These arguments were not well known. I was a great student, and very personable. Teachers and people loved me. My mom is typically a very sweet person, but again, she was going through some shit, and I was easily the person she spent the most time with. My dad was not home much, and both of us were too embarrassed to talk to people about it.
On one car trip, things escalated beyond her screaming at me. Mid argument, I leaned down to pick up something from the floorboard of the car. I have no idea why, but she decided now and then was the time to strike me. She hit me in the face. When people are attacked there are three common reactions: freeze, fight, or flight. I have tremendous guilt about this, but my body reacted with fight. Looking back, I feel it was my vulnerable position that encouraged this reaction. I jerked my body up as hard and fast as I could, moving out of the way of her second blow, blocked a third blow, struck her solidly in her head with a right cross, then reached over and grabbed the wheel.
I didn’t hit her that hard, but she clearly had never been hit before, nor was she expecting me to retaliate. She was frozen in surprise, then she decided to play the victim card. She started screaming and wailing. I sensed the conflict was over, and forcefully, clearly, but calmly talked to her. I told her to calm down, refused to get into another argument, told her to either stop the car or grab the wheel herself.
We were on the way to her parents, my grandparent’s house. That was a sleepless night! I was petrified of what this meant. From this moment on, I would forever be known as a woman beater. Nothing seemed to come of it. My grandparents acted as if nothing had happened. I’m certain that she told them (of course leaving out the parts of her screaming at me, and striking me in the head while I was bent over picking something up). But to this day, neither of them have said anything to me about it.
A few weeks went by, and I realized she was telling her friends, trying to build a support network so she could more easily convince herself she was the victim, and I was the villain. Not surprisingly, she found many people who were happy to join her side, they encouraged police reports, legal action, kicking me out of the house, etc. The first step was therapy.
I was absolutely certain the therapist would paint me as the bad-guy. I was going to see someone she had already been in contact with, and someone she had already pre-sold. Plus, I’m a young, athletic male, and no matter how you spin it, I just punched my mother in the head. I was certain I was screwed. When the therapist finally asked me into his office, he told me he had already heard her side, and now wanted to hear mine. In my best grumpy teenager posture and tone (certain I was already guilty in his eyes), I told him a 3 second version. He then asked me about how school was, how I was doing, how my other relationships are.
I remember my mother trying to chime in multiple times, and him cutting her off. After about 10 minutes, he said “it sounds like this thing is getting pretty serious with your mother, but everything else is going ok.” Next thing I knew he asked me to wait out in the lobby again.
That was the last time he asked me to come to therapy. I don’t know the details of what was said to my mother, but over the years I’ve gathered that he sat her down and told her she was the problem, and her inability to communicate with my father was one of her biggest problems. She started going to therapy around 3x/week, and my dad joined her for at least 1x/week for about 3 months. My mom cycled through multiple meds for all sorts of problems and continued therapy for probably two years.
This happened more than 10 years ago, and I’m happy to report my mom and I rarely have shouting matches any more, her relationship with my father is better than it’s ever been, and she’s totally free of medication.
I am still absolutely shocked that the therapist believed me. That said, these people are trained to know when people are lying and to reserve judgement until both sides have been heard. Police also have significant experience in domestic violence, and most understand women often are the attackers. I would encourage everyone who’s been attacked to report the problem, regardless of your reaction. Your attacker needs help, and the only way to get them to see this is if you get other people involved. Stand up for yourself, realize you have options, and face the music. You need to do it for your own safety, and their well being. I’m lucky my mother reported me. There’s no way I would have ever told anyone about this on my own. I was far too embarrassed and scared. I know how hard it is, but you need to do it.