Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A True Survivor

Normally I post stuff that irks me, confuses me, or that I just want to share with you, oh generous legion of random clickers. Today, I am posting something that makes my passionate heart beat with fire and vigor - and probably a touch o' the old madness too.

My best friend is a survivor of an abusive marriage. I am talking old school best friend here. The kind you drove around in your mom's car, listening to cds and talking about teenage bullshit. The kind who asked you to be in her wedding. The kind who stood up for you at yours when the time came. The kind of best friend who wouldn't just take a bullet for you, but fire one back. THAT kind of best friend.

This is the story of mine. I will call her Jane for short, since although she's vocal, she might not want to be THIS vocal. Jane met her ex in high school - at the time I thought it was just a phase, something she was doing to rebel against her conservative mom, the usual idiotic teenage choice. She stayed with him long enough to make me reconsider, and when the time came, I was her Maid of Honor and gave a speech at the reception. She was a bridesmaid in mine and looked ravishing.

I will confess for years I was openly envious of her seemingly wonderful marriage - this couple that everyone had doubted really had come through and made something of their lives. It's now that I should be reminded of the phrase: 'Don't compare your inside to someone else's outside.' For years, no one knew the darker side of Jane's life. Until one day and one phone call, when the truth became staggeringly clear.

We'll call the asshole in question her husband Jim. Jim was a control freak, a permanent victim and the guy that things just didn't seem to go right for, ever. If you listened long enough, you'd hear that refrain, "poor me" right under the surface. Outwardly, he seemed to support my friend, inwardly, he wanted her right where she was - with him, all the time. She didn't do anything without him, and over time, he began to use their children as a weapon. Don't go to work - the kids need you. Don't do this - the kids need you. If you leave to get some space - you're abandoning them. On and on it went - Jane racked with guilt and conflicted.

One night, she'd had enough. All the years of supposed happiness were revealed as a sham - she told me of vicious fights - both verbal and physical. She ran to family and took the kids - she stayed there, crying, grieving the life she thought she had, and trying to plan what to do next. Jim promised to go to counseling, he promised he'd change - they'd make it, for both them, and the kids. And so, like so many other women, she believed and wanted to believe him, and went back.

Another year passed. He did not go to counseling. None of the promises came to pass; when she left him again, he choked her. When she went to pick up boxes, he raped her. The police didn't believe her, the hospital tests were "inconclusive." She turned to family and friends, she talked to me. My heart broke for her.

It's been almost six months since the last altercation. Jane has a protective order, which anyone with a brain knows is only a piece of paper and not a magic shield. He's harassed her, threatened to kill her, refused to return their kids and even threatened to kill himself. The divorce is final, thankfully, but Jane isn't free of him - and might never be.

Jim has tried every tactic he can think of: lying to her, promising change, threats, accusations, and manipulating their kids until they don't know what to believe. Through it all, Jane has held strong - working two jobs to make up for the support he isn't paying. She has kept her breakdowns quiet, always finding the energy to stay up with a sick kid, or to volunteer at school. Meanwhile, Jim uses his time with the kids to spread rumors about their mother, and keeps them up until the middle of the night, preferring to be a friend instead of a father. They've all missed getting to school more than once, as none of them have woken up in time on a Monday morning after such late nights.

Still, Jane pushes on. Lately, Jim has been upping his bullshit games, all in a pathetic attempt to find some way to control Jane again, even a little bit. He's called the police with bogus accusations, and even resorted to calling the local Child Protective organization. Jane has jumped through the hoops, allowing her kids to be interviewed by these strangers, all to prove that she is the good mother she (and we) know/s herself to be. All because one man cannot accept that he has lost control of someone he never considered an equal, but someone he considered his property.

Throughout the last two years, truly a bittersweet cocktail of both progress and set backs, Jane has never given up. She has battled the demons that led her to choose Jim in the first place, all those years ago. She has fought a battle against both him and herself and still she has to keep fighting. She's never NEVER called herself a victim, but a survivor.

She's a survivor, she's a friend, and she's my fucking hero. She has more guts than I ever could, and I treasure her. If you know anyone like Jane, say something - because just maybe, your words could matter - you might help them go from victim to survivor, and that's a pretty awesome thing.

Comments, questions, opinions on women who rock?


Ken said...

when i read stories like this i wonder how much of it has to do with hitching up so (relatively) early in life.

struggles like these are always so rooted in symbolism: the "other" takes on such epic importance that basically everything in his/her life revolves around them. the two individuals are no longer individuals: they are one entity, each defining themselves through the other.

obviously this becomes more likely when you have such early memories with someone... you've lived so much of your life together.

i hope your friend has the strength to REdefine herself. unfortunately she will always be connected to this asshole through the children they share, but she has already been through the hardest part.

Sammo said...

Well said. And it's all about progress, so I hear.