*Trigger warning: this article contains talk of domestic violence.
Imagine that a bear is chasing you.
You know that if the bear catches you, he will kill you.
You try to outrun the bear, but he just keeps charging. You’re finally caught, at the edge of a cliff. You face the bear and try to ask him to stop, you love this bear after all, so you try to reason with him, but he’s not going to stop.
You look down over the edge of the cliff and can’t see the bottom. It could be a 4’ drop or it could be a 400’ drop.
You are stuck.
You watch the bear advance. As he inches closer, you know that you face certain death if you stay. If you jump off the cliff, you may also die, but you may also get a second chance at life.
You try to jump, but can’t. Maybe the bear has changed his mind and it will be better now, but one look at him tells you that the bear is madder than ever. You are out of choices. You have to go. It’s now or never.
And that is what it feels like to leave a domestic violence situation.
It is terrifying; a choice made because all other options have been exhausted.
You don’t know what awaits you and you hope that you won’t have to make that choice, but ultimately, if you’re one of the lucky ones, you jump, you land a bit rough, but you get up and run as fast as you can, as far as you can.
It is well known that the most dangerous time for the abused is when they leave, when the abuser realizes that they’ve lost control, when maybe they feel that they have nothing else to live for. The danger is real.
And who will catch you when you fall? Unfortunately, the police have some ways to go before understanding the complexity of domestic violence – ‘just another domestic’. Too often they can only see the mask that the abuser wears – the mask of respectability hiding the ugliness underneath.
Your friends will hopefully catch you, but the friend net has many unseen holes. Some will, but others won’t and will say, ‘I don’t want to be involved, find someone else, don’t ask anything of me, don’t contact me again’. Others simply won’t believe you.
The fall will be longer than you had hoped. You will wonder how much more you can take of this free fall. The layers of your identity will get caught on the branches on the way down – financial security will be the first one to get snarled in the roots of your deep abyss.
But hope will hold on. Hope and courage will falter, flicker, but they will hold your shaky hands and guide you on towards whatever the future holds for you.
That scary future where nothing is certain except that you jumped, you survived and the healing hasn’t even get begun, but there is hope and courage and light up ahead emerging to let you out, to let you begin again.
You will be ok.
The bear can’t hurt you anymore.
*If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please know that there is help out there. You can call the domestic violence hotline 24/7 at 800-799-7233. If you live in South Carolina, here is a list of local resources.
Read more from our Anonymous Stories in Motherhood series.