Ally: (noun) something united with another, usually by treaty. See also: supporter, advocate, partner, friend.
My heart is heavy this week.
There’s a girl I know—someone whose name matters but won’t be revealed here—who is being hurt by someone she loves. It doesn’t matter how I know this girl, just that I do, and I know her to be sweet and kind and undeserving of the things that have happened to her.
Although, really, it wouldn’t matter if she wasn’t sweet and kind. She could be rude or thoughtless or irresponsible and she still wouldn’t deserve the things that have happened to her. No one is deserving of the things that are happening to this girl.
It wasn’t the first time she piled on the concealer to hide the bruising around her eyes or had to press ice cubes to her mouth, trying to calm the swelling of her fat lip. It won’t be the last time, either.
I knew she was going to go back to him. Even as we sat together and discussed her options, even when the tears started cutting through the thick makeup beneath her eyes, even when she put her head on my shoulder and told me how afraid she was…even then. I knew.
While looking for a way to help this particular girl, I found a fairly staggering collection of statistics:
o Every 9 seconds in the US, a woman is assaulted or beaten.
o On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
o 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.
o 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
o On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.
o Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
o Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
o Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.
My resources also tell me that, on average, a woman will attempt to leave an abusive relationship seven times before she finally leaves for good. By that point, a lot of people in her life have given up. They’ve burnt out their concern. They’ve forced themselves to detach. She’s lost her support system, her safety net.
A large part of my brain is telling me to do just that. To detach and say that she’s a grown woman and to let her make her own decisions, but my heart is still wincing with each beat. I know it would be easier to turn my eyes away and to find something better, something more positive to focus on, but I just can’t. Not when there are so many broken little girls like her. So many people who have already been erased by those they love out of pain or disgust or exhaustion.
I can’t make this girl come with me. I can’t make her go to the police or the hospital. Not if she’s not ready to. But here’s what I can do: I can remain her ally.
And if allies are only recognized as official by formal treaty, then I guess this is mine:
I promise not to punish you if you decide to go back to him. I will not roll my eyes and mutter under my breath that you are asking to be hurt again; I will not shake my head and pity you or call you an idiot and ask what is wrong with you.
I promise that I will still answer my phone if you call me—whether it’s the middle of the night or the middle of my shift at work. I promise I will answer.
I promise I will believe you and treat you with the respect that you deserve while we get you the help that you need.
I promise that I will try my hardest never say "If it were me..." or "If I were you..." Because I am not you and I don't know what it's like to be living through the things that you are living through.
I promise that if you need me, I will come and get you. No matter where you are, I will come and get you and bring you someplace safe. Even if that place is my own home. I will keep you safe and so will my loved ones.
I promise to be your ally; I promise that you are not alone and that this is not the way your story is meant to end.