“My body is a cage. That keeps me from dancing with the one I love, but my mind holds the key. I’m standing on a stage of fear, and self-doubt. It’s a hollow place, but I’ll clap anyway.” ~ Arcade Fire
My husband and I don’t get out much on our own. We aren’t very wealthy, and we don’t really have a constant babysitter, relying solely on the help of our parents. We used to go out once a month, but in the past year we have been out a total of two times. The most recent being this past weekend.
We were at a popular, local bar. The place is fairly big. Friends of ours had been there that night for a fundraiser for their daughters Pop Warner Cheerleading League. Thinking about it now, I suppose I thought before hand that because it was an event centered around helping children, the crowd would be mellow, and the night would be event free. Maybe I didn’t think that, I’m not sure, but you would think that right?
We were there for maybe a half an hour before shit hit the fan. Of course we weren’t involved directly with what went on, but our good friends were. So we didn’t just leave like we would have had we not known anyone involved. Basically, under the influence of alcohol, I hope, this woman calls my friend a whore. Fine whatever. We are adults, that sort of thing is so ridiculous it mustered no reaction from my girlfriend. Sure it pissed her off, but women like that thrive on getting people fired up. The comment was ignored.
So we are all standing around talking and I look over to find these grown men staring down our group of women. I never thought they would come over to us. I never thought what happened could happen. One of the men proceeds to scream in my friends face, calling her a dirty whore, letting her know it would be best if she left the bar. I scan the crowd of at least thirty on-lookers, searching for our husbands. One quick second later and the man has my friend pinned to the ground, hands on her throat, clearly he lost his mind.
Apparently the guy was an off duty police officer. So what? Right? Wrong. My friend stood her ground waiting for the police to come. Everyone had told her that it wouldn’t matter what she said, or how many witnesses there were, cops stick together. Basically that means it’s ok. What happened was ok. She refused to leave. Even though she has been the one thrown out of the bar, and the bars owners as well as the bouncers wouldn’t even listen to her side of the story. Which by the way I am sorry there are sides no longer. Once it becomes physical, all bets are off.
I know the owner of the bar pretty well, she was a friend of mine. She wanted nothing to do with my pleas to her about what had happened, in her mind I guess my friend got what she deserved? I don’t know, all I know is I no longer have respect for her, and I will never visit her place again.
Anyway when the cops finally showed up, one of the officers pulled my friend aside and listened to her story. We were watching from the other side of the road. He went over to speak with his fellow officers, and five minutes later we were all driving home. She was not allowed to press charges, and I saw with my own eyes these officers laughing at the situation. Talk about abuse of power.
At first I wasn’t sure what it was about the situation that evoked such a strong reaction from me. Days later here I am and the only image I have of that night, burned into my mind, is my friend on the floor, looking up at this beast of a man choking her. Then I remember my own past.
Sometimes it feels like I live two lives. The past and the present. I used to tell my husband when we fought, that I would rather have the shit kicked out of me than go through the verbal mess of an argument. My position being that at least when you get hit, it happens, and then it’s over. Usually afterward there was a pretty decent grace period as well. Things would always be really good after I got punched in the face. You can imagine the look on my husband’s face when I said those things. It was a cross between pain and confusion. I could never adequately explain my stand to him.
My husband has never laid a finger on me, I used to think that was why we fought. Not because we were young parents, and had three small children. Not because we never had a chance to be newley weds without children, or the thousand other normal goings on that occurred. In my messed up brain I was just waiting. I even pushed on purpose, I wanted him to just get it over with and hit me, then we could move on.
I was one messed up chick. That’s the thing about abuse though, it doesn’t go away. Not that easily anyway. I still have nasty dreams and permanent defense mechanisms. I am mad at the wrong people constantly, and when I saw my friend getting hurt a part of me really exploded. It was definitely one of those times I wished I wasn’t so small. Literally. I am four foot ten, ninety five pounds-that man would have flicked me off of him like I was a fly.
The thing is, it didn’t matter what anyone did, the off duty cop walked away with not so much as a slap on the wrist. The old me would have made excuses as to why this was ok. This me is saying that it’s not.
A woman shouldn’t have to press charges. The laws in my state are absolutely ridiculous. Do you know that in CT if you call 911 on a domestic disturbance, even if you’re thoroughly getting your ass beat, you will be arrested along with the person doling out the hits? That’s foolish.
I can remember a time when I was about seventeen years old. My boyfriend at the time had me pinned in his basement and proceeded to bite through my cheek. He lived with his parents, and I assume that his mother-who until that point didn’t believe my cuts, scrapes, and black eyes were coming from her son-heard the commotion below her. I look up from the ground to see her walking back up the steps. Not running like she was going to call 911, but walking like she was making out a grocery list in her head. The next day when it was just her and I in the house she proceeded to tell me that if I decided to press charges I would be arrested as well, so it would be pointless.
Is that not the same thing that my friend was being told outside that bar. She should leave because it wouldn’t matter, and it didn’t. I don’t know who was more angry, her or me. So that’s it, this guy get’s away with what he did, probably goes home to beat on his wife or someone else, he will absolutely do this again because he got away with it this time, and I know enough about abuse to know this wasn’t some out of character instance. This man was angry, and he knew exactly what he was doing. To think that he is an officer, who has sworn to serve and protect makes my skin crawl.
So what does she do? This is my point. What can she do? What are her options. She tried the police, they did nothing. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about all of the cases that mirror this one. It makes me sick to my stomach to think of all the times I could have had someone arrested and didn’t.
Abuse may be a cycle, but we need to add to it the accountability of outside influences, and then we need to change that.
If you or someone you know is being abused, please get help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you anonymously.