I wish I believed

Have you seen this ad, on display in London? It’s sponsored by the National Centre for Domestic Violence and lets passersby get involved (virtually) in a domestic dispute to make the perpetrator — a male — leave the woman alone. It also touts the benefit of an injunction/court order to stay away.

I wish I believed that an ad like this could make a difference, but I don’t. First of all, it’s just a novelty that’s far removed from reality. People don’t really want to get involved in what they perceive as “none of my business.” Second, a court order of protection is just a piece of paper. How many times have we heard in the news about a woman being killed despite having a court order?

In my own case, I had many family members — on my ex-husband’s side of the family, not mine — who knew about the abuse he inflicted on me and on our daughter. And they did nothing about it. Devout religious people on that side of the family abandoned her, abandoned us. Even relatives with whom we had been close did nothing to intervene or help after I moved us both out of that horror show of a house.

My own lawyers — even when it was clear that he tried to break into my apt. after I moved out  — never suggested a court order of protection. I can only conclude that they didn’t believe it was worth anything.

I don’t know how to solve the problems of domestic violence and child sexual abuse. All I know is that they will never be solved by a piece of paper. It will take a worldwide movement of women and men with the fortitude to say “No” to the subjugation of women (yes, I realize that sounds sexist, but let’s be real about these things).

I’ll do my part and keep talking. Are you with me?

My mother’s dying wish

My mom has been on my mind a lot. She always is, but this month marks the 20th anniversary of her death. I was 30 at the time, and she was 72.

As I wrote a couple of days ago, one of the last things she said to me shortly before she died was, “Don’t end up like me.”

We didn’t have to talk about it. I knew exactly what she meant.

She was never able to follow her own dreams and fulfill her life’s potential. What she really wanted to be, in addition to a mom, was a nurse. But she got married young, had my sister and brother right away, and had to go right to work — yes, a mother who worked outside the home in the 1940s and 1950s — to help support the family. My dad also worked two jobs for a time while finishing his college degree. Mom didn’t get to go to college.

After my sister and brother were grown (ages 19 and 16), along came yours truly. I was the accidental baby. By this time, my dad was making enough money so my mom didn’t have to get a job. And while she never would have said she was “stuck” with me — she loved me deeply and enjoyed being with me — she was stuck: with 18 more years of raising a child.

She raised children from 1941 to 1979, from the year my sister was born until the year I graduated from high school. She never lived her dream.

I haven’t, either. Yes, I went to college. I went to grad school (twice). But I still haven’t done what I really want to do with my life. I haven’t even discovered what that is, at least not yet.

All my life’s decisions up to this point have been based on survival, because it’s the only way I knew how to mentally function since the first day my ex-husband hurt me.

I haven’t been able to fulfill my mother’s dying wish: “Don’t end up like me.”

Please?

I would like, for just one day, to go back to being the person I was before he hurt me.

I would like to know what it felt like to walk freely, unafraid, with my whole life in front of me: filled with possibility and with the ability to make my own decisions about my future.

I’d like to know what I thought about, what I dreamed about. I’d like to know what I really looked like in the mirror. No distortions.

I would like to feel my SELF inside, that inner voice that was strong, finding her way, listening and watching and taking everything in.

I would really like that.