I wasn’t there for her

by Anna Blanch on December 8, 2011

Today’s 16 days of action post is from Joy Bennett. I got to know Joy through her blog, Joy in this Journey. Her writing is raw, powerful, vulnerable, and grace filled. I very much appreciate her willingness to participate in this project. She’s also the one that got me involved in LifeUnmasked, a writing prompt that has challenged me greatly. Like Cory’s, Joy’s post searches her own heart and explores what it means to be there for those who are hurting as a result of violence.

I feel partially at fault. When she mentioned the lack of central air in her new place and how hot it got while she was at work, I suggested that she leave her window open a crack during the day. I said it would help air circulate through her apartment and keep it from stifling in the summer heat.

That partially-open window gave him a way in. Forgiving myself for giving such bad advice may always be impossible.

I’ll never forget waking up to find messages on my phone. I never heard it ring. I still feel ill remembering how, in her moment of greatest need, I failed her.

My husband stared as me as I listened to the messages. I had sunk into a kitchen chair, shaking and horrified.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Something terrible happened, and I wasn’t there for her,” I sobbed.

With trembling fingers, I called back, fearing the worst. I cried as she told me what happened and how bad the injuries were. It was a small comfort to hear that police had caught and arrested the attacker.

I’m so proud of her. She spoke to the police, and she testified in court. She identified her attacker in the courtroom. The kid (he was just a kid) is doing hard time in prison. Justice was served… at least according to the law.

I have prayed for her ever since that day, prayed for healing and for peace. I’m sure I must have asked (if only to myself), “Is she going to be ok?” What a stupid question. Of course she is. And of course she won’t.

Bruises and cuts and broken bones heal. The human spirit can rise up and refuse to be made the victim. Some women are able to look back and say that they are stronger for having survived, for having triumphed, for having looked evil in the face and refused to give up hope of making it through.

But for everyone, even the most victories, the wounds are real. Some injuries cut deeper than flesh and leave permanent scars on the mind and heart. Memories never fade completely. Innocence shatters with bone, glass, and furniture. Even if the perpetrator is caught, tried, found guilty, and sent to prison, we can’t return to the way we were before. Though minor in comparison to her experience, the responsibility I feel for her and the guilt over failing her when she needed me most will never leave. None of us will ever be the same. Nor should we.

Now that I have seen the aftermath first-hand, I hate violence against women even more than I did when the stories were more removed.

Brothers and sisters, hundreds of women are attacked like this every day all around the world. I can’t wrap my head or my heart around causalities like this. Yes, casualties – many women die of their injuries. And even when life doesn’t end, a way of life does. We cannot… no, we must not continue to turn our heads from the bruises, bleeding, and brokenness.

One of the best supports for our particular situation was the victim advocates available through the local court system. You can learn more about advocacy in the U.S. from the National Organization for Victim Advocates. If you or someone you love needs an advocate, call 1-800-TRY-NOVA. If any of the posts shared in this series touch your heart, please find a way to help. Thank you.


This post is part of the 16 Days of Action toward eliminating violence against women. The 16 Days of Action is a global campaign founded by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University, I’m hosting posts across the 16 days, from 25 November to 10 December. You can help by sharing these posts on social media, by taking care of the women around you, & by standing against violence against women. You see the full list of posts here.

Connect with Anna on Academia.edu, Linked In, facebook page, & Twitter.

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  • Pingback: I Wasn't There for Her | Joy in This Journey()

  • http://www.somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ ShoutLaughLove

    joy, thank you for sharing this story. a friend of a friend was recently attacked in her own home, too–while her toddler was present. it really is unthinkable.

    i know it must be impossible not to rehash every decision and think of how you or she or anyone should/could have done something differently, but i want to reiterate that rape and violence are no one's fault but the attacker/criminal/rapist. you aren't to blame, joy–even if your advice wasn't perfect. we can't help but feel culpable sometimes, but we are not at fault for violence against women. ever.

    this topic is fresh on my mind because the PA liquor control board launched a PSA indicting women for getting raped: http://feministing.com/2011/12/07/pa-liquor-contr

    i see their point–women can sometimes do things to protect themselves and their friends, especially around alcohol–but it is still a nasty case of victim blaming. how 'bout a PSA instructing men about obtaining consent and not raping women?
    My recent post have yourself a mary little christmas {part 5}

  • http://www.transformingwords.org/wordpress Don Sartain

    Joy, I don't even have the words…

  • http://postpartumthoughts.blogspot.com Postpartum Thoughts

    I'm deeply saddened and moved by this story. But thank you for sharing so the rest of us can be more aware.
    My recent post Medicating with Will Ferrell

  • http://www.lauranoelle.com Laura Noelle

    Thank you for this beautiful, honest, raw sharing of emotion and power. As a victim myself, this message cuts to the core of my experience and heart for others. Thank you for taking a bold step in being vulnerable and helping others understand the reality of victimization.

  • Melody Hanson

    Important to tell these stories. Thank you.

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