ‘what people will say’ than the well-being of their child, sister or cousin.
Sometime around mid-April this year, an ad went viral in Bangladesh that quickly captured hearts worldwide. Titled “Hair, the Pride of a Woman,” the ad took a close look at the mental impact of a domestic abuse victim. Whether it’s the men or women of the South Asian community who chooses to ignore the reality that nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, or whether it’s the refusal to talk about domestic abuse, it needs to stop.