One in three

1 in 3
(Not my own photo, credit to its owner)

She slid onto the sidewalk just in front of her daughters stroller. She was looking into the Sunday spring sky, as her blood collected in red pools around her. All sound was fading.  Her daughter’s wails and the hysterical cries of her friend for help. Staring into the blue heavens, she did not even notice the shadow that fell over her again. That arm with the long kitchen blade in its fist. She was already floating, feeling light and free when the knife went through her again and scraped the ground underneath her. The sound startled her and momentarily she was drawn back to the scene. Completely detached she took in the setting.  A man stabbing a woman in front of a little girl on a street corner and so much blood. Nothing could make her return.

Lighter and lighter, liberated from the gravity of her mortal shell, she experienced bliss, as images from her life passed her by. Her sordid home with her abusive and drunken parents.  Resisting aggressive advances of the boys. Working long hours.  A happy bride on the arm of the man who would take her away from it all.  The first shock of being beaten. The first broken bones and the incredible shame she felt, when people looked at her. The joy of her daughters birth the only other happy moment. And then the terrible fear of his ever increasing vicious attacks. The panic she suffered when she caught him looking at their little girl. Finally running away, the first sense of safety in her friend’s home. She should have run further. Should not have believed in the promises of reconciliation and getting help. They led her to the fateful meeting. His roaring voice echoed off the walls:  If I can’t have you, then no one will!  The knife coming down on her again and again. Her blood raining down on their child. Her life leaking onto the cold ground. This exquisite sense of being unburdened.  

Months and months later her body patched up in long operations, her terrors quieted by prescription drugs,  living under the protection of the White Ring, she still woke up screaming in horror.  Her daughter was terrified of being outside, her little spirit was broken and they clung to each other like drowning lost souls when they woke screaming in the night..

Still in jail, he had petitioned the courts for his visitation rights. Battalions of psychological evaluations were ordered for all, as the family courts and social services considered his claims.  

She had to be relocated several times, her address carelessly adorning documents. His release from prison on “good behavior” overwhelmed her with fright and sent her into a deep depression.  She stripped her home of all mirrors. She could not bear to look at her body, crisscrossed with scars. Some nights she felt lured by the longing of her body to free itself.  Darkness enveloped her for weeks. The only thing that kept her from ending her life was the knowledge that he would have their child.

More and more papers were filed on his behalf.  Test and examinations were ordered again and to everyone’s shock she was forced to appear with him present and provide answers in front of a judge. There had been a new development in the laws concerning visitation and custody. His lawyer was using the “well being of the child” clause to lay claim to his rights.  The evidence in favor was that all the psychological screenings had come back as “normal” and the tendency towards violence could not be corroborated.  Nothing spoke against it.  All the while he was smiling innocently at the officials in the room but in some unguarded moments his eyes settled on her…she felt as if she could read his mind…through her, I’ll get to you! Shivers ran through her.

Her lawyer was presenting counter arguments, but with every word he said, she realized that it all lacked sufficient power to prevent the inevitable.  She noticed the bored and impatient expression of the judge. When her lawyer sat down, she rose and her legs were trembling.

Her voice was quiet and unsteady:
So your experts say he is “normal” now, no traces of violent behavior. “Normal” when he battered and beat me. He broke my arm, my ribs and my nose. I covered my shame with lies and out of fear. That Sunday he was normal too, when he brought the long knife from the kitchen drawer with him. Normal when he slashed and stabbed me 19 times in front of our child?
Tears were streaming down her face. A deadly quiet had fallen over the room as all eyes focussed on her. She pulled up her shirt. Exposing upper body, and her sleeves slid up her arms.
This is what you call NORMAL?
From her collar bones, across her breast, all the way down to her belly, her flesh a mess of horrible, angry, red, welted scars, her arms disfigured from the gashes.
This is not what normal looks like.
Everyone in the courtroom averted their eyes from this hideous scene. Her tears were dripping and rivulets ran across her damaged skin. She dropped her shirt and sat down. She hid her head in the arms and small strangled sounds escaped her.
That day some justice was served. If you can call it that. His claim to visitation was refused. Upon her 14th birthday, the little girl could determine, if she wanted to know her father. It is not what you could call a triumph. They were a statistic.

I want to dedicate this to the 19 year old girl, whose life was ended so abruptly at the hands of her own father last week in Essen, Germany. Her mother is still in Intensive Care with life threatening gunshot wounds, totally unaware of her daughter’s death. With better education and prevention, respect and understanding, these terrible tragedies can and should be prevented from taking place.

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