Today started like many others. I was up before dawn, in the kitchen making breakfast and lunch for my husband and me. As the sun began reflecting golden light off the river in front of my house, I looked out my kitchen windows toward the wisps of smoke rising from the chimneys in the houses in my neighborhood, homes occupied by family members and neighbors I count as dear friends. My very sleepy husband, who built this home and with whom I’ve shared it for 29 years, stumbled past followed by Andy, my equally sleepy golden retriever. I handed the former a cup of coffee as he plopped into his favorite chair, and handed the latter one of my homemade dog biscuits as he curled up on ‘our spot’ on the couch. Each day I give thanks for my very blessed and blissful life…and mornings like this remind me of what a wonderful life I have.
So how is it that just 5 minutes later I was suddenly feeling angry, frustrated, and so very, very tired? Hubby got first dibs on the shower this morning, so while he was I there I grabbed a cup of my favorite vanilla rooibos tea and settled into Bill’s chair (a gift from me for his birthday 2 years ago when, even he, began to note that his beloved recliner looked quite similar to the one Frazier’s dad occupied on that eponymous sitcom.) With just a few minutes of free time, I decided to pop open my laptop and check out the news. I read just one story , brief coverage of the final segment on the series ‘The People vs O.J. Simpson’, and my morning changed.
The murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman on June 12, 1994 was a pivotal turning point in the domestic violence field. The elements of the case intrigued America in 1994 and still do 22 years later-- the celebrity status of the accused murderer, the riveting drama of the police chasing the white Bronco, and the sensational ‘gotcha’ in Cochran’s famous defense, "If it doesn’t fit , you’ve got to acquit.” That brutal homicide started Americans talking about domestic violence at the dining room table, in the sports bar watching football games, and at the water cooler.
So why did just reading about the show (which I’ll admit I haven’t watched) instantly darken my mood?
Because yesterday a local woman living in Amsterdam who was brutally beaten by her boyfriend a week ago died of injuries sustained in the assault, leaving her children motherless and traumatized. Because in an interview with ESPN earlier this week, Greg Hardy denied ever laying hands on his girlfriend … despite photos of her badly bruised body. Even players, coaches, and sportscasters are speaking out in disbelief of his denials, but the charges were dropped because the victim, who states Hardy repeatedly threatened her life, didn’t show to court to testify against him.
Because 22 years later, partners are beaten, threatened and degraded behind closed doors.
Because 22 years later, women and men die at the hands of their abusers.
Because 22 years later, abusers can still look us in the eye and say, “I never hit her” and even when it rings false, they get by and keep abusing. Even when the evidence is compelling, if we don’t actually see the abuse happening, we‘re hesitant to believe it.
Because we want to believe that the person looking us straight in the eye is telling the truth… and the person who isn’t in front of the camera must therefore be lying-- without considering that the victim may be humiliated, controlled and terrified. And that’s the power and control that the abuser relies on to maintain that protective silence.
Because we don’t want to think that people we admire are capable of such violence behind closed doors.
Because it’s scary to think that someone who professes to love you is capable of such violence.
And because it’s easier.
It’s easier to just accept the lie… even when we don’t believe it.
And I am so very tired, frustrated and, yes, angry that all these years later we still have a steady influx of victims experiencing abuse at the hands of the people who profess to love them… and all these years later we haven't ended the abuse.