It is one regret I cannot extricate myself from. The longer I am away from my ex, the more I wish I had the emotional strength 22 months ago to have him charged with assault. My belief that I did not have an avenue available to me to safely report the last assault he committed against me for fear of retaliation because I knew the drug agencies he worked for would help him again has not changed. On paper, this is wrong. On paper, they should take reports seriously and keep the claimant safe, not protect the accused because he does conscientious informant work. On paper, in the laws, I have a vehicle to report the crimes committed against me and an expectation I will be reasonably safe doing so. Sometimes, in real life, however, this is not really the case. Sometimes the integrity of those involved is not consistent with the expectation of those laws. Sometimes, greed changes everything. Those who seek glory of men have thrown me under the bus even if they aren’t entirely aware that their actions have put me at great risk. That I didn’t feel safe coming forward to charge him when I left, because I had mountains of instances to point to where they got him out of trouble.
I have been tossing around the idea of having him changed but unable to make the decision, jump in, and do it. I hesitate at the precipice, looking over the edge at the jagged rocks below. There is risk that I will awaken the sleeping lion. There is risk it will threaten my safety. But truth be known, the risk is there whether I do this or not. The day my family took me, they assumed risk that he could retaliate against them. The day I left, I assumed risk that he would lie patiently still in the brush, just waiting for an opportune time to strike. If I don’t tell, that doesn’t change. The risk is still there. If I do tell, the risk is still there. My silence saves no one; it only allows him to continue on as though he has done nothing wrong.
What variable does change? I don’t know who I may be putting at risk by keeping my silence and not doing something I wanted to be able to do almost two years ago. And I am struggling with the possibility that I could some day have that on my conscience. The thought of anyone enduring even a fraction of what I did with him is distressing to me. So much so that I think I am willing to assume the risk and file charges against him.
And then last night I came upon this 48 Hours episode called “Every Picture Tells a Story.” It is about a domestic violence homicide where the perpetrator, the woman’s husband, stabbed her to death. She wasn’t the first wife he abused. In fact, there were three ex-wives in his past who he had also abused. The story unfolds as reveals his deceptions, the notebooks of all the things she learned about him that she had stashed in the closet, and undeveloped film of the bruises she had after being beaten by him. I thought about how I almost came close to meeting my end at the tip of a butcher knife, and I mulled over all the exes in my abusers past. How many there are I do not know, but I know a few he abused, one of the beaten up badly enough she was hospitalized. One I suspected of being abused, because she fled while he was out of town, and one I know fled the state and drove back north to be with her family.
Did these women think about the possibility of someone like me coming so close to death? Did they think about the possibility of someone like me even dying at his hand? I don’t judge them for the choices they made. They are (and always were) accountable for their safety and that of their families. I am not angry with them or hurt by the fact they also feared him enough they could not come forward and have him charged. However, I cannot let this nagging thought pounding through my mind go. What if the next one does not make it out alive? Am I willing to have that on my hands? How would I feel knowing someone’s life and family was torn apart?
I cannot let this go. Not for revenge or getting back at him. Because he hurt me, he terrorized me, and I want him held accountable for all the pain and trauma and suffering he has inflicted over the years against the women who once loved but later came to fear him. Because I would be thrown into despair to hear that one of us had finally lost their life to his brutal, jealous rage. Because even if I don’t know who the next woman is, she would carry a piece of me inside with her and vice versa. Because her life matters to me. because her safety matters to me. And I cannot let this go.
Because I don’t want what happened to this beautiful, vibrant woman in the video to happen to her.