I’ve been in abusive relationships since I was 18. I had a boyfriend punch me and slap me in the face a continuously, in my own bedroom for attending a Michael Jackson concert without him. I apologised after and stayed with him for a year or so before it ended. I also had a partner throw me from wall to wall, drag me across concrete pavements, choke me till I almost passed out and throw beer jugs in my direction. I stayed with him for a couple of years till he checked out of the relationship.
This was a long time ago but I can still remember my thought process at the time. When I got hit, I felt very deserving of it. I actually believed that this person loved me enough to hate me that much. I believed that physical abuse was synonymous with passion. It was the ‘fire’ in our relationship that caused the violence. Although I did not grew up in a violent home, I grew up disliking myself.
From the time I was a kid, I was teased for having dark skin and compared to my elder sister who had much lighter skin and could sing well. She was the pretty, talented one while I was the ugly duckling. It didn’t help that I faired mediocrely in school, hence feeling stupid was thrown into what was already a tragic mindset. My mother, as hardworking, disciplined, groomed and conservative as she was, was the ultimate people-pleaser and that clearly rubbed off on me. All I wanted and needed was acceptance and approval at ANY cost. My wants and needs were not mine to choose, they were given to me by others. And when your self-esteem is that low and you feel bad about yourself, you will automatically attract bad TO yourself. So I spent years of my life drinking and staying in the company of users. Yes, people who knew I was not good enough for them or myself. People who would smile at me and bitch about me behind my back. Looking back could I blame them? Absolutely not. They had the right to be hypocritical. They had the right to judge me because I was busy judging and hating myself.
There I was, looking for validation. Awaiting that call, that text, that invitation, the recognition a worthless human being like me needed to get through another day. I never learnt self-respect. I heard about it, but it was elusive. Something floating in the air that I would catch vague glimpses of but would disappear before I managed to get a close enough look to comprehend. I never knew what graciousness was. I admired women who could stand up straight, keep calm at all times, express their distress without swearing, sip from their glasses of wine, keep their chins up and respect everyone around them. I was in awe of their superpowers. I wanted to the Wonder Women that they each were but was convinced that there was no chance in hell life would give me that much. Me, the ugly, unintelligent, inadequate girl who had nothing valuable to offer the world.
Then armageddon happened. I took enough abuse to become my own superhero. I took enough blows to know how strong I was. I endured too much pain to stay in pain. I cried too many tears to cry another day. I realised that I had only one option and the best part, that option was AVAILABLE to me; to start LOVING myself. When I was forced into loving myself, I was forced into unlearning all life had previously taught me.
And the best thing I learned is, ‘THE FIRST HIT, IS THE LAST HIT.’ When someone lays a hand on you once, he will not lay a hand on you again. The reason is simple; you will not allow it. We are given life. This life we are given is ours to enjoy or endure. The ones who endure life, do not deserve the life they are given (this does not include those born into extreme circumstances). You, like everyone else, have a pumping heart. You can feel. You can choose to feel bad things or good things. The right choice is to choose to feel good. Challenges and obstacles are inevitable, but inviting and allowing bad things upon yourself is utterly unacceptable. No matter low we have gone, no matter how bad we have been, no matter how hopeless our situation feels, no matter how worthless we’ve been told we are, we do not deserve to be beaten for it. We do not deserve to have our dignity stripped and self worth extracted from our very being. No man, woman or child should be on the receiving end of violence.
Violence is NOT discipline. Violence is NOT love. Violence is cowardice from those who give it and receive it. You may not have had the power or preparation to stop the first hit but you have the power to stop the second hit. Remember this and share this with everyone you know because somewhere out there, someone does not know that THE FIRST HIT MUST BE THE LAST HIT.