Today I have a different kind of gratitude post, and in the interest of full disclosure, Mom and Jennie, you might want to snag a Kleenex or two. Since Deanne is dead inside, she won’t need one.
Tonight, Rihanna will go one national television and talk about a dark day last February. Millions of people will tune in and watch her recount the harrowing details of being beaten by someone who was supposed to love her.
As details of the assault emerged last winter, I wrote a short piece that I intended to post here, but I didn’t. It was too personal, and even a little humiliating. But I saved it anyway.
I’m posting it here today for two reasons:
1. I read this line from ew.com: “It’s a harrowing story, and one that unfortunately needs re-telling so no one can forget or distort just what it is that Brown did to Rihanna.” I felt a little chastised for keeping silent.
2. I’m grateful for a family who refused to give up on me, even when I gave up on them; for a sister who knew that saving my life was more important than keeping a secret; for a dad who is the best example of following the spirit of the law.
Read the following if you’d like to–it makes for a long post, so I get it if you don’t.
Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to elicit pity or exploit elements of my past. But with all the press from the Chris Brown-Rihanna debacle, and the conversations at lunch and in my classroom, I just can’t stay silent anymore. Because unless you’ve lived it, you simply do not understand the complexities of what it’s like to live in an abusive relationship. Originally written February 2009.
I read sentences like this: “Robyn F. [Rihanna’s real name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty] turned to face Brown and he punched her in the left eye with his right hand,” and I remember.
I remember crouching on a kitchen floor, shielding my face as a man punched me wherever he could.
I read sentences like this (and hear sentences like this from co-workers and students): “”A lot of the ladies are just like ‘I feel so bad for her. Leave him girl, leave him’” and I remember.
I remember packing my things three times before I finally left him for good. And even then, I cried.
I read sentences like this: “Brown looked at her and stated, ‘You just did the stupidest thing ever! Now I’m really going to kill you!’” and I remember.
I remember hearing the exact same sentence after reading a letter from a friend who was on a mission and smiling through the entire two pages.
I read sentences like this: “Singer Rihanna, through her lawyer, asked a judge Thursday not to prohibit her boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, from having contact with her while he faces felony charges of assaulting her,” and I remember.
I remember how many times I tried to leave, only to be pulled back in, often apologizing to him for whatever it was I must have done to make him angry. I remember feeling it was my fault. I remember forgiving, forgiving, and him promising, promising.
I read sentences like this: “Authorities charged Brown, 19, on Thursday with felony counts of assault and making criminal threats…” and I wonder.
I wonder if I did the right thing by never pressing charges, or if I just allowed him more opportunities to hit other women. To try to kill other women. To make other women feel like they are worthless and impossible to be loved by anyone but him.
I don’t wear my experience as a badge of any sort. Indeed, earlier this week I just excused myself from a lunch conversation in which all the women were flabbergasted at the idea that any woman wouldn’t just leave, stand up for herself. If they only knew, I thought. It’s just so hard to cut off all ties. So as details of Chris Brown and Rihanna emerge and people take sides, I feel that my staying silent for so many years, speaking in veiled references and hushed tones, only adds to the problem. That more women don’t share their experiences makes it more difficult for people to understand, and for women to speak up when it happens to them. Because it could happen to them.
Because it happened to me.