Bye, Bye Bully

So, May is Short Story A Day month. Today’s prompt got me thinking, especially after the last few months helping coordinate and offer domestic violence trainings. Learn more about the May writing challenge here: http://storyaday.org/ and here’s the story that was sparked by today’s prompt:

Bye, Bye Bully

“So, today’s training is geared to help you get into the mind of the abuser. We’re all pretty savvy when it comes to surviving violence, or we wouldn’t be here. What do you need to know to avoid hitting the repeat button that gives abusers the opening into hurting you again? How do these people think? Ideas? Anyone?” 

Madge had edged her chair into a corner that faced the door to the dingy meeting room. Crossing arms over trembling chest, she eyed the group leader with a jaundiced eye. Great, Madge thought, put the pressure on the already victimized. Just what they need. 

The room remained stubbornly silent. Undaunted, the group leader continued. 

“It doesn’t just end in broken bones, bruises, black eyes, or death. There’s a pattern of control, and it starts in the early days.” 

Small shiftings of discomfort rustled in the room. In the early days of hope, those tiny red flags were generally set aside. No one was perfect, right? The excuses mounted up, a complicated weaving of self-blame and rage against the man, the machine, the boss . . . but never the bully. Hyper-awareness of every nuance in mood or behavior built to a fine crescendo, that inevitably came crashing down when the attention and compliance slipped. No matter how it was sliced, the victim facing the abuse always seemed to be at fault, as far as Madge could tell. 

Madge sighed, and unfolded her arms. Who cared? All she wanted to know was how to fight back effectively. Running hadn’t helped. Calling the cops certainly didn’t help. The courts were overbooked and didn’t have time to sift through the nuance of who started it, and who ended it. It was only because Madge had a good attorney that she was sitting in a survivor’s workshop as opposed to jail. But damn it, she wasn’t taking it any longer. 

The group leader’s voice droned on, stretching the afternoon into an eternity of meaningless dribble. Finally, the class was wrapped up with a list of community resources: Need housing? Go here. Need food? Go there. Looking for help with filing court documents? Call advocate so-and-so. 

Nothing about where to get courage, Madge noted. Well, she had a solution to that little pickle, and then courage would be one step closer, and Madge wouldn’t need to deal with the abuse any longer. 

The group leader ended the court-ordered class for victims, opening the door to the hallway. Fresh air flooded he room, and fled before the overpowering, rank stench of frightened women. The group leader handed a half-sheet certificate to each woman as she left the room – proof of attendance for the courts. 

Madge was the last person to leave the room, and gingerly accepted the piece of paper. She briefly met the group leader’s eyes, before commenting, “You forgot the most important part.” 

“What’s that?” The leader raised an eyebrow. 

“The part about courage. The part about bullies only hurting others until they’re stood up to.” 

Madge shrugged and slipped out the door, ignoring the woman’s mouth opening and closing around impotent protestations of escalation, and the greater strength of a man. 

Idiot, Madge thought. Why does everyone think violence only ever occurs between a man and a woman? 

An hour later, Madge had closed the deal on her courage, heading home. Once there, she carefully arranged the chair she would sit in to allow her to keep an eye on both the door and the window. Madge clicked off the safety, swearing that if Rose showed her face here today, her home would be the last one Rose ever entered. 

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