I was 16, an honor student, and hung around the nerdy girls. He was 17, charming, and one of the cutest boys I'd ever met. I was smitten.
He knew how to say just the right things to make me feel special. So months later when he went into a jealous rage because he thought I was seeing another boy, I didn't see the punch coming. He promised that it would never happen again, that he'd done it because he loved me so much.
The next time came not too long after. This time, I told myself that he didn't deserve me, that I was leaving. But his soft, melodic voice sent a fierce strike of lightning right to my heart, making it swell with forgiveness. Then the next time, he showed up with an arm full of roses, smothered me with regrets. And the next time, he cried so hard that I cried too. And the next time. And the next time. And the next time. Soon, I accepted my fate. I was trapped.
Ask me not how I could let him beat me, but why?
One word: FEAR.
Fear of the shame. Fear of the embarrassment. Fear of being judged. Fear of the guilt. Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing him (yes, I said it). And most of all, fear of being hurt worse, or even killed.
The root of it is not in the "letting" but in the understanding: no one just lets someone beat them. It's so much more complex than that. Oftentimes, a woman feels trapped with nowhere to turn; or there are children involved; or she's economically dependent on her partner. When you're on the outside looking in, what you perceive to be foolhardy or reckless is not always what's really going on.
Domestic violence is about power and control. It's about feeling like you have no voice when all you want to do is scream!
Did you know?
- 50 million women, children and men are exposed to this type of violence each year.
I wish I could say that I was not one of the 50 million and that my story ended that awful day when the swelling started to rise. But those wishes are just that -- wishes. I come from a family of five generations of mothers and daughters who suffered and survived more than 60 years of domestic violence.
This is why I gave up a lucrative corporate career to dedicate my life to Saving Promise -- a national intimate partner violence prevention organization inspired by my granddaughter's story, a little girl named Promise. This year, we are launching a national call to action entitled iPromise to raise awareness to prevent intimate partner violence and ask our communities to make a real promise for change.
I invite you to watch a 3-minute video trailer to learn more about our theater initiative, iPromise: A Moment to a Movement and see how you can get involved.
Meanwhile, the next time you encounter someone who is a victim of this horrible, shameful global crisis, don't ask, "Why does she let him beat her?" Instead, ask: "What can I do to help?"
L.Y. Marlow is the founder of Saving Promise--a national intimate partner violence prevention organization inspired by five generations of mothers and daughters in her family that survived more than 60 years of domestic violence, and her granddaughter, a little girl named Promise. She is also the award-winning author of Color Me Butterfly (the story that inspired Saving Promise) and A Life Apart (a story of love, war and forgiveness). Learn more about L.Y. Marlow at: LYMarlow.com and SavingPromise.org. Follow her on Twitter at @lymarlow and Facebook.com/LYMarlow.