Kathleen Irene Paterka
Her Body, His Fists
“The first time it happened was on our wedding night,” my friend told me. “That’s when I realized I’d married a monster.”
I’d known the woman casually for years, but we’d recently grown closer. One day, about fifteen years ago, we were having lunch together and began chatting about men. One thing led to another, and she brought up her recent marriage to Husband #2. I knew her first marriage had lasted nearly ten years. I’d been surprised, along with everyone else, to hear of their divorce. I posed what I assumed was an innocent question, and that’s when she dropped the bombshell which left me speechless. My smart, savvy, beautiful friend ~ a confident woman I assumed had her life totally together ~ had been a victim of domestic violence and sexual spousal abuse throughout the entire ten years of her first marriage.
Long after our lunch ended, I was still obsessing over the story she’d shared. What she’d told me was foreign to my way of thinking. I knew nothing about domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. I’d never experienced anything like that. Yet my dear, sweet, funny friend had. And after ten years of silent suffering, she finally decided she was done with it… done with him. From somewhere deep inside, she found the courage and strength to speak up for herself, to speak her truth, to say NO MORE, and to walk away.
It took ten years before she was ready to embrace her truth. Thank God she somehow managed to survive. Yet, how many others don’t? Statistics tell us that for every reported case of domestic violence or spousal sexual abuse, another ten will go unreported. For over ten years, my friend kept silent, afraid no one would believe her. When she finally did speak up, some of her worst fears were realized. Some of her family and several of her closest friends didn’t want to hear the ugly truth. Domestic violence, battered women, sexual abuse are not easy subjects to talk about. People like ‘easy’, and shy away from discussing (or reading about) the difficult things. But isn’t that part of the problem? If we hide the nastiness of the truth from others, what’s to prevent it from continuing to happen?
How many secrets do we hide from each other? How many things are we afraid to share? Nearly three years ago, when I began writing a story about four best friends, that long-ago luncheon came to mind. What follows below is an excerpt from my new book, SATURDAY NIGHT SISTERS . And while not my friend’s personal story (remember, I write fiction, not true life crime), the subject matter is something I find outrageous, dreadful and fully needing continued and constant exposure to the light of day.
Surrender in silence, she learned early that first morning following their wedding, when she woke to find him already on top of her. His green eyes burned into her own as he drove himself into her again and again, ignoring her cries for him to stop. Hours later, she began to realize things would go better for her if she simply allowed him to get it over with than dared show even the slightest resistance. Even if she had a very good reason. Even while still on their honeymoon and her period unexpectedly started five days early and she begged him for privacy. You’re my wife now, he said bluntly as he forced her to submit. You belong to me.
Day after day. Year after year. Wednesday after Wednesday, bringing her to this day, this very Wednesday morning. And today, in addition to his one-sided physical pleasuring he took so freely from her, he also used his fists. They nailed into her like hammers pounding against her abdomen. Pats doubled over, trying to shield herself from the worst of his rage until he was spent. She didn’t dare move, not even when he turned his back on her and lumbered away to finish dressing.
Pats took a shallow breath, remembering another of his infrequent violent attacks from a few months ago; how she was certain he’d broken one of her ribs. She took another breath, then two, assessing the damage. nothing seemed broken. She thought about the fresh bruises which would appear on her stomach within the next few hours. No one would notice.
No one except her.
Then Robert was dressed, whistling some inane tune as he closed the distance between them. Pats held her breath against the cloying smell of his cologne as he approached.
“Something wrong, sweetheart?” He bent over her.
Eyes downcast, she slowly shook her head.
You bastard, she silently raged. Someday, you’ll be sorry.
Bring it out of the darkness. No one has the right to raise their fists against another, to use someone as a punching bag. Speak your truth. Speak it loud and clear.
Violence against women is NEVER okay.