[The subject of this post has not seen it, does not know what I’m writing in it, and has not approved it.]
She’s smart. Articulate. Thoughtful. She’s funny as hell, and has a sharp, clever, filthy wit. She’s young – in her early 20s, courageous. And her husband beats her mercilessly.
In the short time I’ve known her she’s been hospitalized twice by, operated on as a result of, and lost a job as a result of her husband’s beatings. Recently, she fled home with nothing but an iPhone and a single withdrawal from the family’s bank account at an ATM.
Less than two days after fleeing, her husband found her and beat her again. The beating was sufficiently severe as to send her to the hospital again, and him to jail. Now, she awaits the first of two surgeries resulting from this latest beating (last Monday). In the hospital, she has given statements to the police about her treatment at his hands, has met with counselors, and has reduced a doctor to tears with her tale.
She doesn’t think she has it in her to take him to court for his abuse of her. She worries that he’s going to press charges against her because he says the $300 with which she left belonged to him, not her. And, for a moment this afternoon, she entertained the possibility that she could go back to him, that this time, things would be different – that “maybe this is enough to make him realize he can’t get away with the abuse, maybe it would be different now.” Immediately after she typed those words, she typed, “ACTUALLY FORGET I SAID THAT,” and, “NO. I didn’t just say that.”
But over the last few days, her fear, anxiety, weariness, and confusion has led her a number of times to imagine returning to the hell she knows, rather than the new one she’s enduring. As it is, she worries – she worries for her parents, for whom she fears (her husband, she says, would happily harm them, has threatened them). She worries for herself – she sees clearly that she’s starting from scratch, that she truly has nothing. She sees this more clearly than she sees that she has nothing to lose – though at times she sees this, too.
She sees a potential court battle ahead of her, against a strong man with money. And her court-appointed lawyer has been AWOL, at least so far. She sees a counselor once a day, and hasn’t yet begun participating in a group of women facing similar challenges.
It’s no wonder she imagines that returning to the hell she just fled might be better than the one to which she has fled.
But here’s the thing:
She is smart. She knows – in her bones – that no human deserves to be beaten mercilessly, repeatedly. She knows that a woman whose husband breaks her ribs, beats her about the face, such that she requires multiple surgeries, must leave that man. She knows what awaits if she stays – that she will soon bring this man children, that her life will never improve, but that his cruelty will increase. She knows what she must do, but, understandably, she is scared. And tragically, she is alone.
She has no one to turn to, no real friends, no community of like-minded people to sympathize with her plight, to help her strategize a wise exit from her prison. In spite of that? She made her exit – she left, on her own. Now, she’s sitting in a hospital bed, her iPhone in her hand, wondering what to do next.