Becky’s story as told by Molly Flodder
I first saw something about it on Facebook from a friend of my cousin. My mom and I were scared. Mom called my cousin. I heard her screaming into the phone, “Stop. Don’t tell me any more!” It was on TV. It was true. There had been a shooting outside the factory. My aunt was dead.
I think back at the irony in what he did. The man who had been with her five years and then her husband for six years. The father of her youngest child came to her workplace with a box of candy asking where she was, like he was going to give her a nice gift. “She went to lunch. She’ll be back in a few minutes.” No candy in that box. Just a gun. The gun with which he killed her, shot her new male friend, and then ended his own life.
A relationship that started with dating violence and escalated over the years could not be subdued with the restraining order my aunt had against him. She was dead, and her four children, ages 6 to 25 were without a mother. All of us who loved her were in shock, especially my Dad; he had lost his sister forever.
In my culture, it is not uncommon for Latino men and boys to be brought up to be “macho.” “Big boys don’t cry,” they hear from the time they are very small. They observe older boys and men saying, “If my woman gets out of hand, she knows I’ll take care of her.” “Not puttin’ up with that crap from my woman! If I tell her to bring me a beer, she’d better bring me a beer!”
Another piece of that whole cultural norm is what the women do. From girlhood on, they take that stuff. It’s what they know. It’s the life their mothers and aunts and friends have endured. For most, it’s just a part of passage to adulthood and a consequence for being a woman or girl in a relationship. For many, they have their lives established once they’ve been with a guy for a while. To break free of the violence is to leave the lifestyle or familiarity that they or their children have come to know.
In Mexico, where many of my people come from, there are not the same laws to protect females. Many who come here don’t even realize there are laws that shield them from the violence they experience.
A cousin of mine experienced extreme violence at 15. Her boyfriend, despite his scrawny frame, grabbed her and threw her against the lockers, strangling her. Other students had to pull him off her. Her mom convinced her to break up with him, but his mom convinced her mom to talk her into going back with him.
The good news is she finally did get away from him. The bad news, she’s out in Arizona with another guy now. He’s very controlling, too. He doesn’t want her to have her own free will. She wants to be able to be independent of him and able to make her own decisions. But she has a baby with him and that changes everything. He was sent to jail for drug charges. But that’s only a temporary break from this cycle of violence.
My view of violence is not just among the Latinos who are part of my family or my culture. I’ve seen it right here at Ball State University.
As a student living in a dorm, I observed that kind of violence this year. This white girl and her boyfriend had been out drinking. We heard them yelling and then the yelling escalated. We could tell she was screaming and crying and could hear the sounds of him hitting her and her yelling, “Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me!”
We called our R.A., who called the campus police. Apparently by the time they got there, the couple had calmed down and said that whoever reported the incident were liars.
I didn’t know much about her. I know she is a freshman, very petite, and wears braces. Was this relationship a first for her? Is it the beginning of a pattern of gravitating to abusive people?
And what about him? Is the behavior we witnessed with this tall, thin young man only because he was drinking, or has he treated her that way on numerous occasions? And will it be something that occurs again and again with other women in his life?
It’s scary when you don’t know how to handle something that is happening right under your nose. It’s easier to pretend you don’t see it happening than to step in and protect the person being abused.
Everyone blamed my aunt. “It was her fault,” people said. “She should have gotten out of the relationship months before.” But she filed for divorce and had a restraining order against him; she was trying to move on with her life. He couldn’t handle that and ended her life, yet she was the one who got the ugly backlash.
There is a way out. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are lots of people in lots of communities willing to help. A Better Way in Muncie, for example, is the kind of place that can help individuals caught up in the cycle of violence.
In my culture, we have to bring up our children to respect themselves and each other. I’m fortunate that in my immediate family, my dad and mom have set an example of love and respect.
My aunt wasn’t raised to nurture that in her relationships. Neither was her husband. Now it’s too late.
This story originally appeared in Facing Teen Dating Violence, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by A Better Way in Muncie, Indiana.