When she walked into the room I could tell. She looked broken. The smile on her face didn’t reach her eyes. Her shoulders were slumped, she didn’t socialize with the other women that were loading their plates with food.
We were in a business conference room. I’d been hired to conduct a self defense seminar. The other women laughed and talked as they took a seat. “Denise” sat at the end of a table, two spaces between her and the next woman.
I started the class, I only had an hour and a lot of material to cover. As I talked about the personality traits of a rapist, or an abuser, I saw her flinch. She looked like she was trying to make herself invisible. She kept her head down. Made a lot of notes.
When the seminar was over and the other women were leaving the room, she approached me. The words tumbled out. “My ex-fiance is stalking me. He fits so many of the personality traits you talked about. I’m thinking about moving. I’ve already changed my phone number. He has his friends watching me. I’m trying to ease out of the relationship but I’m scared. He only hit me once on the arm. He was great for over a year and then he changed. No one here knows what is going on.”
So many thoughts raced through my brain.
He only hit you once? You are trying to ease out of the relationship? He is stalking you? What can I say to you?
A few weeks earlier one of the women in management for the same corporation asked me for a copy of the “personality traits”. She told me she thought she might be in an abusive relationship. He hadn’t hit her yet but she was seeing some disturbing patterns. She asked that I talk about Domestic Violence in the next session.
I did. Four women approached me afterwards and asked for a copy of “The Traits” as I was now starting to call the personality traits of a rapist or an abuser. Well dressed, seemingly strong and confident women. Wow. I had no idea.
A week later, back at the same corporation. I’m reading “The Traits”. I got to the one where I’m describing the guy that has an explosive temper. He hits things like walls or doors. The warning is that it is a short step between hitting a wall and hitting a person.
I stopped reading. Took a couple of deep breaths as the realization hit me. And I told the ladies that were in the room.
“I just realized that I was in an abusive relationship many years ago. One weekend when I told him I was going on a business trip, he got so mad he put his fist through the apartment wall. The next weekend when I told him I had another trip he hit me.
That was it. He had to hold me down for over an hour. I was so angry I was going to try to kill him. I’ve never known such rage.When he let go of me, and I had calmed down, I told him to leave. I remember feeling so dead inside. But also a very focused cold certainty. Hitting me was wrong. And the love that I had for him had gone. Just like that. A line was crossed. Thirty minutes later he was out the door on the way to his mothers house. He never came back to the apartment. ”
I could have been The Broken Women.