Weekly Column: WRighteous — Women’s Rights, Men’s Wrongs

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“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” – Indian Proverb.

My story.

It happened very quickly.

He pinned me up against the wall, his hands choking me. I didn’t talk about it much, but I will now. It happened long ago, over thirty-years now. To be bluntly honest, I knew the minute I met him he was not right for me. I knew it. I felt it in my solar plexus – the core of my being, as my acupuncturist would say – dead smack center. I knew it. But I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t pay attention to a lot of things back then, mostly my own inner voice that often and reliably spoke the truth to me. “He is not right for you,” my inner voice said on more than one occasion. But I didn’t listen. He, like I, was a writer. Writers, in case most of you don’t know, fall within the working freelance category. This means, in part, that it’s not a very stable or reliable source of income or confidence. Back then, thirty-some-odd years ago, we – both he and I – were working in the film business, and the film business is a very competitive and heartbreaking business. It’s heartbreaking and heart shattering even if you’re successful. We collaborated on a couple of projects. We were even hired – as a writing team – for a couple of jobs. It was when he wasn’t working – when we weren’t working – I would see his dark side. He became belligerent, mean, and moody. He was a malcontent – moping, and stewing, and spewing. I would come over and find him reclining in his own misery – sitting in the dark. And while there were great flurries of work, there were also endless months when nothing seemed to generate.

Someone once told me that the film business teaches you how to love yourself. But what it doesn’t teach you is how to love someone else. “This is not right for you, he is not right for you,” my inner voice would tell me, loud and clear. I ignored it. I heard it, but I paid no attention. I believed, with every fiber in my being, that I could change him, help him — that I could save him from his demons and his misery. I also believed that if I were just a bit kinder, nicer, sweeter, more generous, more understanding, more… more… more… more … more, that he would stop being so unhappy, so miserable, so bitter.

It began with yelling and screaming, and I, of course, would scream back, and it would escalate from there. The breaking of things, the slamming of doors.

Out of guilt, I would return, apologizing for my bad behavior; always apologizing, an always begging for forgiveness. Women do that, you know. We apologize for other folks’ bad, awful, vile behavior. And along with apologizing, I would make a ton of excuses for him — he’s not working, he’s unhappy, he’s trying to find himself…oh, you know, Hollywood can be so cruel, so unforgiving.

And on top of apologizing and making excuses, I gave him all the power, and he took it gladly, using it to scare me, to keep me small, to destroy me.

It happened very quickly.

He pinned me against the wall, his hands choking me. It felt like an eternity. I managed to gather enough saliva and spit in his face. He slapped me hard. I pushed myself away from the wall. I looked into his eyes; they were dull and flat and hateful. There was a loud exchange of words, and he came after me again. I held my hand up and screamed, “If you touch me one more time…” Just as I don’t exactly recall what it was that made him lunge after me, I also don’t remember what it was that stopped him dead in his tracks. Maybe he saw himself in the full-length mirror leaning up against the wall that he had pinned me to. I got into my car and drove away. I never once looked in the rearview mirror. I drove to a friend’s house. A friend he didn’t know – my friend, not our friend. I had black and blue bruises that went around my neck right down to my clavicle. Cell phones were not popular back then, so he had no way of finding me, or getting in touch. I stayed with my friend for a few weeks. I tried covering the bruises with make-up, but it couldn’t cover up my shame. I was filled with unbelievable shame. The kind that makes you want to stay in bed, and hide from the world. His father had abused his mother. His grandfather had abused his grandmother. His brothers, all four of them, abused their girlfriends and wives. We watch, we learn. We repeat patterns. I walked away from him a bruised, scared, shameful girl and emerged – over much time with much therapy, much great support, and much love – a brave, fearless, courageous woman.

When I finally had the courage to tell this story years later, a former mutual writer friend of ours – a man – said, “Wow, you’re not describing the guy I know, the guy I know is funny and smart, a real cool guy. He’s a good guy, he wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

I looked him straight in the eyes, and said, “Maybe not a fly, but certainly a woman.”

When we tell you our story, do not tell us we asked for it. Do not tell us no one will listen to us. Do not tell us we’re liars. Do not tell us God will punish us. Do not tell us we’re only saying this to get attention. Do not tell us to stop wearing provocative clothing. Do not tell us to keep silent or quiet. Do not tell us to move on, to push it under the rug. 

Do not tell us it did not happen. 

Believe us.

Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 8 minutes, that victim is a child. Only 6 out of every 1000 perpetrators will end up in prison

amy ferris

author. writer. girl.

Women’s eNews Columnist Amy Ferris is a highly accomplished author, screenwriter, television writer and editor. Every Friday, you will continue to be invited into her world, where she will champion, encourage and inspire women to awaken to their greatness, as only she can, through passion, truth, hope, and humor — along with a heaping side of activism:

  • StephenMcArthur

    As a long-time (male) crisis advocate for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, I heard stories like Amy’s hundreds and hundreds of times, from women of all backgrounds, in police stations late at night, in emergency rooms, at the courthouse, and in other confidential settings. As an advocate, I was trained to listen and believe, and there are extremely good reasons for that: false reporting of incidents of abuse and violence from women is a tiny percentage, and there is ample research to show that if anyone is interested. Most women know that the price for reporting is high, the list of why women don’t come forward to report domestic and sexual violence is long, and all that information is available as well, if anyone is interested. One other thing that rarely gets talked about is that intimate partner violence (a.k.a. domestic violence) is almost always accompanied by some kind of sexual violence, coercion, and abuse because the relationship between physical and sexual abuse is common, intertwined, and inherently related.

    Did I get calls from men who reported abuse? Yes. In eleven years, I had three cases I know were real and I was able to support them. I had numerous other calls from men who were actually batterers trying to game the system and make claims against the women they were abusing. Their language of blame, denial and minimization always gave them away. Women survivors never talk this way. Women survivors typically blame themselves, they find fault in their own misgivings, doubts, feelings of inadequacies, responsibility and accountability.

    I wish it were not necessary to be hopeful about such a thing, but I am hopeful that so many women are coming forward to report, to claim their stories, to find their voices. If we listen closely, we have opportunities now to change the culture of male violence, a culture that doesn’t simply abuse women and girls (and men and boys), but which has created a world armed to the teeth, creating international and national rivalries and hatreds, a machismo inherent in the exercise of political, economic, and religious power that only results in human suffering and the death of our planet. Listening to women and girls, learning from them, and helping them find much greater agency in this world can only be a good thing for us all.