Friday, March 13, 2015

April's Story

April knew it was coming.

She always knew when it was coming. 

Like arthritic joints that ache when a storm is near, her hands would start to shake when her body could feel it coming. 

He'd been "out" again with his friends- a habit that he'd developed shortly after their daughter was born three years ago. 

It was late and she had put Evie to bed hours ago, but she had learned a long time ago that he expected her to wait up for him. 

And so she did.

She hoped that this time he'd come home and go straight to bed. She didn't want him to wake Ellie with his yelling like he did a few nights ago. 

But, something told her that his coming home text that she had received a few minutes earlier held more meaning to it than what was on the screen. 

The TV was on, but she wasn't watching.  She just needed the noise. Quiet would make the shaking worse. 

The computer screen glowed with Facebook and all the happy faces of people she knew were having perfectly normal Saturday nights. She scrolled through her newsfeed absentmindedly. Not really paying attention, but not wanting to look away. She envied them and their lives. She would give anything to be anywhere, but here tonight. 

Her eyes shot forward as she heard the hum of his pickup as it pulled into the driveway. She quickly slammed the laptop shut and hurriedly set it in it's place on the coffee table. She tucked her legs up underneath her and pretended to watch the Friends re-run that she had turned on for noise.

The door creaked open, and she turned her head slightly to greet him-as was expected, "Hey, babe. Did you guys have fun?" 

He grunted and sat at the dining room to take off his boots. She did her best to control her rapid breathing. Her fear was oozing out of her, and she knew he could sense it.

He could sense fear like a shark that smells blood in water:quickly and with a insatiable hunger.

But he didn't say a word.

At first, all she could hear was the sound of one boot hitting the floor, and then the other. Then she heard him stand and walk up behind the couch. His hands gentle-at first-as they moved from her shoulders and down her bare arms. He bent down-his breathing heavy as he kissed her neck and said,

"Don't you want to come to bed with me, baby?"

She knew what that meant and she knew the consequences if she refused. "Why couldn't he have just passed out at Sam's house like last week?" She thought.

She felt the weight of the words that were about to roll of her tongue before she spoke them, "I want to finish this episode, babe, and then I'll be in. Why don't you go lay down without me?"

She heard his breath catch in his throat. His lips still inches from her ear. She knew exactly what she had done, but sometimes her defiance got the best of her.

She was not built by weak women and she often struggled with how to play the part he expected of her. 

His hands tightened on her arms like vices being tightened by a handle. Slow and steady. Tighter and tighter.

"Just come to bed, April. Don't make me ask again."

She could feel the shaking in her hands traveling through the rest of her body, but she stood firm.

 "I just want to finish this show. 15 more minutes."

In a flash, his right hand reached for the remote, while his left hand remained firmly on her arm-its grasp still getting tighter and tighter. The TV clicked off and silence enveloped the room.

She hated the quiet. 

He pushed his body upright. His left hand never leaving her arm.

"Stand up and come to bed."

It was no longer a question, but a demand. A firm one.

He was so much better at demands. Asking wasn't his forte. 

She still didn't move. Her legs still tucked up beneath her. Her arm throbbing from his grasp. It would bruise tomorrow-a purple and blue tattoo that would only remind her of her mistakes.

He released her arm and began to walk around the couch. She tensed and made eye contact with him. She could feel the definace leaking out of her.

Why couldn't she just force her body to cooperate? 

"Get up!"

She sat as still as the shaking would allow her too. Her eyes never leaving his.

"GET. UP!!!"

His voice boomed this time-startling her. She blinked, but didn't move.

No matter how many times she had played out this exact same scene, she could never get used to way his voice sounded when he was angry.

Loud. Menacing. Terrifying.

The storm was now raging in full force. The shaking had enveloped her body.

She didn't have time to think before he lunged toward her-grabbing her pony tail in a tight fist with his right hand. He yanked and she shot forward-landing sideways on the carpet-her head throbbing just like her arm. His other hand came from the left and grabbed her face-squeezing her cheeks hard as he tilted her eyes up towards him.

"Why do you make me do this to you, April? Why can't you just listen the first time?"

His voice was low. His breath was hard. She could smell the booze and it made her want to vomit. She fought back tears as she starred into his eyes that seemed to have gone black, and she wondered if she'd wake up again this time when it was over, or if she had finally met her end.

She thought of Evie. She thought of what it would mean to leave her alone in this place with no mother to fight for her. Would she remember her?

 She thought of her family. The ones who wondered why she never came around anymore. The ones who didn't know how hard she tried to hide her bruises. Would they feel bad for not trying to help her?

He let go of her face, and turned her body with the fist that was still wrapped through her pony tail. He pulled her forward-dragging her out of the living room and down the hall.

She wanted to fight and scream, but she didn't want to wake Evie.

She thought about begging, but she knew it wouldn't do any good.

She was going to have to ride this storm out.

After all, she knew it was coming.

She just wondered how much more of it she could take.

April's story may be a work of "fiction", but her story represents the faces of so many women who experience this type of violence every single day.

According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline,
  • Females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence.
  • From 1994 to 2010, about 4 in 5 victims of intimate partner violence were female.
  • Most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender, including 77% of females ages 18 to 24, 76% of females ages 25 to 34, and 81% of females ages 35 to 49.
If you are reading this, and like April, you are being victimized by domestic abuse, please know that I hear you and there is hope. 

I promise. 

There are several great organizations that have the resources to help you, and some communities have centers designed to help remove you from a bad situation and put you on the path to great situation. 

I know how much courage it takes to walk away. I know how scared you are. I know that you have been told for years that you are not worth it and you can't survive without your partner.

But, I am here to let you know that you can. 

Trust me. 

The abuse is NOT your fault. The worthlessness you feel right now in this very moment is NOT the truth about who you are. All the lies that you have been told are NOT the definition of your future. 

Your life is an amazing gift, and whenever you are ready to take it back, there are so many resources available and waiting to help. 

All it takes is the first step. 

One wild moment of tremendous courage. 

And one still, small voice saying they believe in you. 

Let me be that voice.

Let the stories of women who have been where you are and lived to tell about it be that voice. 

We all believe in you.

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