I went to the group meeting yesterday and met several women. Some still in their abusive relationships and some have left; some were in my age range and some were very young women. Some were soldiers, some were civilians. The uniting factor was our experience, and our experiences were both “the same” and horrifyingly different.
The younger women tended to relate stories that reminded me of “where I’ve been.” In their words I heard my own past pains and heartbreaks. I knew that in time, their experience left untouched and unchanged, would evolve into my current story. I knew it in my gut.
The women who were my age (one had been married 14 years, divorcing now) tended to relate stories that I considered far “worse” than my own, and I felt a strange feeling when, as I shared my story, they seemed to look at me as if they had been in my shoes, before the event(s) that shook them into leaving.
I tried very hard to tell myself that I would never be in those women’s shoes. That my husband would never do the types of things they described. But after the story-telling ended and the sharing began, these were the women who seemed to reach out to me the most. I found it unsettling.
While sitting and listening to the women who were “where I’ve been,” I was thinking that after the meeting, I would give them my phone number and offer words of encouragement and a promise that I would be there for them if they wanted to talk or needed help in an emergency, or any time. I envisioned myself standing in the hall way with them, talking and sometimes laughing, helping them to realize that “now” was the time to leave instead of waiting it out, instead of waiting for the “one thing” that would cause them to leave for good.
But my vision didn’t come true. Instead, the three women who I considered to have suffered “more than” me, caught me in the hall. They gave me their phone numbers, offered their support and a place to run to should catastrophe strike. They helped me to laugh although I wanted to cry. One said, “She (me) isn’t ready, yet” to the others, but knowing my secret thoughts didn’t cause them to turn away. We talked and laughed for a half hour after the meeting ended. I left them feeling humbled, and in a way, more alone than when I walked into the group.
I don’t think my husband would escalate his abuse, his attention-getting, to the point of physically or sexually harming my children and threatening us with death. I don’t think my husband would ever pick me up and throw me against a wall, bloody my face, kill my pets. I don’t think he would ever build a funeral pyre in my bedroom “just for me”.
But maybe the women who pulled me aside have reason to think he might.