Inside The Souls Of Both Sides Of One Domestically Violent Relationship

Inside The Souls Of Both Sides Of One Domestically Violent Relationship

But the fact that they describe these experiences so vividly show that, to some degree, the relationship was a cornerstone moment and turning point for both of their lives – and what we can take away in its wake is that the story didn't end on that Sunday night for either Dylan or Isabelle.

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This week, I am writing a riff on another article I found powerful and thoughtful - a CNN article titled "Peering inside a batterer's mind - and a victim's soul." Published on January 2, 2015 by Jessica Ravitz, this article surfaced about 11 months after TMZ released the video of Ray Rice beating his girlfriend, Janay Palmer, in a casino elevator. The article reckons with an individual - and unique story of two people's story in a relationship of domestic violence - and the article in itself is very, very unique as well. It is told from the perspective of the abuser - and the victim, tells both their stories and documents how their lives and souls have reckoned and changed from their experiences.

The article immediately grips the reader with an encounter with "Dylan," the former batterer. "He's nothing like I imagined. His demeanor is gentle, his smile and handshake warm, his words friendly and measured."

It's a fundamental theme of the human condition, and something we need to all realize within ourselves and within others. No one is better or worse than anyone. Anyone, no matter how kind, compassionate, or thoughtful, is capable of anything, no matter how cruel or monstrous. I often look to Romans 3:10-12 to see what I believe of the human condition, that we are all imperfect sinners before a God who saved us: "as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." I don't believe in bad people, but only good people who've done terrible things.

Ravitz then questions in the next paragraph: "where is the batterer I've­ come to meet? 'The man who grabbed, pushed and punched a woman he claimed to love?" She describes, so painfully, in the next sentence, what compelled her to seek out Dylan and why she's writing this article: he is "the one I've enlisted to help me understand: Why do some men do this? How can they be stopped?"

She then describes Dylan as the antithesis of what she expected from a wife-beater: he is Ivy-league educated and raised by loving parents. In exchange for Dylan agreeing to "take me back to a time he'd rather forget," Ravitz agreed to change his name and hide his identity to protect himself and the abused victim. But the story doesn't end with the trauma and abuse: it is also a story of reform, as she also tells of how "some 10 years later, he became a new person, the man he wanted to be."

For Dylan, there were stark similarities with what he saw growing up and how he acted as an adult. His parents argued, and twice, he saw his father push his mother. Another time, he saw a friend he respected striking his girlfriend in a high school parking lot, and both times, no one talked about it. "Love between a man and a woman, as far as he could tell, was allowed to look this way."

Dylan then showed Ravitz the power and control wheel, "tactics a man might use to gain leverage in a relationship." The tactics on the wheel include examples like minimizing, coercion, male privilege, isolation, threats, and economic abuse. The actual implementation of these tactics included things like telling his girlfriend he didn't like her friends (even though he didn't know them) and criticizing how she did her hair and unloaded the dishwasher. In their unique situation, Isabella, Dylan's ex-girlfriend, had a disability and relied on him to get to work. "He didn't forget it…He kept the wheel well-oiled, and it would eventually spin out of control.

Through Dylan, Ravitz got into contact with Isabelle. Like Dylan, she only agreed to speak to Ravitz using a pseudonym. Growing up, she also saw her father verbally abuse her mother and throw things at her. Her mother would eventually leave, but "Isabelle learned early about submission."

From her perspective, she regrets not seeing the warning signs coming. She escaped him on the weekends and went away, and although she couldn't drive, she did just fine before he came along. Isabelle, isolated from loved ones, was "too ashamed to admit how unhappy and worried she was, [and] isolated herself further."

However, she still loved him. "Still, for so long, she hungered for what they had when the relationship was good."

The first time violence happened, Dylan recalls thinking she was cheating when she was up late talking with a male friend. "He ripped up some of her favorite photographs. He called her a bitch and a whore…And then, he unleashed his remaining rage with a punch to her chest." Dylan immediately realized what he'd done and apologized and left to give Isabelle space. Later, in court, he agreed to stay away from her for a year.

As Isabelle recalls it, she hadn't been on the phone on the day of "the incident." Dylan tried to break a vase of flowers over her head, and when Isabelle tried to close a door between them, he punched her in the chest. "The world, she says, fell silent. And then 'the universe said just play dead, and so I did.'"

Dylan, freaked out and appalled, apologized and offered her Advil. "She laughs at the absurdity of that suggestion. As if Advil could make things better?" When a friend later took Isabelle to the hospital, the doctor told her this: "I don't know how you're alive." If the punch were an inch more to the left, the blow to her chest could have killed her.

After being the court date, Dylan sought out ways to change himself. He discovered Men Stopping Violence (MSV), a training program that seeks to help society prevent, understand, and change the norms that create violent men, "and thereby prevent the abuse of women from even starting." Since only a small portion of batters get caught, MSV Executive Director, Ulester Douglas, says that "it's better to engage all men before they abuse." MSV has both prevention and intervention programs to protect women in these situations.

In MSV, Dylan re-shaped his perception of what it meant to be a man, and "he'd owned what he'd done and who he'd become. Only then could he change." Learning techniques to "center himself," he learned to practice a spirit of patience, peace, love, and empathy for others. Today, he works in social justice and dedicates himself to protecting women, and he volunteers with MSV. He's in a healthy relationship now, and calls Isabelle his best friend.

Isabelle, however, wouldn't go that far. Although she sees him as a brother and doesn't believe he would hurt another woman, she states explicitly that "I forgave that day because I choose to forgive…but some of my life got stolen." Dylan has built a successful and inspirational career, but "in some ways, she paid for it. He wouldn't be doing what he's doing, after all, if he hadn't abused her and found his way to Men Stopping Violence." Even though Isabelle has been through therapy, the PTSD still reverberates through her life: she flinches when a man takes her arm, or a man makes a critical comment. In relationships, she still worries that she'll miss the signs, and also wonders if the other person is trying to manipulate her.

"But she also emerged on the other side empowered in new ways. She isn't afraid to stand up for herself. She's strong enough to know she'd rather be alone than mistreated."

When asked why she was willing to share her story, Isabelle had this to say: "she wants women to see their value. She wants to give hope to those in unhealthy or dangerous relationships."

Let's take a moment to stop, and acknowledge how uncommon this sort of radical change is for people. The story of Dylan and Isabelle is just that unique. There are no second acts in life – because the past can never ever be erased. What's done is done, and what we think of reform and radical change is a building and growing from the past. For how could you have reformed so much if you weren't, at some level, deeply ashamed of what you'd done or who you were?

One of the last lines of Ravitz's article is that she "loses sleep wondering if it's too good to be true." Walking through the Dekalb County Courthouse, and observing men arrested for domestic violence misdemeanors, Ravitz stumbles into an afternoon class for the people who have to be there, and "no one is happy to be here. Some are outwardly mad."

At the end of the course, a Ravitz observes a couple light bulbs go off as the men go through exercises. She wonders, at the end, whether "they, like Dylan, [can] give change a chance? Or will they walk the path they've already traveled and abuse again? And, most pressing to me, how many Isabelles will suffer in their wakes?"

The truest answer, three years after this article was published, is that I don't know. No one does. At some level, at least the men are in the class, for the majority of batterers don't get caught. What stuck out to me in this article is that Dylan changed because he wanted to and because Isabelle treated him with hope and forgiveness – and yes, Isabelle paid the price for it.

It haunts and terrifies me that this story is often the best it gets in the narrative of the batterer and his victim – and when I think about what would happen if I met and talked to Isabelle and Dylan, I would know that they're a lot more than victim and batterer. But the fact that they describe these experiences so vividly show that, to some degree, the relationship was a cornerstone moment and turning point for both of their lives – and what we can take away in its wake is that the story didn't end on that Sunday night for either Dylan or Isabelle. Even if we're not in domestically violent relationships, when we're in our own trauma-inducing circumstances – when there seems to be no end in sight – the story doesn't end there, no matter how defining the moment was.

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Things To Know Before Dating A Firefighter

You'll learn how to tell the difference between different kinds of sirens.
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There are just certain things you are going to want to know before dating a fireman. In my experience, I had to learn along the way. But at the end of all the calls, constantly smelling his gear in the car and sometimes even cancelled plans, I sure do love my firefighter!

SEE ALSO: 10 Reasons To Date A Country Boy

You were promised a list, so here it is:

1. If they are even within 20 minutes of the station, they will always leave you to go on a call.

No matter the circumstances, if you have a fireman on your hands, he will jet to the car and be on his way.

SEE ALSO: What It's Like To Date A Police Officer

2. Meeting nights are not something you try and fight with them about. They are going to leave and you do not have to like it because it wasn't up to you anyway.

I have learned that these nights are not optional. Yes, other people miss them, but not my firefighter.

3. No matter where you are or what you're doing the minute they hear a firetrucks horn, they're looking for it and hoping they're not missing anything good.

You will learn the lingo. Structures, fully involved (the good stuff) smoke alarms, cat in a tree (ehh I mean they are fireman...soooo still good stuff).

4. They know the exact difference between an ambulance, cop, and, of course, a fire truck siren.

Which means that you will have to learn, too.

5. You’ll have to accept that when he has to do hall rental cleanup, you're going with to help.

You fold the chairs and he stacks them. And Im talking at like 12 a.m.,1 a.m.

6. When you come around the firehouse, there will be jokes made and they'll mess with him about you or even you about him.

Honestly it's a giant bromance going on and they prey on this kinda stuff.

7. At first, you won't really have a name to the fire guys. Until you're around long enough.

You'll just be Boyfriend's name's girlfriend.

8. The fire pager goes where he goes.

Next to the bed, in the car, next to your bed, your living room, EVERYWHERE. And even if it's not the real pager, it's the dog app that I can never remember the name of so dog app it is. (Say that really fast to get the full effect).

9. They will probably wear their station shirt/apparel at least 4-5 days a week.

AT LEAST.

10. If you've got a good one, you're always put first. The list will always go "You, the firehouse, me, everyone else."

But secretly they always want to put the firehouse first.

11. You will learn and know more stations, trucks, members, and chiefs than you will ever want to admit.

Unbelievably true.

12. When you're driving and you see a fire station, you'll have to look at it.

If its an amazing building, you'll have to remember the name. And then you'll have to tell him about it. And then you've just proved number 11 correct. Add it to your list.

13. Never make plans while he's on a call. You can never know when he'll be back.

Even if the calls are short, they could stay at least another hour washing the trucks and being boys, of course.

14. In case you didn't understand the severity of the first one, if you are on the phone and you hear the pager go off in the background, just tell him you love him and hang up.

Because if you don't, he will. "Got a call, Love you, bye." Mid-sentence is always what you want to hear.

15. You'll never want to watch "Ladder 49" again.

You will cry like a baby and then want to make him quit.

16. Outside of the stations, fireman tend to forget that fire isn't a toy and it's pretty damn hot.

*Playing with the lighter fluid or burning things on the stove*
"No it's alright, I'm a firefighter."

17. You will start your own station shirt collection.

From NYFD memorial shirts, a station from where you're vacationing even acquired old shirts of his, you will have started your own pile of station shirts.

18. You can't get angry or upset when he is unavailable because he's going to go to the firehouse for the fifth time that week, or if there's another fire prevention thing to do.

You can't be mad because he's doing what he loves and also because a man in a uniform isn't too shabby.

There are a lot more things to know before dating a fireman, but the rest you'll just have to learn along the way.

SEE ALSO: 5 Things To Know Before Dating Someone With Anxiety

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Our Sexuality Is A Moving Spectrum, So Moving Around On It Is Totally Normal

Understanding that labels aren't one size fits all

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Human sexuality is a large topic that is often never completely discussed. Human sexuality is divided into four parts: Sex, Attraction, Identity, and Expression. Each four of those categories are all on a spectrum, there's no simple clear-cut definition of gender identity, gender expression, biological sex and who you are sexually and or romantically attracted to. Labels have become a huge thing in society but what's so problematic about labels is they are never one size fits all.

When I came out I thought it was easiest, at that time, to label myself as bisexual…I wasn't sure everything that I felt, I didn't want to "shock" anyone, and didn't feel that the label lesbian fit. There have been growing pains since then and I settled into the label of gay. I didn't find myself being attracted to men or actively pursuing relationships with men but I hated the label lesbian, so I choose gay. As I've been becoming more and more self-aware and self-confident though, I find myself transitioning into the label of queer.

Queer could be seen as derogatory by some, but I personally believe it's the most empowering label. I find it the most inclusive word. Wikipedia defines queer as "an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual or cisgender". To me, that means I am most definitely falling under the vast category of LGBTQ, and I am open to love within that community. I do not actively pursue relationships with men and do not consider myself as bisexual, but in the same breath, I wouldn't say that I'd completely rule out a relationship with a man. Does this make me pansexual? Honestly, I don't personally identify with any label right now besides Queer.

I think we all need to realize that sexuality is a spectrum. Everyone seems to completely grasp and understand that other things have spectrums, such as autism. Yet when it comes to sexuality: sex, attraction, identity and expression, everyone's much more comfortable if we have clear label markers. Well, society, wake up. It's the end of 2018, and we've come a long way, we've fought for tolerance and acceptance, and it's time to start opening our minds a little more. Why do we all need clear definers for things? Why can't we just…..be? I was having a great conversation with someone the other day and we agreed that if two people are happy and partners understand the ins and outs of their personal relationship, why does anyone else need to question how it works?

I took a human sexuality class in college and it was the most interesting and best class I've taken to date. One day we had a speaker come in who was a transgender straight man and was married to a woman who identified as a lesbian. They both have their own identities, stand by them, and they love each other for exactly who they are. Many of you might be scratching your heads and think how does that happen… and honestly, why do we need to question it? I think it's absolutely incredible and beautiful when two people find pure joy and love in one another.

Do not ever feel pressured to put a label on yourself for ANY reason in your life. And if you choose to, don't at all feel obligated to stick to that label. People grow, and learn more about themselves, their wants and needs. Nothing is more attractive then someone who's able to say you know what…that fit me then, but right now that doesn't feel right and I've found what better fits me. Coming out isn't always a one-time thing, its okay to change your identifier. There was a beautiful piece, written by a friend, about this topic that you can check out here.

Educating yourself about things you don't fully understand is honestly the most LGBTQ friendly thing you could do. Don't ever be afraid to ask appropriate questions and say things like "hey I think that's super awesome, I support you, would you mind sharing more with me so I can better understand you?" Learn about yourself, don't be afraid to question anything, don't feel the need to label yourself, or scared to take off a label that no longer suits you. Be confident and trust your heart and your intuition, they're never wrong.

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