My ex-husband was the most romantic person I’ve ever met. He also hit me on the day we got married, while I was wearing my wedding dress.
That’s why when I saw the footage of ex-Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée Janay Palmer, I wasn’t surprised that she was now his wife. It isn’t — as many of the commenters on the original TMZ video have said — “all about the money,” or “she doesn’t care about taking a punch,” and it’s especially not that “she is telling all women it’s okay for your man to beat you.”
Domestic violence is so much more complicated than a lack of money, or not having self-respect, or feeling like it’s OK for your man to beat up on you. I’m not an expert on what makes women stay in abusive relationships or even marry their abuser. But I did both of these things and I can speak to my particular story.
I’m from a very conservative Christian background, so when I met my husband (let’s call him Hank) he seemed like God’s gift to my life. I hadn’t dated much in high school and I had just dropped out of Bible college because I ran out of money. I was working and living in the small town where my school was located, and Hank showed up at my church looking extremely dapper in his neatly trimmed beard and dark blue suit.
He wasn’t rich but he had a good job and spent all that spring sweeping me off my feet. It was as if he had watched a million romantic movies to inform his game. He brought flowers and chocolates like a normal guy, but he worked extra hard to make sure it was clear he wanted me. Notes. Phone calls. Phone messages. He wrote “I love you” in the dirt on the back of my car, took a photo and then washed my car for me. He often mailed cards to my apartment even though we lived less than a mile apart. They came heavily scented with his cologne.
The cologne started the part of my story that is much harder to tell.
One Saturday afternoon a few months after our first date, I opened one of the cards and then smelled it as he beamed on proudly. I sniffed and joked “like a woman” because he was the first man I ever knew to send a scented envelope.
I know it’s a cliche, but if I close my eyes, I can still see that moment in slow motion. His face changed from beaming to furious. And suddenly, I was on the floor. It wasn’t until he extended his hand down to me saying, “Oh baby I am so sorry! Why did you have to say that? I’m so sorry!” that I realized I was on the floor because his fist had put me there. I actually thought for a second that a piece of the ceiling must have fallen down. Surely Hank couldn’t have hit me? That was something that happened to other people.
Hank dove into what I now know is the cycle of abuse, but what then just seemed like a cycle of passion. He ushered me to the couch and got an ice pack for my face. He kissed my forehead. He had this strange yet very convincing way of talking about how he had hit me: he spoke in passive voice, as if the violence just happened, as if he had nothing whatsoever to do with it. “Oh, so sorry you’re bruised up,” he said to me that night.
It was an absurd thing to say, but he said it while he curled his body against mine, smoothed my hair, kissed me gently. He would even kiss me on the bruises themselves, like an indulgent parent smooching away imaginary boo boos. It was overwhelming and intoxicating. In some ways, it made me fall for him more. Look at how much he cared for me!
Finish the story on TheFrisky.com.