I used to be one of those short-sighted, opinionated types that believed that if a woman was abused by a man, and she didn't leave immediately, she was either a fool or a masochist.
I was wrong.
Nearly 20 years ago, when I was between marriages, I spent several months in a toxic relationship. It didn't start out that way. No, not at all. In the beginning, he was sweet and attentive and generous. Things deteriorated gradually, with him "teaching" me how much I deserved the treatment I was receiving. By the time he broke my body, he had long since broken my spirit.
The police weren't much help. They finally took my reports seriously when he broke into my apartment while I was away, setting off the alarm. I guess having to respond to a burglary was more compelling than two black eyes.
I learned a lot about the dynamics of domestic violence, lessons that make me a better therapist and a more compassionate human being. I recognize the ways in which I benefitted from the ordeal, although I would give just about anything to erase the memories and end the nightmares.
I recently had an inexplicable urge to search for The Monster online. (Isn't Google an amazing vehicle?) What I found was not what I expected. The Monster is dead. He died about a month ago. He left behind a wife and children. The obituary stated that he had moved back to his home state and was serving as a deacon in his church. I wondered if he was still smoking pot and beating up the nearest woman when he couldn't score a fix. I wondered if he had accepted Jesus as his savior.
Another thing I wasn't expecting was the ambiguity I experienced upon reading of his demise. Was I supposed to feel relieved? Happy? Sad? Angry? Envious? Worried? Grieved? Retraumatized?I felt all of those things and more.
Another reminder of just how human I really am.