The Damage

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On June 11, 2001, I woke up with a headache from where my ex-husband punched me. I looked at the knife he moved to his side of the bed. Then, I remembered the gun he kept in our trunk. After I quietly got dressed, I put two pairs of underwear and my toothbrush in my purse and I went to work. Then I went to my dad’s house and never lived with the ex husband again.

The end, right? I took control and my ordeal was over. And now, the rainbows! I felt better. Thanks to the side hustle I had at my friend’s salon as a shampoo girl, she made sure I looked better. The ex-husband, for a time, behaved better. He was even “so sorry. For everything.” Then, after I moved into my place – after attempted romance, “just wanting his family back,” and (yes!) Jesus didn’t work – he got violent again.

Between June 2001 and June 2002 he repeatedly broke into my house (once bringing “company” while I was out-of-town, leaving condoms on my bed), threw a beer bottle  at me, and tried to kick my door in. (Thank God for renovated trap houses.) Sometimes he would just park his truck across the street and look into my house. Sometimes he’d just sit there; other times, he’d call. You should close your curtains better than this. I would call the police and they would file a report. I would have the same conversations, at times with the same officers, about why a man I definitively separated from felt entitled to my home and space. “Are you sure you haven’t been with him? Is it clear that you two are no longer together?” Because the obvious answer was that we were “playing games.” It couldn’t be that after he lost control, he also lost his mind and decided I wouldn’t be allowed to rest.

I wouldn’t let him in my cousin’s house. He wanted to embarrass me, and I wouldn’t let him. That was why he flipped in June of 2002. And he face mushed me and hit me. He was about to hit me again and I swung on him and tried to take his jaw off. Then he raised his hand again, and I caught him right in the mouth. One. Two. I was on the other side of the apartment corridor, catching a fountain of blood in my hands. Two hands full, and still more pouring on my shirt. More police, this time with cameras. While I was on my way back from the hospital, he called my cell and asked, “So, what’s the damage?” I hung up.

So we’ve arrived to what inspired this post. I saw this article via Twitter regarding Moroccan state television showing women how to hide domestic violence. A lot of people were upset, because they believe placing emphasis on protecting women and prosecuting those who abuse their wives is paramount. I quite obviously agree. But that is not the place  we are now, and women still have to live. There were an incredible number of low points during the weeks that followed my assault. One of the lowest was having to walk into my just over two week-old receptionist job and answer questions about my face. I didn’t last two more weeks. “We think that with some of your personal issues, a front desk position isn’t the right fit for you.”

While the tone of the segment may well have been wrong, they offered a valid service. Someone asked if that segment being on state television was somehow normalizing violence. In 2009, the percentage of abused women in Morocco hovered around 63%. In the United States, over 38 million women have experienced partner abuse. I don’t know what qualifies as “normal,” but the abuse of women is by no means anomalous. Whether women receive greater protections or not, the immediate eradication of domestic violence is unlikely. So in the meantime, you will have stories from a painful sisterhood that exist only to show other women how to cope and survive. I remember searching my brain for something aloof and snarky to say to my coworker, just so that I could escape to the bathroom and cry from embarrassment.

My damage? Me. I spent a long time learning that I didn’t deserve that. He has abused each and every woman he has been with since me. I had to become a completely new version of myself just to function after living through the unbearable. A version that pays special attention to the scar on the right side of her nose with concealer and a beauty blender.

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