I was the first call she made after it happened. She wanted to know if I knew where her purse was. Not knowing why she would ask such a random question, she continued to ask until I heard the hurt in her voice. "What did he do to you?" I asked.
At sixteen years old, I never knew of violence ever being present in this relationship of high school sweethearts. But I knew something was happening. I just didn't know it had a name.
After writing down the address she gave me, I had the task of calling her mother to tell her of the situation. I was picked up by my aunt and cousin's brother, and the police were called to meet us at this unfamiliar address.
Imagine seeing the blood of someone you play with, grow up with, trickle from her ear. Now imagine the confusion I had when the policeman's offer to have her boyfriend arrested was rejected.
That was my first introduction to domestic violence. Throughout my life, it seeped through walls shared by neighbors, became surprise deliveries to offices shared by co-workers, and eventually landed in my own path. But the difference between my experience and the women I knew was that I left BEFORE I was physically abused.
There is not one person who doesn't know someone affected by it. Whether it is physical, psychological, financial, verbal or sexual, domestic violence will affect 1 in 3 women in their lifetime. And it affects women from all walks of life.
With the release of the vicious elevator videotape of Baltimore Raven's Ray Rice yesterday, the world threw a collective flag on the play. Opinions are as diverse as a man's livelihood has nothing to do with his personal life, to his jersey being burned in protest.
I even had a spirited debate with my husband, who believes men are getting "a bad rap" because no one is putting attention on their need for help. Bless his heart. My response to his "logic" is that when a man behaves like a boy, he should be treated like one, which means you take from him what he prizes the most. And in this case, just like Chad Johnson, it's his career. I just hope the NFL owns their responsibility to their fans by having the league don purple next month for domestic violence awareness, just as they do for breast cancer.
On the opposite scope of the topic, society is quick to turn attention to the woman's role in the situation. Much like the mindset of a sexual predator, abusers use gifts, mind games and threats to contain victims in a prison without walls. I can't answer why a woman would stay in an abusive relationship, because all I know from my personal experience is that the unrest in my spirit would not allow me to. Over-the-top jealousy and raising a voice is as foreign to me as Payless shoes. I loved him, but I loved myself so, so much more.
Prevention is the key to stopping domestic violence. A raised voice can quickly turn into a raised hand. That's why it is my goal to reach as many women I can with my book How To Stylishly Fall From Grace. A portion of every book sold benefits Say NO - UNiTE To End Violence Against Women.
Footnote: To get a glimpse into the mind of a woman who did stay, look no further than Sarah Kogod's powerful testimony:
And I thought that was my responsibility to take this broken man who
loved me and fix him. And I tried so hard to fix him. But while I was
fixing him, he was breaking me.