Saturday, July 17, 2010

Would You Stay In An Abusive Relationship?

I had a very strange encounter the other day at the pool and I haven't been able to shake it from my mind... so it gets a blog post.

I was in the locker room post swim when a woman I'd never met before approached me and asked me, out of the blue, "Would you stay in an abusive relationship?"

I was sort of taken aback by the question... seems sort of odd to be asked that in such a random environment like that... but I did not hesitate with my answer.

"Not for one day."

The woman clearly needed someone to listen to her. She needed to vent. She needed help. So I stood there in the locker room and listened to her story. She told me about how her husband of 17 years had stabbed her, knocked her down, broken her ribs, beaten her with a shovel... how he had been in and out of jail and was homeless living in a beach park if she didn't let him come home... she told me about how he was mean to her and how he was really overweight and missing a front tooth and couldn't care less about being intimate with her... but then she cried and told me how much she misses him when they're not together.

What???

Ok, I just could not relate to this situation at all. I told her she needed to get OUT. Immediately. I told her that she was worth more than that. That she didn't need to put up with ANYONE treating her like that. I told her that I didn't care of he was a GQ model with $2 billion in his checking account... No woman should stay in any relationship that is abusive. Period. No ifs ands or buts.

She looked at me like I was telling her something she'd never heard before. Like she'd never met any woman who was so headstrong and unwaivering. She asked me how I was so strong. I told her I had a good mother.

She told me that she watched her dad hit her mother. And that her mother is still with her dad.

That's what this woman has known her whole life. I cannot get over how sad that is.

My interaction with this woman lasted about 30 minutes. We ended the conversation with me telling her that it's time for her to start believing that she is worth MORE than that. That it's time for her to start taking responsibility for her choices and her actions (and inactions) and only allow people who are a positive influence to be a part of her life. By the end of our conversation she was thanking me and told me that I had changed her life. I don't know if I did or not. I hope I did. If anything, at least she saw that it is possible for a woman to have self-confidence. It's possible for a woman to believe in herself and her self-worth enough to know that she does NOT have to put up with a man who tries to take any of that away from her.

I left our interaction with a renewed sense of my responsibility in teaching Moana these same lessons. I do think that they will come naturally based upon what Moana sees and feels every day... but wow, what a huge an important role we play as mothers... not just in our daughters' childhoods, but for the rest of their lives. This is important stuff.

10 comments:

The Chapples said...

I see stuff like this every day in my job. It's hard for me, a person from a great family who instilled the value that I am worthy of nothing but the best, to understand how someone could feel SO BADLY about herself. So sad. Sounds like you were meant to be there to inspire her.

HEATHER @ runfastermommy! said...

You had a good mother. That is so the truth. It's heart breaking to know that little boys grow up thinking it's ok to hit women, and little girls grow up thinking that's just another part of life. God bless you for taking the time to talk to that woman. I really hope she takes your words to heart!!

cherelli said...

Wow. Like Chapples said, maybe you were meant to bet there. I hope you made a difference too. Not long ago we were sitting at some lights and the male passenger in the car next to us was absolutely ranting and getting in the face of the female driver, swearing, so close to hitting her. It was extremely disturbing. And yet, we were just observers, to have interrupted could have led to a very dangerous situation. It stuck with me the whole day, and I hoped wholeheartedly that if that woman faced that barrage of abuse every day she would be able to get out someday...and not get overwhelmed by the worthlessness he made her feel. Witnessing it was like a peek into a whole other world I really don't go near. I hope your talk helps that woman out of her hell and into a life worth really living.

Billie said...

Wow. I really hope she listens to what you told her. Like the others have said, it's so sad that people grow up thinking those are ok actions to live with. So terribly sad. Like they say, it's the horrible circle of violence; maybe someday we'll get away from it. Thanks for telling her that she's worth more than that!!! If only we all had great mothers and fathers to teach us properly, right?

Elizabeth A. Rich said...

WOW Michelle! That would stick with me too. I really hope you made a difference in her life, it's amazing how little self worth she felt/feels. I can't imagine growing up in a home where it was normal to see my father hit my mother. Thanks for sharing your experience!!

Running and living said...

Having worked with battered and abused women, I can tell you that this issue is much more complex than it may appear. It seems to me that this woman is dependent on her husband not only financially, but also emotionally. She does not know any other way of relating - she observed her mom being abused. I bet she was in abusive relationships before. The first step for her should be to seek counseling. She needs to do some work on herself before being able to leave the relationship, and she needs financial means to do it as well. Otherwise, she'll end up in another abusive relationship. Even asking the question about whether you would stay in an abusive relationship shows that she is unsure and confused. I think you helped her today, but showing her that there are other ways of living.

Catching up with Jessica said...

Wow. That is very powerful and moving. She is blessed to have asked just the right person the right question. I do feel you have changed her life.

Regina said...

It isn't just our daughters that we need to teach self respect. We need to teach our sons to respect women, to value them as they value themselves. As the mother of a son (and a strong, independent woman), that is a top priority for me.

I hope this woman gained some insight from speaking to you. These kinds of dependent and self destructive relationships are hard to break out of. Particularly since she grew up a witness to it in her home. To her, a woman has no worth especially without her husband. I hope she can come to the realization that her life has value and her number one priority is to herself, without that she won't be able to move ahead. I wish her the best.

Beth said...

Whoa. That is crazy Michelle. Makes me thankful that, like you, I had a wonderful support growing up that taught me that that kind of behavior is NOT okay!! Moana will know the same I'm sure. She's lucky to have you as mom. :)

Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) said...

I don't think it was a coincidence that you happened to be the one she asked. She did need someone to vent to and she needed someone to help her and you were there for her. Some people probably would have just ignored her, but you stayed with her, listened, and gave her great advice. Good for you! I too hope that you helped her change her life.