Last night I heard a woman tell her near-death story as a result of domestic violence.You might have a chance to hear the story some day, so I will not give away complete details. But I did ask if I could use her story as the basis for this blog. She gave me permission to do so.
Her name is Michelle Johnson Major. To read more about her, go to her webpage, www.beavoicearts.com. Michelle is a wonderful artist. Shortly after her marriage several years ago, her husband became more and more abusive, eventually choking her into unconsciousness. Before that cowardly act, he took a knife and "butchered" (as she describes it) almost 100 of her paintings. Years of work carved up into shreds. He struck at her very life as well as her soul, capsuled somewhat in all those works of art. I hope many of you can meet her someday. Her's is a powerful story of survival and movement out of victimhood into a stance of identity.
I have heard her story before, in all those expressions of women who describe the controlling, threatening, injurious patterns of behavior perpetuated against them by the men in their lives. Yes, I know, sometimes women are the offenders. But the vast majority of personal, violent acts are men against women. When we first started our work at the shelter, a woman was brought to us by the police late one night. She was wrapped only in a bed sheet that had been provided by the hospital emergency room. She was beaten beyond recognition. I will never be able to erase that memory of the policeman picking the woman up in his arms and carrying her into the shelter so that we could try to tend to some of her needs and offer her safety.
This has been referred to as the silent crime. People still have difficulty talking about it, especially if it involves those we know and love. But if we know and love them, or if they are just a stranger stumbling down the street, we must start talking about it. Its harsh reality is being exposed somewhat. Laws are tightening up. People, both male and female, who batter other adults or children are being brought to justice. Some progress is being made. But there is such a great distance to go.
A part of Michelle's story that I know to be true, but still find unbelieveable, is that professionals, who should have known or made offers of help available, did nothing. A pastor never asked about how to get her to safety, even thought the husband admitted in the pastor's presence that he had abused her. A medical worker never probed into what might be going on at home as she examined this frightened woman who had gone to the hospital seeking an escape from the terror. How can this be!!!!
I found myself becoming so uncomfortable during her presentation that I started asking myself, "Why did she stay? Why didn't she leave?" That's the traditional question. And there are all kinds of answers. He threatens to kill her or someone she loves if she leaves, she loves him and takes her commitment to him seriously, she has been threatened, intimidated, and put-down so many times that she does not have the inner strength, at the moment, to just walk out. All kinds of reasons that many of us just do not understand unless we have been in that kind of frightening scene.
But that is not really the main question, is it? The main question is "Why does he do it?" And we must find ways to keep asking that question more and more and louder and louder.