We need to talk about domestic violence every month
The photos from the Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy’s domestic abuse case brought the memories flooding back….
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. The two-week-old, purple-black bruises around both my eyes had almost faded from view. I don’t remember what “issue” had sparked the fight that led him to connect his fist with my face—twice—but things had calmed in the 14 days since it happened. I thought so, anyway.
But the truth is his anger always seemed to be on low simmer. This particular Sunday, when my eyes were nearly back to normal, when we were quietly lounging and reading the local paper, something made him blow like the radiator cap on a car. He might’ve thought I was cheating; that was the usual suspect. Suddenly, I was cowering in the bathtub, while he—probably shouting; there was always shouting—pulled out his penis and peed on me. Before you ask, no, golden showers are not my thing.
Then he threw a hard plastic cup at me, hitting me in the head. A gash opened and it bled like a stuck pig. Scalp wounds are nothing if not bleeders. Pee got into the opening and it stung worse than that summer my grandfather dipped my foot into turpentine to sanitize a cut.
Somehow I wound up on the bedroom floor, while he kicked me repeatedly with his work boots. I don’t know why he was wearing boots. They were holdovers from our time in the North; he wore them whenever it snowed. But on this day, we were living in the South, where there’s one season: sweltering. And he didn’t have the kind of job that required steel-toed footwear.
“Should I protect my head or my chest?” I remember thinking. My head won; my ribs took the pounding.
I managed to shed the pee-soaked clothing and crawl into the dining room, but he caught up with me. He pinned my head beneath one of his boots and pressed a butcher knife to my neck. It’s funny the things you think about when you’re facing death. I worried I might get blood on the carpet. I wondered if my scalp would get infected, or if urine acted as a disinfectant. I puzzled about how he’d grabbed a knife so quickly.
What I don’t recall is feeling fear, though i must have, because I squirmed free. I escaped the apartment and fled next door. I have no idea what the neighbor—the one who, prior to that day, never spoke to us, the one who turned her head every time we crossed paths in the parking lot—thought when she opened her door to a naked, pee-soaked girl speaking gibberish about her boyfriend and a knife. She let me stay there until he came to fetch me, robe in hand, some time later. She moved out the very next week. Perhaps that was already in the works, though I’ve always believed she wanted to be as far away from the fighting black couple as possible.
Nobody called the cops. I didn’t press charges. And I didn’t leave him—not then, not for a few years.
It’s been more than two decades since that Sunday. I rarely think about it. Except sometimes, when a celebrity domestic violence story makes the news cycle. Or when I run my hands through my hair, brush against the crescent-shaped scar left by that hard plastic cup and feel relief that I survived.
And here’s what I know whenever I think about that Sunday: More of us need to share our stories of domestic violence until there’s no need for any more stories.