My sister survived domestic violence too, as have several of my aunts and cousins, whether they care to admit it or not. I have a vivid memory of visiting an aunt when I was child, of one of my cousins showing me a hole in the wall and telling me, “My dad did that.” I am currently watching a niece grapple with a coercive control situation that will likely become violent, if it hasn’t already. If we don’t find a way to help her escape, she might end up like our cousin who didn’t survive domestic violence. In 2019, that cousin’s ex-husband murdered her in cold blood, shooting her in the back and head multiple times while their five-year-old played in the next room.
Yes, I am quite familiar with domestic violence. But I don’t let my experiences with domestic violence define me. Instead, I have worked hard to define it. I’ve talked to lots of survivors, read books on the subject, and even took a criminal justice studies course on intimate partner violence to try to understand how this could have happened to me. I watched The Perfect Victim and consumed Maid (both the book and the Netflix series), and read countless memoirs written by my fellow survivors. I want to understand and expose family violence in the hopes that I can help someone else save themselves the same way I saved me.
I’ve often considered writing a memoir about my experiences and might still do so. The problem is, like many PTSD suffers, I struggle to pin down the memories of what happened through those ten years of trauma. Sometimes it feels like my body remembers more than my brain does. The memories often come in disjointed flashes when I care to think about them the least.
I might remember being thrown on my bed and pummeled about my head by furious fists, but I can’t remember the events that lead up to it. But does it matter? Does it matter why I was slammed to the floor in my kitchen when I was five months pregnant and smothered until I thought I was going to die? Whatever the argument was about, I couldn’t have done anything to deserve that. My unborn child certainly didn’t deserve to be deprived of oxygen while in the womb.
Yes, I struggle to tell my own story. But I do have a story to tell. I want to share what I have learned, both personally and through my scholarly research. But I’m a fiction writer, not a memoirist or an academic writer. I find it easier to show the truth of a thing through stories than through nonfiction accounts.
So, I’ve told my story and the story of many who have been in my place in my latest novel, If You Didn’t See It Coming. This isn’t a memoir, but it’s as true as any memoir can be. I hope you’ll read it. If you haven’t been exposed to the vagaries of domestic violence, I hope you will learn from it. If you have, I hope it helps you understand what happened to you. I hope it helps you reclaim your life.
You might not even realize yet that what you are experiencing is abuse. If that’s you, I hope this opens your eyes. I hope you can escape. I want you to know that you deserve to escape. You deserve to be saved, but sometimes you must save yourself. Sadly, the system isn’t set up to help you. There are more systems in place to keep you in your desperate situation than there are to help you leave. But leave you must. Leave you will. But don’t wait too long or you might end up leaving in a body bag.
If You Didn’t See It Coming is available now on Amazon in print and will be free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers for a limited time.
Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline if you or a loved one is currently experiencing domestic violence. Get help today. Tomorrow may be too late.