Hollie Grimaldi Flores: About domestic violence
As October, and with it, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, ends, I have been captivated by the limited series on one of the streaming services that is tackling this issue in a profound way. “Maid” is getting a bit of social buzz, and when a friend mentioned it as something to watch, I jumped on board without knowing anything about the premise. I was quickly drawn in and have been taking my time watching it as a) I don’t want it to be over and b) there is a lot to process. Each episode is incredibly compelling, somewhat triggering, and simply a lot to think about.
Those who do such things, brilliantly cast a fit, white female as the lead, making the story easier for mainstream America to tolerate. This young woman leaves her partner in the middle of the night, taking their young daughter with her. She does not have a place to go, or a job and or very much money. When she finds her way to social services, she does not think her circumstance qualify as abuse because he never hit her. The fact that he raged all around her, punched walls, and threw things at her was minimized in her mind. The character knows she can’t live in that arena any longer but has a long way to go in realizing each of those incidents falls under the abuse umbrella.
Each episode patiently shows the viewer how difficult getting out of an unhealthy situation can be, in a really easy to understand and compelling narrative. We watch as the protagonist struggles to find a job, daycare, housing and a place in the system. The paperwork, legal issues, and systemic prejudice against those receiving aid in the form of government subsidies are all explored. And, of course, the ongoing relationship between her and the father of her child, who has rights of his own.
I have two episodes left to watch, so I can’t tell you how it is going to end. My husband carefully asks me if I am OK and if it is generating negative memories. Indeed, it is. I have been out of a similar relationship for over 25 years. A quarter of a century and still I feel that once familiar anxiety as I watch the flashbacks of the main characters partner berating her. My heart pounds as she drives away and I am propelled back in time, my own shaking body backing down the driveway with rocks being hurled at my car.
It seems that no matter how much distance I have put between that life and the one I live now, it doesn’t take much to bring back the feelings that come with living with an abuser. The mental/emotional toll runs deep.
When I met my first husband, I was in my early twenties and simply did not recognize the signs of mental illness, or abuse, and while I knew I did not grow up in a healthy environment, I did not realize I was stepping into something eerily familiar, because on the surface, it looked so different.
The one thing I hear from people over and over is the lack of understanding of why an abused person does not simply leave. “If it’s so bad, why don’t you just go?” This series does a really good job of showing how difficult leaving can be. It may, but has not yet shown, a component that is hard to explain, and that is the confusing emotion called love.
In my twenties I fell in love with a man who was in his twenties. We were both flawed. His upbringing even more messy than mine. I fell for a gregarious, cavalier, ambitious and exciting guy who even made me feel safe – until he didn’t.
When he would lose his temper and begin to rage, he was completely out of control, unpredictable and dangerous. When he came back to reality, he was feeble, broken, vulnerable, apologetic, pathetic. It was a crazy roller coaster ride and I felt sure I could love him enough to fix his brokenness. I tried and I failed, and I almost let him take me down with him.
Just as in this limited series, what I could not do for myself, I would do for my children. The realization that if I stayed in my marriage, my children would grow up thinking the behaviors were normal and that that was what love looked like, compelled me to leave for good.
He was really scary and still, it was really, really hard. It was hard to quit. It was hard to be a single parent. It was hard to give up on this person I had loved so deeply. It was hard to fight the legal system. It was hard to break my kids’ hearts.
Still, I was lucky. I was lucky because I had a job. I had the means to pay rent and day care and still put food on the table. I was lucky enough to have a support system and I was incredibly lucky to have been introduced to the organization that supports those in violent relationships. Now called Community Beyond Violence, the organization made all the difference. The compassionate staff helped with legal documents, held my hand in the hallways outside of court rooms and hosted support groups, which helped me understand I was not alone.
I rarely “go public” with this part of my history. For decades, I was embarrassed to share this part of who I am. Shame is a powerful emotion. But I am finished hiding out. Community Beyond Violence is holding an open house at 1020 McCourtney Rd, Suite B on Saturday, Nov. 20, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Refreshments will be served. They could use some support. If you can, I hope you will support them. If nothing else, watch “Maid.” Domestic violence awareness month is ending. Domestic violence cases rage on.
24 support is just a phone call away at 530-272-3467.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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