I remember the last time it happened. My friends called me outside, and when I got there, I saw them in the car fighting.
He had her by the hair and was punching her over and over. "Stop him!" said my friends who had gathered outside. "She needs your help!
He and I are close. We grew up together, and his girlfriend has become a good friend to me. But even so, for a few seconds, I just stood there and watched. I knew even if I stopped this fight I probably couldn't stop the fighting. It's been happening several times a week for over a year now.
It starts with an argument. Then it gets louder. Then there's pushing, and then somebody swings. He's broken her nose and put her in the hospital more than once. But it always ends the same way. She goes home for the night, saying she's finished with him and with the abuse. But by the morning, she's back at his house, and everything is new again.
Watching this over and over is like watching a painful movie with no ending. But if I were to cast the role of abused girlfriend, she's the last woman I would choose. When I think of an abused woman, I imagine someone with no self esteem, who needs somebody to make her feel like she's somebody, who's always taking others' opinions as her own.
This young woman is nothing like that. She's highly educated, not to mention gorgeous. She's got a good job and is raising her son on her own. She seems extremely confident when she talks to people. And she always tells us that she can do better.
Watching this endless cycle, I ask myself: Why would such a strong, beautiful woman keep going back to this abuse? It's not like she depends on him for money or a place to stay. It's not like she doesn't have a life of her own.
But maybe the most important question isn't "why does she stay" but "how can I help her find the courage to leave?"
That's also not an easy question to answer. I've tried talking to her so many times. Watching her go back to him is sad and frustrating. Sometimes it even makes me angry, and I tell myself that it's her choice to stay with him.
But I remind myself that maybe one day my words will help pull her out of the cycle. And so I keep telling her:
"You are beautiful inside and out, and you may not see it, but you are the one with the power because you are the one who can say enough is enough and walk away. And when you do, you will find a community of people who will support you. And you will never be alone."