Touched by domestic violence

I was just standing in line at a rest stop along the highway. I was already a little shaken because on our way to the bathrooms we’d just had one of those awful “where’s Charlotte?” moments (we found her after two impossibly long minutes of frantic searching, she was daydreaming near the front door and was fine, thank God!) when I looked over my shoulder and saw two beautiful little boys with their mom. As moms often do I smiled at the boys and looked up at the mom to give her the solidarity smile. You know, the we’re all in this together smile? Except she didn’t smile back, she covered her cheek with her hand and looked away.Then I realized she had a black eye.
Now maybe she was in an accident, or she got hot on the face with a baseball like I did in gr. 5. But I worry that’s not what happened, I worry that she walked into her husbands fist and I pray that her little boys weren’t there while it happened.
Chances are you know or have known someone who’s been touched by violence — whether a friend or a relative, maybe it’s even you. If you think you don’t know anyone who’s living in terror, you’re probably wrong. Domestic violence isn’t restricted to low-income neighborhoods, it doesn’t just happen to uneducated women or in immigrant families. It happens to your next door neighbor, to one of your mom friends and I’m pretty sure it was happening to that woman at the rest stop.
When I was a kid my mom had a friend whose husband beat the snot out of her all the time. One time she had us over for dinner and wore sunglasses the whole time. I had no idea why at the time, but when my mom told me what was going on it horrified me. The idea that she (and her kids) lived in fear that her husband would come home angry was deeply unsettling to me and images of him hurting her have haunted me ever since I found out what was going on. Eventually she left him. She and her kids fled to a neighbour’s house one night after a particularly bad beating — he’d pulled her down the stairs by her hair. The creep actually came to our house to see if she was there… Ten-year-old me had nightmares about him for a long time, 37-year-old me still remembers him as the face of domestic violence. And I also remember how screwed up her kids were.
I’m very upset right now because I couldn’t do anything for my mom’s friend. Just like I couldn’t do anything for that lady in line tonight. Could I? If you know, please tell me! I hope she’s ok. I hope her kids are ok. And I hope that by sharing my stories it’ll make you think twice when your friend says she walked into the cupboard door or that her puppy bit her wrists when she was trying to train it.

Happy new year everyone. Take care of each other.

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