I’m going to republish something I wrote a while ago for another site, that has since been taken down. It was the most difficult decision I ever made for a thousand reasons – mostly because I was jumping blindly and wildly into the unknown, rather than stay and face a comfortable fate. Leaving abuse is about as easy as climbing Everest in heels, and I doubted myself more often than I’d like to admit. In the moment, I couldn’t tell if the decision I was making was the right one. But this was the turning point that helped me realise that something had to change, and that something had to be me.
“Are you ok?”
A concerned stranger’s face appeared beside my boyfriend’s irate one.
“yes,” I sigh, as I get cut off by Irate Boyfriend.
“She’s my fiancé,” he sputtered, as if that excused his behaviour.
I don’t remember what happened next, just like I don’t remember much of my life from that time. Blessedly, I’ve let it go. There’s not much I’d like to recall anyway, if I’m honest.
But I do remember the one person who dared to inquire as to my welfare that day in the hopes that the abuse to which he was witness would stop.
The storm began to brew that morning when the Boyfriend demanded I borrow my mother’s car so he could drive me to the ATM to collect my week’s wage.
My little brothers needed to get to school, so we said we’d take them. They were young, and exuberant and annoying to the Boyfriend.
By the time they’d been dropped off, I was near tears and riddled with guilt. He was furious. They were only little and didn’t understand the complex dynamic in the car that morning.
They just thought it was their fault.
I was dropped off at the entrance to the shopping centre, while Increasingly Irate Boyfriend found a park.
The line for the ATM was long, so I sat and waited for a few mintues for it to clear. It might have been morning, but it was already getting hot.
Irate Boyfriend appeared from nowhere, berating me for not being in the line, as now he would have to wait longer to part me from my hard-earned cash.
Quiet, knowing that anything I said could and would be used against me, I dutifully made my way to the line.
Unappeased, he continued his barrage. Nothing short of a bullet would stop this man when he got this far.
I saw the mother in the line behind me draw her small child closer, away from the crazy guy yelling at a young woman at 8.30 on a Thursday morning.
That’s when I realised what was happening was something I would be horrified by if I saw it happening to someone else.
That’s when I realised this kind of life I had never quite got used to, but instead endured hoping it would change, had crept into the realm of more than I could take.
Determined to get into the car and drive – unlicensed, but desperate – back home and leave him stranded to carry on, to hell with the consequences, I sat in the driver’s seat and realised I didn’t have any keys.
Irate Boyfriend followed me over, screeching into the window that I’d wound down to ask for the keys.
That’s when someone from the crowd standing around came over and ignored the raging dickhead, and instead asked if I was ok.
I was, and I wasn’t.
I wasn’t ok, because I was in a relationship that was abusive, only because he never hit me I thought we’d sort it out and it wasn’t that bad.
I was ok, because I was now starting to realise the bad outweighed the good in my life and that other people could see it too. That I wasn’t just imagining it, or overreacting or being oversensitive or any of the other things snarled at me when I dared to stand up for myself.
Someone cared that I was being mistreated, even if I didn’t care enough myself. That made a huge impact on me.
That person will never know he helped to change my life.
That person did what he thought was best when he saw a situation that nobody really knew how to handle, let alone me.
That person moved to stop a person abusing someone weaker than himself.
And while he wasn’t successful that day, eventually he was.
Eventually the abuse stopped. When I made it stop.
It wasn’t easy. It was complicated and weird and exhausting and a million other things, but it needed to happen.
And it took a stranger to get me to see that I was worth it.