The following reflects the story of a fictional couple, but such situations can be found in communities across the country.
I am Ella. I am 30 years old. I have a BA in Psychology from Yale University and a MA in Literature from the University of Virgina. I have a wonderful job in the library at a college. I live in Myrtle Beach with my boyfriend of two years, Eric.
I am Eric. I am 32 years old. I have a BS in Electrical Engineering from Yale University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. Ella lives with me.
I have never hit Ella. I have grabbed her roughly. I have locked her in the bathroom for hours. I have convinced her that her mother and I talk about how “bad” she is even though her mother and I do not speak; Ella no longer calls her mother.
I have isolated Ella’s pet cat so that it cowers in the corner from me and it climbs up Ella’s pant leg to be held. I have thrown the laundry basket in Ella’s direction and made her duck. I know Ella is allergic to new car leather. My new car, which I bought after we moved in together, has leather seating. I tell Ella to take a Benadryl and suck it up; the hives that cover her legs are not that bad. I will not take Ella to the new restaurant she wants to try. I will take her to the movies, but never the cartoons or anything that hasn’t gotten a good rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Ella has lived with me in my apartment for four months. Ella has no friends, except the ones I have introduced to her. I do not approve of her old friends, and so she does not see them anymore. Ella asks me how she looks in her new dresses; I always tell her “you look nice.”
I am Ella. I am 30. The former CASA house and the city’s money earmarked for CASA and domestic violence have been given to the Center for Women and Children. Their proposal, which has been accepted by the city, vows to work with abused women “to ensure they become fully-functioning, independent, self-reliant women" (The Sun News, Sept. 25, 2012).
I am fully-functioning. I am self-reliant and independent. I do not drink or smoke. I have done no drugs. I do not need a house to live in; I lived in my own apartment with my pet cat for three years before moving in with Eric.
I won’t leave because I do not deserve to leave. I am well-educated, have a well-paying job, wear beautiful clothing from upscale stores. I am being abused, but I don’t recognize it as such. CWC Director Clyde Merryman was quoted in the paper as saying “violence against women is completely unacceptable.” I agree.
I do not recognize what is happening to me as violence. There’s no one in my community saying it is violent. There’s no one saying it is not normal.
I am silent. I am Ella.
Who are you?
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.