I was sitting on the cold concrete of my underground garage—drunk, discombobulated and disorderly.
A police officer was crouched in front of me, gently holding one of my arms as my best friend held the other. He was asking questions and I was slurring answers, still somewhat confused yet disgustedly aware that whatever had happened was my fault.
My then-partner was upstairs in a trashed condo, answering questions from another officer who wasn’t as gentle or kind. When police respond to a domestic violence call assumptions are made and conclusions are jumped to, both involving a male culprit and a battered, victimized woman.
Eighty five percent of the time, they would have been right. But on this night, they weren’t.
On this night, I was the bad guy.
You can tell me if he hurt you. Did he put hands on you, in any way?
I looked up at the officer—the concern in his eyes leading me to believe he probably had a wife and daughter at home—and couldn’t help but laugh. The whiskey on my breath left a grimace where his compassion should be, quickly followed by a conscious collecting of his professionalism.
I paused, unsure of what I should tell this stranger with an unquestionable amount of authority over me.
I couldn’t tell him that a week ago I was in a cold, sterile room, my legs in stirrups and my eyes on the ceiling. I couldn’t tell him that I felt trapped, carrying something so unwanted by someone I loved so effortlessly. I couldn’t tell him that I was consumed by resentment and hatred and confusion. Why couldn’t he love me enough to want a family with me? Why didn’t he want me enough to want more?
I couldn’t tell him that hours earlier, I learned he was sleeping with my neighbor. I couldn’t admit that I was too blind to notice that it had been going on for six months, under my nose and in my bedroom and between the sheets I wash every week. I couldn’t tell him that she was everything I wasn’t: tall and blonde and sun-kissed and enticing. I couldn’t concede the undeniable fact that she was able to give him something I couldn’t.
I couldn’t tell him that I felt like destroying everything we had built. That the walls of the condo and the picture frames that decorated them seem as fallacious as his touch. I couldn’t tell him that the very fabric holding me together was unraveling and the only way I could keep from splitting in two was to staple my seams with the broken pieces of a dismantled relationship.
I couldn’t tell him that I didn’t know how we had ended up so entrenched in hate and resentment and fear. We hated what we had become—him drinking himself into a stupor every night to avoid a relationship he no longer wanted, me ignoring the cracks and claiming our picture was perfect. We resented one another for changing; he was once fun-loving and adventurous, I was once unapologetically happy yet mysterious. And still we feared something different, so we stayed in a present we didn’t know, want or even recognize.
So, instead, I told him no.
I told him I was the one that threw my phone at the glass walls that outlined our complex hallways, shattering my reflexion.
I told him I was the one yelling and screaming obscenities for an embarrassing amount of time, awaking and alarming our neighbors.
I told him I was the one who ripped off the screen to our window.
I told him I was the one who hit and slapped and punched and kicked and cursed, hurting another human being both physically and emotionally.
I told him I was the girl who turned into the monster of her past: abusive and angry and completely out of control.
I told him I was the bad guy.
No, he didn’t hit me. I hit him.
In that moment, on the cold concrete of my underground garage, I realized the rest didn’t matter. What happened a week ago or the discovery of a heartbreaking infidelity or any amount of inconceivable pain didn’t matter. None of it changed what I had done. None of it made my actions anymore excusable or forgivable or even understandable.
I had become what I spent the majority of my life fearing. I had become a person who inflicts pain, instead of dismantling it. I became an insufferable child: weak, powerless and at the mercy of her emotions.
I had become what I hate the most.
It’s been five years since that night, when I was the bad guy who barely avoided jail.
Looking back, it isn’t anger or pain or heartache I feel. It’s embarrassment. I don’t feel slighted or the victim of an unimaginable series of events. I feel ashamed that I had reacted so horribly. I feel horrible for hurting someone I once loved, regardless of how deeply he hurt me.
We’re quick to say “there’s no reason for hitting a woman”, but the truth is, there’s no reason for hitting a person. Regardless of their identification, or the pain they’ve caused, there isn’t a justification for becoming an abuser. Whether you’re a hateful man who believes himself to be stronger or better or entitled, or you’re an angry woman who believes herself to be slighted and insulted and justified, you’re wrong.
I was wrong.
There is no excuse for eighty five percent of domestic violence victims to be women, but there’s no excuse for fifteen percent of domestic violence victims to be men.
And on that night, I had no excuse either.
Author: Danielle Campoamor
Editor: Caroline Beaton