I’ve read the news about Ray Rice. I’ve watched the video of him punching his then-fiance in the elevator, oh, about a thousand times. Because every website and news channel has played it on repeat since its release. I’ve read article after article on domestic violence. I’ve read about women who stayed. Women who left. Women who stayed, left and went back and left again. Women who overcame their abusers. I’ve seen the hashtags. I’ve read the statistics.
I’ve seen people who have never been personally effected by domestic violence comment on statuses and stories on facebook. Things like:
What a dumb bitch!”
“She’s obviously a gold digger.”
“If it were me I would leave.”
“Why doesn’t she just leave?”
“She deserves it.”
“Ho needs to know her place.”
YES. Those are real people behind a computer screen writing those actual things.
I would sit back in my chair. Release a deep sigh. And think of my beautiful cousin, Michelle.
A young woman with so much potential. A young women who loved her son. A young woman who finally got up the courage to leave her husband.
A young woman who was killed by him anyway.
I won’t presume to know the whole story. I only know Michelle’s side of the story as told by her sister, Melissa.
Four years ago, my cousin Michelle left her home with her son and sought refuge at her parents’ house. Here she believed she was safe. Here she decided that she would not be going home to her husband. That she would most likely be filing for divorce. She believed she and her son deserved a better life. One that didn’t include verbal, emotional and physical abuse.
But her husband came looking for her. They had a long talk. With the support of her parents and her sister behind her, it was then that she told him she wouldn’t be going home with him. The argument got heated and the cops were called. Her husband left.
Unfortunately, he came back uninvited later that night. He came back with a plan – and a loaded gun. If he couldn’t have her – nobody could.
First he shot Michelle’s dad, who tried to stop the incident at the door. He screamed for Michelle to run and she did. But he caught her. He shot her in the heart and she died instantly. He then shot and killed himself.
Their son was unharmed, thank God.
Three weeks later, Michelle’s sister Melissa was married. Michelle’s flowers had already been ordered. She was to be standing by her sister’s side as Matron of Honor. This is what happened instead.
There was not a dry eye in the church. I can’t tell you what this tragedy did to their family. To us all. I can’t tell you what it did to her son’s future. All I know is that Michelle’s mom and dad and sister are doing their best to raise her son in a loving and caring environment. And I have so much respect and admiration for their strength and faith in God as a family. They have all been through hell and back. But they continue to raise awareness toward the truth of domestic violence. Domestic violence has a face. It has a name.
People ask in the comments of these news stories why women don’t just leave. They assume abused women are stupid and that’s why they don’t choose to leave. When actually there is much more to the story. Michelle was a stay at home mom. She wanted nothing more than to be a good mom and to be there for him. She didn’t have any money of her own and she lived far away from her parents and sister. She didn’t know HOW to leave and still be able to take care of her son.
I’ve spoken with Melissa and she wants to pass this message along – PLEASE read her words.
No one could ever replace what was tragically taken away from us that night. I would not wish this pain on my worst enemy. IF there are girls, or guys, out there who are being abused by their significant other, get help. There are resources out there and they can help you. You don’t have to let your boyfriend, husband or whoever know you are seeking help. Please don’t stay because you think there is nothing else out there for you or if you have been told that you are worthless and that you would never succeed without the one who is hurting you. There is hope and you deserve the life God gave you!”
There is help. If you are in fear of you and your children’s lives there are resources. It’s not going to be easy. But there can be life after abuse. There wasn’t for Michelle. But her legacy lives on in her son.