If anyone has ever said the contrary to you, it’s a lie.
We always have a choice. Even when there seems to be none, there is always an alternative, a different path to take, another option, a choice.
At least, that is what I believe.
You see, yesterday on Monday, the 15th of July 2013 at about 3:15pm (GMT + 8) in Malaysia, I met up with someone I had never met in person before.
Over the years since she added me many years ago on Facebook through hearing about me from a mutual friend, we occasionally talked every now and then on Facebook, but that was it. Whenever I was in Malaysia, we never met. I, on the other hand, had actually insisted that she was a primary school class mate and therefore we had obviously met before. I was wrong. She never did go to my primary school and we had never met before yesterday.
I can guarantee at least one person reading this will think I was crazy to go ahead and meet this person, and they wouldn’t be wrong.
I, personally, wasn’t sure if I should actually board that train, but something in me simply knew I should, and so I did. I hopped on the train that would take me to the agreed place, and I cannot express how glad I am that I did.
The first few minutes were as one would expect, slightly awkward. We made usual banter that you would with someone you’re meeting in person for the first time, but after a while, I went deeper and asked about the problems she had been telling me about over Facebook and how she was handling them. At the end of the day, I even told her that I honestly thought the only reason why we had managed to maintain conversation over Facebook was because I could relate to most problems she had.
And not because I could see where she was coming from, but because I had been exactly where she was during my rebellious and admittedly rather troubled teenage years. I had a first-hand experience of almost everything she had described over the years and as a believer in Christ, have always asked for my experiences to be used in a positive way that will help others in similar situations get through their troubles.
This was my chance to do just that.
She said most of them were slowly getting better. We talked for a while about that and I told her about what I went through, and then tried to impart some advice based on how I myself got through those very issues.
I also asked about the relationship troubles she had told me about and how she was dealing with that. It was probably the worst of her troubles, and it was one of the things I could not directly draw on experience from to help her, but it was also what really led me to writing all of this.
Without going into detail of what she said, these are phrases she said in her description of how things were between them:
“I feel scared of him”,
“He hits me if he doesn’t get what he wants”,
“We always argue about the same thing and I always give him what he wants because I don’t want him to hit me”,
“He threatens me”,
“He came to my apartment once and started banging on the door repeatedly”,
“I’m scared to break up with him because he threatens me so much”,
“He always swears he’ll change when I talk to him about it but he never does”,
“He always blames me and says it’s my fault when we argue and sometimes I feel like it really is my fault”,
“I don’t know what to do and feel like I have no choice”,
“I feel so trapped”.
There’s much more to it than just that, and while I am by no means an expert on the topic, I told her what I thought it really was: an abusive relationship. Later that night she messaged me and confessed she didn’t really believe me when I said it was an abusive relationship, but she had Googled “abusive relationship” herself and finally admitted to herself that it really was one. Some of you might be thinking: “Why didn’t she just try to break up with him earlier if it was that bad?” I asked her that myself, though I knew that it’s really difficult to do so when you’re stuck in that kind of relationship. She said that she had tried many times before, and had consulted other friends on that particular question, but they had always said that there was no point because she’d just get back with him like because he’ll force the issue and she’ll give in to his demands.
I told her she needed to get out somehow and that there was a point to it all, but she needed to be strong about it and though he might try, she will have to learn to say no and resist giving in, that she’d have to tell him to back off, and that no really meant no. I told her she needed to make a choice and actually truly want to let it all go, but it was a choice she herself needed to make because ultimately, it was a choice for herself and had nothing to do with me. What I was telling her was simply my opinion, but I also told her to really think about everything I had said to her and go from there in deciding what to do. The main point I made to her though, was that she always has a choice. It wasn’t out of her hands. It wasn’t too late to get out and start afresh. It never was, and she needed to hear that.
Honestly, I myself had a quick thought that maybe I was meddling in something I shouldn’t have and should’ve changed the conversation. I have had a friend say to me “maybe you shouldn’t have gotten involved”, and had another friend say “maybe she’s making it all up”.
But they weren’t there. They didn’t see what I could see. There was a pain in her eyes and her voice, a pain that gave it away that what she was describing to me was very real. I could see someone who was so worn out and so weary. I didn’t see someone who was making it all up. What I saw was someone who was so physically, mentally, sexually, and emotionally broken.
After all of it and nearing the end, she asked me: “Do you think I’m a bad person? Do you judge me?”
I said no, for she wasn’t a bad person, and I said I didn’t judge her, for I didn’t. I didn’t have the right to judge her, just like how I don’t have the right to judge you or anyone else for anything and have come to learn that over the years.
I told her instead that she was brave in telling me, that she was strong to have gone through all she had gone through for the past 8 months, and that to remember she always has a choice, because we always do.
It was 7pm and I had to leave. She thanked me for listening and sharing my story, and I thanked her for sharing, wished her all the best in whatever she would do and said that I’d support her in getting through the problems she had.
She messaged me later that night and asked again: “You don’t think I’m a terrible person?” Again, I said no. I said she was courageous. She replied: “I will stop this once and for all,” and went on to say that it was probably something she has decided for a long time, but she was too afraid to take that step of faith, make that choice, a choice that was always available to her.
She just needed someone to open her eyes to it.
A few hours ago she texted me and said she had done it and also said he caused an incident, but we’ll leave it at that.
The next text that came through was “I will get through this”.
It encouraged me so much as it showed she was slowly developing a resolve and courage that wasn’t there before.
We always have a choice in everything in life. Sometimes, we just need to see it.
For those experiencing sexual assault or domestic and family violence in Australia, visit www.1800respect.org.au or call 1800 737 732.National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service. Information and support are available 24/7.