Thursday, January 14, 2016

In the Shoes of a Victim

Current Dominican Volunteer Francesca Pisano lives and works in Chicago, IL
My name is Francesca Pisano and I am an advocate and counselor at Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence agency. I work with women and children who are victims and survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault. I’d like to take the time to transport you to a world you may have never visited before.

Sitting Amongst the Clouds

This morning you woke up to your friend’s dog on top of you because you are sleeping in his spot on the couch. You look across the room to see your children asleep on the pullout couch surrounded by bags full of whatever you were able to grab from your house before you left. Justin, your friend’s husband, is making coffee in the kitchen; you get up to go get some. He wasn’t awake when you got here around 2 am, just a few hours ago. Right before you reach the kitchen door, Karen’s voice travels into the hallway, “…but don’t overreact when you see her. I’m sure her bruises are going to be a lot worse this morning.” If Justin didn’t already know your husband beat you, he sure does now.

Your handsome, successful husband came home from work at about 7 o’clock last night. The kids were almost done with their homework, you were cooking in the kitchen and he went to get changed out of his suit before joining the rest of the family. He finally came out of the bedroom once the workbooks were put away and the table was set. In between plating the dishes, you were texting one of your few friends about the PTA meeting last night that you weren’t allowed to attend because your husband wouldn’t let you use the car. You could tell his eyes were on you every time you touched your phone instead of putting more pasta in the next dish. You knew you’d be getting an earful later…

While the girls were getting ready for bed, your son and husband sat in front of the TV to watch the day’s sports recap but you were still in the kitchen cleaning up the meal’s aftermath. Your husband decided to come reprimand you about your disrespectful behavior before dinner. He started in a calm voice saying that you should be less worried about texting people and more worried about feeding your family. Little by little, his voice got louder… meaner. His words began to get hurtful as he started cursing at you, calling you worthless. You knew where this was going, so you tried to leave the room.

That’s when he grabbed you. “Don’t you walk away when I’m talking to you!” He held you in a chokehold up against the wall. The kids were used to the yelling, so they didn’t bother to come out of their safe spaces, but they never saw him put his hands on you, even though it has happened before. You knew your son saw blow after blow, slap after slap. All of a sudden you heard sirens soon followed by a knock on the door. The officer said, “Your son called and said his dad was killing his mom. The dispatcher heard the commotion and sent us here immediately.” Those words meant many, many things. First and foremost, they meant “safety”…followed by “struggle,” “disaster,” “embarrassment.”

Now, sitting on the floor of the hallway in Karen’s house at 6:30 in the morning, you hold back tears while you think of where you’ll be sleeping tonight, how you failed your beautiful children, what will happen with the police report and the courts, if Child Protective Services will get involved, and when you will truly feel safe again.

*Note: All names are fictitious.