I’m writing today with a heavier heart than normal. It’s heavy, but still grateful.
Yesterday, I was watching Part 12 of a sermon series I’ve been pretty avidly watching called “Crazy Faith.” It’s so good, y’all. You should absolutely Youtube it. Anyway, I told my cousin, Kelli, who recommended this series to me, that I feel like I’ve needed to see every single one of them, but this particular one felt like MINE. It felt like the guy delivering it (he was a guest pastor, not the normal guy who does them) was talking TO ME, every single word of it. So, in it, he talks about people, like me, who shouldn’t even be here, people whom God, as he put it, “pulled out of the fire.”
I’m undoubtedly one of these people. Hands down. I watched it twice yesterday alone. But I think I was still thinking of it all wrong. When I think of “my fire,” the one from which I was rescued, the one out of which I had to claw my way, I usually think of my addiction, and maybe rightfully so. But my fire included so much more and some of these other things were equally as dangerous and detrimental to my soul.
I woke up today to devastating news. One of my best friends messaged me, asking if I’d heard about the girl who was our age from Mountain Brook, which is a part of Birmingham. If you’re local, you likely already know the tragedy I’m referencing. Just days ago, a 31-year-old local girl was murdered, shot to death by her almost-ex-husband.
Now, any death like this is senseless and tragic, but this girl had taken measures to try to secure her safety. After being shot in the arm in February, she went to the police and, from what I understand, began the separation/divorce process. Grateful to have escaped with her life, she even started being vocal about it through her social media, which is a brave, bold move, especially for someone so close to the trauma. Unfortunately, it appears the police may have been a bit biased, as her husband was a member of their forces – I saw a post made by a friend of hers that featured a screenshot of a text from her wherein she expressed frustration over the fact that going to the police wasn’t the best solution for her since he WAS “the police.”
I can’t imagine how she must have felt – probably beaten before she ever even got a fighting chance. She likely felt silenced by the very people who had sworn to protect her. She also surely had trust issues, not knowing whether going to them may even come back to bite her. And, my God, how frustrated and cheated she must have felt. I did read a report that said he had been arrested in May. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but what I do know is he was certainly out and about, able to get to her only days ago.
From what I can tell, this woman was kind, beautiful, vibrant, compassionate, hard-working, and determined to make her life as beautiful as it deserved to be. My heart is broken, so so broken, for her family and friends. If you’re someone who knew and loved her and you’re somehow reading this, I’m so sorry that you’re having to walk through pain of this nature. I’m sorry that, this time, you’re wishing she were here with a gunshot wound to the arm. I’m sorry that, this time, she didn’t escape with her life.
Domestic violence is one of those things that nobody can really understand or explain. Even those of us who have lived it have trouble finding words to explain what it’s like living that life, walking, eating, sleeping, LIVING on eggshells, a prisoner in our own homes. It’s a hard thing to explain.
It’s also hard to talk about, like excruciatingly hard. I think it may get easier the further away from it we get, and the more we’ve processed through that pain. This woman must have been made of something really special, because she didn’t waste much time getting vocal. I admire her for that. It does seem that she suffered her fair share in silence, but I’m amazed at how quickly she took up her cross and used her voice to fight back in what ways she could. I understand she was working on a book, and I very much hope that the world still sees what she had written.
I’m not sure why I made it out when so many women don’t. Even those who aren’t killed still often end up living lives of death, lives so focused on survival that they cease to be lives actually lived. This is a problem that is bigger than most of us even understand. There are women, and some men, who live entire lives as victims of abuse, silenced by fear of their abusers. That fear is so real, and it’s incredibly effective. I saw a video this woman posted of her husband telling her, “Don’t play games with me!” He screamed it several times, and then added another warning for good measure: “I’ll always win.”
I shuddered from the inside out when I saw this video, and tears flooded my eyes, clouding my vision. I can’t tell you how many times I heard those same words. “Don’t play games with me, bitch!” I’d have those words shouted and hurled at me while his hands simultaneously delivered blow behind blow to my head. I guess abusers don’t have to be too creative – they just have to be terrifying enough.
I tried to get out several times before I actually successfully made it out. I tried to leave several times that resulted in severe beatings for me. I remember the last of these failed attempts – I noticed my hand as it was reaching for the door, it was already shaking. I knew what was coming. I heard him coming from behind me, so I quickly backed into the corner, dropped to the floor, and began to ball up, covering my head as best I could. Leaving, or attempting to leave, becomes just another thing that terrifies the victims of abuse. Thus, many victims end up staying, stuck in their fear, and resigned to living life just trying to dodge the anger and abuse.
I regularly wonder why I made it out. I do believe it had a lot to do with prayer and even more to do with grace. I believe, too, that it had a lot to do with a mother’s love. I had my oldest when I finally got out. But I was physically away from my abuser, living in another city at this point. That made the “getting out” easier. And my parents, who weren’t even aware of the abuse at the time, helped in ways they didn’t even realize.
But I still consider myself insanely lucky, saved by grace, a living, breathing miracle. And I’m not sure what the point of this blog is, other than to say: something has to change. Big changes are necessary. When someone is identified as being violent, even slightly violent, something has to happen. We have to be able to protect the victims of abuse, the ones who are brave enough to come forward and ask for help. For the record, for anyone who may still be unclear: A restraining order is ZERO help in the face of this thing. If a man can just rage on a woman who is defenseless against his strength, size, and power, then a lousy piece of paper WILL NOT stop him. I know too many stories, personal stories that belong to women I personally know, of restraining orders being absolutely inadequate. They are just NOT enough.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have any, really. But I have a story that involves a LOT of fire and me being pulled out of it. Maybe I haven’t used that story enough. So, I’m going to do more. I’m going to share my story more. I’m going to be more proactive about seeking ways to help. Our current system is broken. It is failing women every single day, and if we don’t stand up to demand better, we are playing a part IN it. I refuse to do that.
I watched my precious kids running around today, playing with each other and their dad, just running around and laughing. I stood there with tears in my eyes, thanking God that my life is SO VASTLY different from that broken life of terror that used to consume me. But there was another reason for the tears. I felt this crazy heavy sadness for Megan Montgomery, for her family and friends, for the children she will never get to watch as they play and laugh.
She was brave enough to almost immediately find the words that it has taken me years to find. Or maybe the words have just been sitting there, waiting on me to give them a voice, and maybe it was the strength and the courage I was needing to find. Either way, I’ve found them, and I’m gonna’ use them, because I have to. Because Megan’s story IS my story in so many ways. Her plight is my plight. She was killed before she got the chance to really share her story in the way she wanted, but she had already picked up that cross. So, I’m going to try to do the same. I’ll have to pray for guidance and strength, because I have absolutely no idea where to start, but I know that God is calling me to TELL MY STORY, so I’ll start there.
If you haven’t read my blog, entitled “You Can Lose Your Balance,” you can find some of my story there: https://www.goddesste.com/post/you-can-lose-your-balance
In the meantime, if you know someone whom you know, or suspect, is suffering from domestic violence, there ARE oragnizations who do good work on behalf of these women every single day. If you’re unaware of what these organizations are, feel free to contact me. I promise to help as much as I possibly can. Until then, love on them. Love on them so hard that maybe one day, when they look at themselves, they will see what you see when you look at them, and they’ll know that they’ve always been worthy of more.
If you’re reading this and you’re someone who is currently in a domestic violence situation, I beg you to reach out. I promise to make myself available to you, should you want to reach out to me. If not, find someone you trust, and go to them. This burden is too heavy to try to carry alone. You don’t have to. And it’s certainly far too dangerous to even consider trying that route. So, please . . . please don’t. You are beautiful, you are unique, you are so much more than what you feel right now, and you are worthy of real, genuine love and happiness. I know you may not feel that in this moment, but if you let me, I will prove it to you. And, if you let me, I will love you until you love yourself. But just give yourself that chance. Please.
Birmingham, know that Jessica and I are weeping and mourning with you tonight. We always meant for Goddessté to give voice to subject matters such as this. Our intentions have not changed. We will be fighting this fight with y’all.
We have to do better, so let’s do better. I don’t know what that looks like, but I think we can figure it out, and I think we have to. For Megan, and for countless other women whose stories I share, I think we have to.
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