I’m sitting in my classroom. It’s in Alumni Hall: the walls are lined with the senior class photos of past graduating classes. I wish I could say every walk of life was represented but I work in middle class suburbia, and the only colors I see are white, green, and gold. Still, sometimes I stop and look at the faces and names of those who used to laugh in the same hallway, and I wonder how many of them have dealt with crippling hardships.
Cancer. Car accidents. Death in any form. Abuse.
My cause is not the only worth mentioning. But it’s not spoken of enough. Cancer doesn’t need a month, truthfully. It’s publicized on the news, plastered across ta-tas, and pimped by every race, gender, and faith. Car accidents and death both cause the victim to be highlighted for the good in their lives, because it’s sad to hear of a anyone’s death being unwarranted. Sadly, abuse isn’t like that.
We hear of ‘domestic disputes’ on Cops. And see ‘domestic disputes’ on the local news, but only when someone other than the abused partner is hurt, like a police officer who responded to a call. Or maybe if, tragically, someone – a victim – is murdered. And we downplay the severity of someone brutally attacking another person with an umbrella term. Excuse me, but there wasn’t actually any argument the day he called me a ‘whore’ then slapped me across the face because our server told me I had a pretty smile.
But in everyday life everyone owns a ‘wife-beater’ and people often joke about women ‘knowing their role.’ These are just jokes, we say. “Lighten up, Fina. It was harmless,” people tell me.
Fuck you, if you aren’t offended by this:
I gave you earth lessons, I came to you as a blessin’. You didn’t do the knowledge what the God was manifestin’. You sneaky fuck bitch, your ways and actions told it all. I fucked you while you was bleedin, held you down in malls. Sexually you worshipped my di-dick like a cross.”
Lyrics from this guy. Wu-Tang Clan isn’t an underground group. Neither is Snoop Dog or Dr. Dre. But DV isn’t just in rap music. It’s everywhere. These are artists, we say. “Things like this don’t actually happen, Fina. It’s hyperbole,” people tell me.
And PLEASE don’t ask me to talk about Rhianna or Chris Brown. No, he hasn’t ‘recovered.’ Do your research and see how many sociopathic abusers can actually recover from this. Seriously. Do it.
So I walk the hall and count the youthful smiles of those who graduated years ago. Sometimes I find myself staring at the pictures, counting off the heads of the women, wondering which of every four had a fist in their cheek. And then wonder what her recovery looked like. Was it like mine, long and full of pain? Or did she get out early enough to save herself from years of therapy?
When she hears someone refer to their tank top as a wife-beater, does she instantly feel like she’s a victim again? Does common culture making light of her life-changing issue make her feel as if nobody understands or cares about what she went through, and make her feel alienated again?
Yes, I’m projecting my experience on an unknown survivor, but it’s because I live this life. And you don’t. So I’m trying, while being abrasive, to get someone outside of the DV community (how sad to have a community) to see life is altered forever for women like me. Or maybe piss you off enough to get you to react.
I can’t listen to music without thinking of the day he forced me to do cocaine.
I can’t wear a simple undershirt without thinking of the times he stood over me in the hallway, waiting for me to try to get up, only to push me back to the floor (and kick me again).
People can’t make jokes with their significant others, seemingly harmless as they may be, without me feeling like I’ll be threatened next.
But where is the outpouring of love for people who have been hated? Where are the ‘Save the ta-tas from the pricks who think they own them’ shirts? Can you hear that? It’s the sound of crickets.
So I walk back into the safety of my classroom, where I don’t have to look at the faces of those who suffered the same fate as me. And I play ignorant, too, because life feels easier.