Another Nine Seconds

By Christina Ulrich

 

She wakes up to her alarm, blinks a few times, and rubs her left cheek. It’s sore. She remembers…

 

She had come home about an hour late yesterday evening. She tried to explain. She had needed to stop at the post office and the grocery store. It didn’t matter. By this time, he was already angry. The children had made a big mess that he said he was “not going to deal with.” Plus, he hadn’t heard from any of the jobs he’d applied for.

 

He already smelled of whiskey.

 

To him, her tardiness could only mean she was cheating. To him, the reason she didn’t call was because she was with someone else. She was a “lying, cheating, whore.”

 

She tried to explain that her phone had died. She reminded him of the note she left, by the coffee maker this morning, about how she needed to make some stops after she left work.

 

“It doesn’t take an hour to go the post office and the grocery store.”

 

It didn’t matter when she told him about the construction traffic on the freeway or the long lines at the post office. To him, she was lying. It seemed like he always thought she was lying.

 

“Really? Your phone died? How convenient…” he growled. “Oh, by the way, how is ‘Mark’ or ‘Matt’ or whatever-his-name-is that you work with?”

 

“Mick?”, she responded. “Mick was my boss. He’s married, nearly twice my age, and hasn’t worked there in weeks. I’ve told you this. Also, I’m sorry I didn’t have time to charge my phone this morning.”

 

“Whatever,” he snapped. “I’m tired of your lies. I know where he lives. I’m going to teach him a lesson he’ll likely never forget.” He grabbed the car keys and headed for the door.

 

“Please stop!”, she cried. “He didn’t do anything!”

 

“Then who?!”, he demanded.

 

“There’s no one else,” she pleaded while tears streaked her face. The children stood in the hall watching and listening. Crying.

 

“Don’t lie to me!” He struck her hard with an open fist. “Don’t EVER lie to me!”

 

She stumbled to the floor, holding her stinging face. The children cried. She remained stunned and crumpled on the floor. She watched as he left, slamming the door behind him. A wave of relief washed over her when she heard him drive away. She was safe…for now. But, the fear that he would hurt her friend, combined with the fear of what might happen when he returned, pushed her into a paralyzed numbness. The children continued to cry…

 

When she awoke the next morning, she noticed her bruised cheek and traced it with her fingers. It’s not so bad this time, she thought. She could cover it up with make-up. She could tell her co-workers she had tripped over her cat and bumped her face on the wall. “Clumsy me,” she’d laugh. This would be much easier to explain than the blackened eyes or the chipped teeth she had endured in the past. 

 

She continued looking in the mirror. She struggled to look herself in the eyes. He approached from behind, startling her.

 

“I’m so sorry, Baby,” he pleaded. “I love you so much. It’ll never happen again. Never, ever, again.”

 

For some individuals, it does happen again. And, again. In the U.S., for every nine seconds that elapse, another woman experiences some form of domestic violence by an intimate partner. According to the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, 1 out of 4 women (and 1 out of 7 men) will experience severe domestic abuse at some point during their lives, while most incidents remain unreported to authorities.

 

Abusers learn their behavior from life experiences in abusive environments. Although abuse is most often thought of as physical, much of an abuser’s power stems from mental and emotional control. An article in Psychology Today identifies abusers as possessing many of the same characteristics. According to the article, signs of an abuser include: blame, resentment, entitlement, superiority, pettiness, sarcasm, deceitfulness, jealousy, and rushing (attempting to establish intimacy too quickly)

 

Recognizing these traits can be life-saving, as victims often realize how critical their situation is after the relationship is already established. Attempting to sever the relationship, at this point, can oftentimes be quite dangerous.

 

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that national hotlines receive over 20,000 calls every day. Last year, the Department of Social and Health Services provided over $10 million in funding to domestic violence shelters across the state of Washington, where more than 25,000 victims and children received services.

 

October is the month dedicated to bringing awareness to domestic violence. Purple ribbons and lights are symbols that represent solidarity for victims throughout Domestic Violence Awareness Month. With awareness can come solutions.

 

When Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, launched his Pass the Peace campaign three Octobers ago, he asked, “ How do you fix a problem so big and complex? How do you speak about something so damaging and painful to families?” In his article, “Let’s Talk About It” ( Players’ Tribune, October 2014), Wilson opens up about bully behavior and urges his readers to talk about the issue, because “if we start being honest about our pain, our anger, and our shortcomings instead of pretending they don’t exist, then maybe we’ll leave the world a better place than we found it.”

 

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