The first time I ever paid witness to domestic violence was my senior year of high school, outside a Denny’s in Lutz, Florida. After a house party, we all decided to load up on greasy food to proactively target our imminent hangovers. Throughout the night, I passively watched as a boy named Sam grew increasingly combative in conversation with his girlfriend, Alix. I paid no mind to it, thinking it was just a good ol’ fashioned argument exacerbated by the liquid devil. When Sam’s anger reached its boiling point and he slapped Alix, then shoved her to the ground, Alix’s anguished screams reduced her to helplessness. Though hardly a forceful strike, Alix’s eyes told a story that Sam’s actions were all too familiar, her belief in her partner violated once again. Hours before, Alix was the life of the party, a beautiful and charming young lady who now raised her hands defensively, her head turned away as she pleaded for Sam to stop.
Three years ago, in Washington, D.C., I heard an ear piercing scream outside my home. Before I even opened my door to investigate, I knew what sound I was hearing. There’s a certain timbre to a domestic violence victim’s voice as they scream. It’s not always a bellow of pain, so much as it is a guttural shriek triggered by the subjugation of their abusers, who violate the most elementary tenets of companionship and love, and reduce their partners to the status of a puppy who has just defalcated on a rug. By the time I found this young GW student, her assailant was gone. She was in the alley of my house, back against the wall, nose broken, wrist shattered, and so defeated that she couldn’t breathe or speak until the police and EMT’s came to calm her down.
Wednesday night, as I returned to my five-star hotel after a long day of work to enjoy a quiet night at the bar over a glass of wine, I heard commotion in the hotel theater. A woman followed a man outside. Their confrontation was audible, and as I got out of my seat to investigate, I saw this hulk of a man cock his fist back, connect with her head, and split the lady’s face wide open. She crumbled to the ground as if her knees suddenly failed to support the body above them. Blood splashed across the marble floor of the hotel. She lay unconscious on the ground, blood continuing to pour from her eye and upper cheek as the coward hastily sprinted out of the hotel before he could be apprehended. When she finally came to, she looked around as some witnesses tried to help her. We locked eyes for a moment, and as she scanned the room, first displaying the look of deliriousness, she patted her face, noticing the blood on her fingers and realizing the nightmare was in fact, a reality. The all too familiar shriek escaped her lips, and her eyes rolled to the back of her head, losing control of breathing. When I felt her pulse, her heart palpated at nearly 170 beats per minute.
It felt like a lifetime as we waited for the police to appear. The theater manager asked me how I remained so calm in taking control of the situation. “I’ve seen this before,” I said emptily.
I didn’t sleep a wink last night as I recounted Alix’s hands raised in the air as her boyfriend stood over her, feigning to strike once again. I didn’t sleep a wink last night as I remembered the young GW student in my alleyway, battered and bruised, and unable to breathe. I didn’t sleep a wink last night as I thought of the image of Tiffany’s blood strewn across the elegant marble of my hotel. And in the inevitable moment I witness such violence in my life once again, I will not sleep a wink then either.
Let me get on my soap box for a moment. Domestic violence is not a “female issue.” It’s all of our problem. When there are men (and women) who feel at liberty to subjugate their partners to violence and treat them with the same dignity with which an Orkin man would treat a routine cockroach extermination, this is a problem for all of us.
You might see it yourself one day, and you might hear that ear piercing, helpless, feral cry that comes when a victim simply cannot express with words the pain and sense of violation they feel when they’re abused. God forbid, you might even be subject to it one day, and you may have already been at this point, perhaps more than once.
No matter the gravity of a disagreement, no matter how much frustration may boil, and no matter how much anger may mount, this matter is black and white: violence towards a companion is never acceptable.
I write this to my readers, because I want you to understand, this is a journey we are all in together. Whether you are a male, a female, a feminist, a victim, an ally, or someone who has struck his/her partner in the past/present, love is an amazing thing and we simply cannot afford to allow this kind of violence to happen anymore.
Thank you for reading, and God bless America and Justin Meehan.