Trigger Warning: This post contains depictions of violent scenarios and may be disturbing to some readers.
Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please speak up. Visit safehorizon.org or call 800.621.HOPE (4673). Domestic violence comes in many forms. Safe Horizon defines it as “a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence.” To add to their definition, abuse can come from both sides of a relationship (toxicity) and in different types of relationships (ie friendships, parent/child, siblings, etc). If you are in a toxic relationship, please reach out as well.
Intro: This was the second time I decided to write something that made me extremely uncomfortable. Please pardon any errors in grammar or spelling as I simply could not bring myself to read this a millionth time. Editors are welcome to email me an updated version with corrections at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What happens when the person you fight so violently is also your lover, your best friend, your copilot, and co-parent? How does that work; where do you run and do you even have to run? Kennedy asked herself these questions as she scrubbed the splatters of blood from the entryway of her apartment. Her mind raced in different directions. Every stroke of the hand brush drove sharp pains through her body. This could have ended differently. True, another crisis was averted but it could have been his body, her body, or even worse, the body of one of their children laying in this vestibule instead of blood stains.
Kennedy continued to vigorously scrub in an attempt to block her flashbacks and get over the pain. It’s not real, you’re just being dramatic. There is no pain. The sound of her hand brush scraping against the wall mimicked the white noise she heard when she thought of the previous day’s events. She knew the fight was loud but she couldn’t recall the sounds and barely their dialogue. There was a shame involved in facing her neighbors, facing her boss, and her children after that amount of disruption. This shame was one she had to bear almost a year ago in a different apartment. Her brain coursed through the many past scenarios of the same occurrence.
She thought of what happened last year, and how he fought her. Kennedy could not recall the reason why; only that Shawn kept screaming the same thing that he screamed at her the day before, “Stop hitting me! Why are you always hitting me? I’m sick of you putting your hands on me!” Kennedy knew that she had been nagging him for days about random things and this day in particular, he had reached his boiling point but she had not put her hands on him. Nonetheless, she had it coming and all she could do was take a deep breath and let it happen. Usually, her instinct was to fight like a caged animal but today would be different. When this happened before, Shawn told her that if she calmed down, things wouldn’t be so bad. He would not have to be so rough. So this time, she stayed calm.
Shawn’s voice started to escalate as Kennedy backed into their bedroom. She raised her hands with her palms outward and begged for him to calm down. She felt so defeated but if this is what she needed to do to keep the peace, she would have to do it.
“I’m not hitting you,” she said calmly. Her tone spoke against her instincts. “I’m not hitting you,” she repeated.
Kennedy was backed into their closet when Shawn was close enough to grab her. She tried to dip around him but he was too quick. One of his large hands wrapped around her throat and the other gripped her arm. He swung her out of the closet and tossed her onto their bed. Kennedy started to panic but fought her urge to fight back. She recalled their first months together. That was the first time he grabbed her throat until she nearly fainted. Another argument about too much nagging. He told her that day that she was being dramatic and she needed to relax. This would be the day she would finally allow his anger to run its course without her participation. Today she would finally listen. The minute she would slip out of his grasp, he would catch her again so she laid still as he yelled two inches from her face. He never struck her, he would toss her around more than anything. So this is not abuse because she wasn’t really hurt, right? It took Shawn about twenty minutes of his yelling and her twisting to be released before the light in his eyes returned. He stroked the top of her head roughly and kissed her mouth hard. Kennedy laid still with her eyes squeezed tightly. Is he finished?
”I’m proud of you, baby. You stayed calm,” Shawn said in a gruff whisper.
Kennedy did not reply. Instead she was replaying his violent words, “Stop hitting me. I’m tired of you hitting me.” It then occurred to her what he was referring to. Last week. You must be careful, Kennedy, this is what he wants. He’s still angry about what you did last week.
There was another altercation the week before. This time, Kennedy was the aggressor. Shawn had taken her phone and wouldn’t give it back. True to form, Kennedy began to act like a wild animal and this time he would be allowed to reciprocate. Shawn grabbed Kennedy by her throat and dragged her to their bathroom. She continued to kick and scream when she could and pulled down the towel bar as she fell. When Kennedy landed in the tub, her head banged against the tile and she knew this could be the day she would die. The kids were at school and there was no one but her neighbors to bear witness to what they think may have happened. After all, he had to protect himself; he was covered in scratches. Kennedy had to die. Her thoughts raced in this manner as he squeezed the life from her throat. Black circles began to enclose everything in her line of sight.
The towel bar was at the reach for her finger tips. Kennedy had to finish what she started. She swung at him wildly, not noticing the screw protruding from the end of the towel bar. He hollered and choked her even harder. Kennedy was seeing black and white spots but she continued to swing until the fight left her body and her arm fell limp in the tub. She was sure that this would be their final altercation and judging by the blood coming from his head, she deserved to die. No one would say differently.
BANG, BANG, BANG, “It’s the police. Open the door.”
Their timing was impeccable. Kennedy imagined that she was just shy of taking her last breath but now they each had to face a different kind of music and surely Kennedy would be arrested for being the aggressor. As it happened, this wouldn’t be the first time she was arrested for fighting Shawn. The first time, she was protecting herself. He lashed out on her but once there was an audience, he stopped and played the victim. This was a role he learned to play well, while Kennedy had not. Not being a victim was something she prided herself on. Victims are weak and Kennedy was certainly not weak. Today would be no different; she would not cower and she’d take her licks even if that meant she would be arrested.
Any time Kennedy lashed out, she felt it was necessary because of his size. She reasoned that she had to do this because it would be kill or be killed at this point but no one knew that nor would they understand. The rationale made Kennedy just as guilty. You can’t blame someone for your abuse of their body and if you are being abused, you have to pull up your bootstraps and walk away. Kennedy knew it was that simple; it had to be. So neither of them were being abused because both of them chose to stay.
Comparatively, Shawn is much larger than Kennedy but they are both large for their sex. He was around six feet, four inches tall and weighed two hundred and eighty pounds; mostly muscle. She was around five feet, ten inches and was a solid two hundred pounds. Kennedy wasn’t muscular but there didn’t appear to be much fat either.
Kennedy walked to answer the door. Her face felt dirty and swollen. The police rushed past her and separated the two of them immediately. Instinctively, Shawn and Kennedy joined forces. Their stories matched about the whole thing being a misunderstanding and light shoving. Whenever Shawn would get belligerent, Kennedy would plead his case from the adjacent room. As always, there was a “good cop” and a “bad cop.” The hierarchy was in their favor this time around and the “good cop” had the authority to give them a pass if Shawn agreed to stay out of the house for at least a week. They both agreed.
Soon after the police left, Kennedy went to pick Shawn up a few blocks away from their home and off they went to the hardware store to purchase what they needed to repair the bathroom and all was well again. Until he decided that Kennedy needed to be knocked down a peg then they’d be at it again.
Kennedy continued to scrape the now bare wall. She was going numb. Her body rocked to an indistinct rhythm and her mind flashed to the day before. This could not happening again.
“You keep hitting me,” Shawn screamed. “Stop fucking hitting me,” he screamed as he squeezed Kennedy’s throat. Her back was pressed against the back of the toilet and she could feel it lift from the floor as she grabbed for his face and clawed at his arms. She was trying not to panic. If she avoided struggling, she would avoid feeling like she was going to pass out but that never worked and this time was no different. He squeezed even tighter whenever she tried to scream for help. All that could be heard were his demands and her gurgling for air.
Their son and daughter were sleeping in the other room when the argument started. Through blurry eyes, she could see their son now standing in the door; pulling on his daddy. The dizziness started to take hold but Kennedy kept clawing at Shawn. Hearing their son scream for his father to stop shattered her heart. She grabbed at Shawn’s balls and finally had them in her palm. She snatched them and twisted but he didn’t let go of her neck. His grasp on her throat matched the stronghold she had on his testicles.
“Look at what you’re doing to our kids,” he growled as he squeezed tighter before he released. His tone softened when he turned to their son and said, “Mommy’s okay. Go sit down.”
Behind their son was his younger sister. She too started grabbing at her father begging him to leave her mommy alone. While Shawn’s attention was on their children, Kennedy hollered for him to get out of their apartment. This was a moment of peace. Kennedy should have let it go rather than try to get him to leave but she didn’t. He turned his attention back to her and they argued about whether or not he’d be leaving their house.
Kennedy tried to rush past Shawn but was unable to. It wasn’t until their kids managed to slip in the bathroom did he allow her to squeeze past him. The family spilled into the living room and the shouting continued. It seemed that the four of them were growing frantic. Kennedy was barely clothed yet she still ran for the front door of the apartment to scream for help.
Shawn caught up to her and grabbed her by her throat and threw her to the floor. Kennedy’s limbs flailed wildly before she landed. Her head just missed the table and her body knocked their son to the floor along with her. She started swinging on Shawn to get his weight which was now on her chest. Both of the kids were swinging and screaming at their father. Kennedy knew this had gone too far. She needed to learn when to let go and allow Shawn to take control.
Kennedy gasped rolled on her side and gasped for hair. Shawn picked up their children and rushed them over to the sofa. He reassured them that Kennedy was alright but for Kennedy, the fog had yet to clear. She continued to demand he leave from their home. She did not want to keep up the façade anymore and it was time for this to end. Again, Shawn refused to leave.
Let it go, Kennedy. She struggled with the idea of allowing Shawn to win. Little did she know, there would be no winner. Kennedy never fashioned herself to be the sort of woman to kowtow to a man and if she sat down, that is precisely what she would be doing. With her phone in hand, she tried to rush around Shawn to call for help. He wrestled her for her phone but she would not let it go. She tried to get past him again but did not make it.
They began to wrestle on the couch where their children observed the spectacle. When Kennedy landed on the sofa, the children jumped up and retrieved their toys. Both of them started swinging their toys at the father. Kennedy knew she had to stop and so she did. Still fuming she said asked him to just leave but promised not to call the police. She couldn’t have called the police anyway. What would she have told them when Shawn is the one covered in bites and scratches? Shawn was still hesitant to allow Kennedy to leave the living room.
Despite being allowed to leave his presence, she still felt the need to run to the bathroom and lock the door. There was no way a call to the authorities would end well. Either Shawn would be brutalized by the police or Kennedy would have been so she nixed that idea. The time for Kennedy to arrive at work was drawing near and she was not ready to discuss what happened with her mother so she called her supervisor to advise that she needed the day off. She promised herself prior to placing her call that she wouldn’t tell her boss what transpired but the minute she opened her mouth, the tear ducts opened as well. Her brain fried attempting to think of something but there was nothing else to tell outside of the truth.
After hanging up with her supervisor and inevitably speaking with her mother, Kennedy exited the bathroom. She could hear the kids chattering with their father. She calmly sat down with them and asked that he leave once more. He replied that he was leaving. Thirty minutes later, he was still sitting beside her and their children. She knew that he had no intention of leaving. And now that the dust has finally begun to settle, she questioned if she overreacted about the whole thing.
Shawn clicked on the television and had the kids pick out a show to watch. This made Kennedy feel almost a hundred percent sure that she blew the situation out of proportion. That is until the following day when she had to struggle to clean her apartment. There has to be a better way of living, even if it means living in silence. She now has to determine the form her silence will come in.