This is off topic. Has nothing to do with being a lesbian.
Whenever I’m starting a blog post I think about starting it “This one time…” then I think about American Pie. Good movie.
Anyway. This one time a nurse I worked with came to work with a black eye. We had been working together in the emergency department literally since day one. And we were about four years in at this point. She looked up at me from her locker and I said, “What the fuck happened to your eye? Was it your husband because I will fucking end him.”
Now, I attended their wedding. Her husband was legitimately one of the sweetest men alive. I could not imagine him for a second laying a hand on her. So I was half joking. But also half not. Because how do people get black eyes? Especially married women in their late twenties. I had to lay out the possible though very unlikely reality as an opening in case it was true.
She laughed and told me a hilarious story that involved too much alcohol and a pile of ice in a parking lot. I myself had been victim to too much alcohol and icy parking lots that very winter but my bruises were luckily on my backside therefore hidden underneath my clothing. She unfortunately went face first. After we laughed about reality, she told me I was the only person to ask her about her eye.
She had been at work for four hours. In a place where we knew everything about everyone. Literally. We knew who was pooping regularly and who wasn’t. We knew who was having sex with who and who wasn’t. It wasn’t Gray’s Anatomy. Not even close. Gray’s Anatomy can’t compare. Can’t make it up.
I couldn’t believe that the people who ask regularly about our bowel regimens did not ask about her eye. She said patients and families also didn’t ask. She had been getting stares and side-eyes all day. People were making assumptions. Like I did. But I voiced it out loud because if there is a problem I’m not going to pretend it’s not there.
My friend and I talked more about how no one else said anything to her about her eye. How weird it was for her, because she felt that she had to then explain without being asked but also that she shouldn’t have to. She didn’t want people making assumptions about her husband though. The whole experience for her was weird, and at the end of our conversation in the emergency department locker room she said, “Thanks for asking though, but no we don’t need to kill him. Yet.” Then we laughed and walked out to the floor.
She came into contact with about fifty people before seeing me. Between staff and patients and families. Fifty people who all had the opportunity to act to intervene, and who chose not to. None of my business perhaps they thought. Don’t want to embarrass her or don’t want to get involved.
I honestly didn’t think twice before I opened my mouth. I have no filter obviously. It also would never occur to me to ignore the elephant in the room.
This whole #Metoo and #45 situation has gotten me thinking and reflecting a lot. I do individual therapy with rape victims and they carry so much guilt and shame. Part of the healing work is to help them put that guilt and shame onto the perpetrator. Why as a society are we more comfortable allowing a woman to walk around with a black eye instead of asking how she got it? Why are we more comfortable with a woman carrying the guilt and shame silently instead of stepping out with her story and placing it back onto the perpetrator?
Mental illness, rape, domestic violence- they all carry a stigma in our society. It runs deep. Shame. Guilt. Fear. How can we change this? To start with, if you see some one with a bruise ask how the fuck they got it. Look them in the eye and handle the truth.
You don’t have to save people. By asking doesn’t mean you have to be involved. But perhaps by asking you are opening a door for some one to tell the truth. To tell their story. If they tell their story once, maybe that will make them brave enough to tell it again.