Amidst all the uproar in the news about ex-Baltimore Raven Ray Rice and what he did to his then-fiancé in an elevator, I heard a startling fact: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
That's one in three, not one in a thousand or even a hundred. It's one in three.
Consider me one of them. And while I'm confessing to being someone's punching bag, I might as well admit that I was also the victim of date rape.
Though when this all happened, sometime during my freshman year of college, there wasn't a name for it. There were no resources or pamphlets being handed out on my campus. There was nobody telling me the warning signs, and no one I could turn to for help.
Maybe I was naïve, for I foolishly thought that slapping, shoving, punching, smacking and kicking were all part of the game of love. I assumed it came with the territory of having a boyfriend.
Even when it hurt badly, and I wanted to scream in humiliation and frustration, I'd find reasons to justify these actions. I kept thinking that the real problem was me. I needed to be cool about it, and I needed to get used to it so as not to lose the guy.
But I was one of the lucky ones. Except for a few bruises and scratch marks -- and my broken self-esteem -- I know it could've been worse. I could have been knocked out cold as Rice did to his partner in the elevator. I could have had my ribs broken or my jaw dislocated. And -- scary thought -- I could have been killed.
The first year of college usually is a time of learning the ropes, making new friends, exploring majors and figuring out your goals. For me, it was also a time of what they now call, "Intimate Partner Violence."
I was date raped on two different occasions by guys I barely knew, and neither of these were actual "dates." I wasn't courted in any way, yet, it's how I lost my virginity. Trust me, I wasn't ready and it's certainly not how I imagined my first experience would be. Not in a million years.
These were my fellow students, one a freshman and the other a sophomore. The first hit on me during freshman orientation week. The other soon after. Each time, what seemed like a harmless flirtation, soon turned into something more. Rape. I tried resisting, but they were larger and stronger than me, and knew exactly how to pin me down so I couldn't move. I remember saying no, but in the end, it really wasn't my choice at all. I didn't have a say in the matter.
Later, I met a guy who was funny and smart and I became his girlfriend. He was on the school basketball team, which gave him -- and me, by default -- some cachet. I thought I was in love. During winter break, when I had to move out of my dorm, I moved in with him. And that's when the smack-downs began.
If I irritated him in anyway, slap. If I wanted him to spend more time with me and less with the guys, shove. If my outfit wasn't to his liking, kick. And after a few months, when he broke up with me and demanded I leave his place in the middle of the night, more shoving and kicking.
Each time, I'd cry into my pillow, but I never said a word to a soul. I never sought help or advice. Nor did I ever join a support group, simply because they didn't exist. Besides, it would have been mortifying to admit my situation to anyone. I was so ashamed.
I know I'm one of the fortunate ones. I got away and eventually I wizened up. I have lived with this secret for a long time and somehow, I don't think I'm the only one who has such a story in her past. I bet there are many of my generation with similar tales of their own.
Today, the world is a much different place than it was then, in my college days, and women no longer need to endure such treatment from their partners. There are resources and programs available that can help the one in three women who are experiencing domestic violence. And only by raising our voices and sharing our stories will we be heard and changes made.
Enough is enough. Domestic violence shouldn't have a place in our society. Not even for a second.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.