In a 2013 study published by the Pan American Health Organization, approximately 14.6% of Latin American and Caribbean women reported physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner. Similarly, an equally large proportion of those women reported that their current or previous partner exhibited controlling behaviors such as insults, humiliation, intimidation and threats of harm. Outreach agencies operating in the region have increasingly cited violence against women as a public health problem, a violation of human rights and a barrier to economic development. As we bring you one woman’s story of domestic abuse, let us keep in mind the numerous factors that affect a woman’s decision to stay in her relationship, as well as provide support to those who are ready to leave and break the cycle of abuse.
I survived 9 years of abuse from a man I believed I would spend the rest of my life with. Now, nine years is a considerable amount of time. I was naïve, forgiving and way too hopeful. So I get it. I’ve been where you are and I say all of this with zero judgement (the world has enough of that). Ain’t no teacher like experience.
I’ve since taken the lessons learned from those tumultuous times and founded a non-profit organization by the name of Your Hope Dealers. A platform I built to empower survivors of abuse, in its many forms. Allow me to share with you what those nine years taught me.
For years, I blurred the lines and naively opened my door every time he said “I’m sorry”. I had grown to believe that if I said “I forgive you”, but decided not to take him up on his offer to start fresh, that I was harboring feelings. So as always, I attempted to wipe the slate as clean as I could get it (never mind the stubborn residual that I just couldn’t get rid of).
But each time we had to cross a similar bridge the memories would come flooding in. The look in his eyes, the tone of his voice, how normal it all seemed the last time he lied. Everything in me wanted to tell those memories to return to the corners of my mind where they had been sent to rot, but the mind doesn’t work like that. The mind seems to have a vault of memories stored in our sub-conscious that it taps into to activate our intuition. Intuition is like your big sister that always pops up when things aren’t going right – there to remind you that your ass knows better.
It took Big Sis Intuition popping up a few times for me to know that I had forgiven dude but I just couldn’t trust him. His track record had proven that he couldn’t even trust himself. I didn’t budge this time when he began to guilt trip me about not knowing how to truly forgive; meaning I should ignore past transgressions if I had truly forgiven him.
To me forgiveness is accepting what was done and that the abuser perhaps didn’t know better at the time. That doesn’t mean that you need to place yourself in the exact same situation that hurt you in the first place. Just because you accepted their ignorance, doesn’t mean that they’ll of a sudden know better or actually do better. You don’t owe it to anyone to sit around and find out!
You might wonder why I felt compelled to share this story. As a woman of Caribbean ancestry, I find that we (Caribbean women) tend to be very forgiving of the ill-treatment we receive at the hands of our partner. Perhaps the region’s shared history of violence, abuse and exploitation are to blame. I’m not sure I still haven’t been able to figure it out myself. We convince ourselves we have to forgive to make things work for the sake of the family, or worse for the sake of not being a single mother.
A friend of mine recently shared with me her situation of abuse and it broke my heart. It reminded me of the young girl I once was. The girl that would excuse away the bruises (physical and emotional), assuring myself that he made a mistake and that I really did upset him knowing what he was going through *sigh*. As she pulled on my heart-strings I wondered at what point she would see that enough is enough. I think about their well-being often. But I’m not one to pry.
I still don’t have all the answers, so for now, I write.
But just remember Big Sis Intuition when the puppy dog eyes, I’m sorry’s and paragraph texts come rolling in. Forgiveness is not synonymous with doormat, sis.