Eyes Wide Shut

Onyx Contributor:  Fatima Gaskin (@Fatima_2_2)

As I sat in the backseat of the police car, handcuffed, and sitting in the most awkward sideways position; I knew my marriage was over.  My throat was sore from being choked out.  The scratches on my arms burned.  I closed my eyes and sighed.  The one thing I would not, could not tolerate had transpired.  This man, my husband, my happily ever after put his hands on me.

Domestic violence had broken up my fairly new marriage and forever changed my life.  I knew there was no going back.  Violence against my person was one of my things.  I, unfortunately, had been in violent situations often enough that I knew I would not live a life of worrying about being hit, or actually being hit.  I never suspected that this would happen in my household.  Sure, I had been in some arguments with my husband, but never had they been violent.  I had heard plenty of stories of domestic abuse and said that I would never…could never happen to me.  Why did this happen?  I wasn’t rich, I wasn’t poor, I wasn’t famous, but I wasn’t unknown.  Domestic violence can happen to anyone.  Man, woman, child, black, brown, white, gay, & straight can be a victim or perpetrator.  Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear & intimidation, often including the threat of family violence.

For me, it had all started with an argument that escalated.  Instead of the normal course of action of my husband and I exchanging words, however heated, physical violence resulted.  My husband pushed me on the ground and I got off the floor and punched him in the face.  I ended up on the floor with his hands around my throat.  I lost consciousness, and when I came to, I didn’t even know who I was.  When I finally got off the floor I took off the wedding ring I had on and set it on the counter.  I then dialed 911.  I was in shock.  I was ANGRY.  I no longer felt safe in the house and I knew I needed to leave.  I’m not alone in my story of domestic violence.  One out of four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.  Men statistics are not reported as often but there have been nearly 3 million physical assaults in the USA as of 2015.  To get help from a free anonymous domestic violence hotline you can dial 1-800-621-4673.

My husband physically assaulted me two more times as I tried to leave the house.  One time was recorded on the voicemail of a friend I was trying to call for help.  Planning a safe exit from an abusive relationship is a necessary and important step before breaking the ties with your partner.  The National Domestic Violence Hotline suggest several detailed steps to improve your chances of leaving safely.

When the police finally arrived they initially arrested my husband and took him outside as he openly admitted he put his hands on me first.  Another police car pulled up and the questioning began.  Domestic violence costs more than $37 billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical and mental health treatment, and lost productivity at companies.  The police came back into the house and informed me that my husband’s injuries were much more serious than the ones I sustained.  Based on that conclusion they took me into custody and put me in the back of the police car.  How could this happen?  If I wasn’t already in shock, I really was riding in the back of the police car.  I had never been arrested.  I got a restraining order against my ex-husband when I got out of jail and started the process of a very ugly divorce.  Eight years later I look back at my experience with no regrets.  I was glad that I was able to get out of a situation before it had an opportunity to get worse.  My ex-husband showed more of a dark side during and after the divorce which led me to believe I really didn’t know the person I married.  I was lucky to get out.  Every year 1,000 to 1,600 women die at the hands of their male partners.  Fortunately for me, I had a strong support system and an understanding job.  I was able to pick up the pieces of the wreckage of that night, learn, and grow from it.  I didn’t allow myself to continue with my eyes wide shut.  Domestic violence is real.  It can happen when you least expect it.  Open your eyes and don’t be silent if you see or experience domestic abuse.

photo credit:  Michael P. Johnson

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