It’s fucking complicated. I’ll tell you that.
The Ray Rice saga has dredged up these memories once again. Repeated high-profile, media-saturated events awaken the sleeping poltergeist that haunts every woman who has escaped a violent relationship.
My abuser was a would-be rock star. I bought into the promise of fame, riches, and a life of ease. I have empathy for Janay Rice. When you’re living life in the fast line, it feels like this bad boy behavior is part of the package. The downside of celebrity culture.
Why did I stay? There were a lot of reasons, but the most alarming one was simple: I loved him. It’s hard to see how that can be possible. He was violent, reckless, belligerent, insulting, irrational, and unpredictable. It wasn’t just me who’d walk on egg shells when he was in a mood. Although he could be funny and charming, his outbursts rendered him widely reviled by most in his circle, including his own family. I sometimes wonder if he really had any real friends at all. Except me. I was his confidant. His muse. His security. His soul mate. His shelter.
The cycle of violence became so predictable, sometimes I forced it to the next phase, the “I’m so sorry; I love you so much; I’ll never hurt you again” honeymoon stage.
Why did I leave? An accumulated confluence of unforgiveable offenses. As if any offense was forgiveable on its own. The rage, the controlling paranoia, the accusations, the meanness, the put-downs, the fat lips, the bruises, the blood. The time he beat me on the morning of my 22nd birthday because I was worthless scum. The night he kicked me so hard, he ruptured my appendix and I needed emergency surgery. The time he threw a hot iron at me when I was six months pregnant. The time my baby girl saw him throw me down the stairs.
I left because I knew I could someday be truly free, and this life was not normal. It took a really, really long time to learn that truth and not to fear what would come next.