by Tziporah Katz
“Thou art Goddess.”
The Priest anointed her, being careful not to remove the make-up covering her bruises. Bruises he had placed on her only the night before.
It has been twenty years since I last had to perform that ritual. Twenty years since the last time I was the victim of domestic violence. Twenty years since I last had to find the awkward excuses for strange cuts on the inside of my lip, or creatively explain away a loud “argument” from the night before. Twenty years.
My children and friends ask me if my abuser was still here. Ask me if I knew how far I had come.
“Yes, he’s always there somewhere, just not as clear as before. Do I know how far I’ve come? Maybe. Some days I don’t see it at all because the old tapes are still playing in my head.”
Those events still live in the shadows. Still haunt my dreams and cloud my ability to think some days. Even though he’s physically away from me, my abuser is still a very real part of my life.
The acceptance of what had happened, the tears that would offer the healing needed to move beyond, have been slow in their coming. My mentor at our local shelter for battered women assured me I’m doing fine. Some days I doubt her sanity.
Every fifteen seconds a woman is battered in the U.S.A. That is a statistical abomination. It accounts for reported physical abuse, nothing more. It does not reflect what happens when a victim is terrorized, humiliated, or bullied. It does not come anywhere near the reality of magical threats. It cannot. The numbers would be too high. It would make the Burning Times and the Holocaust combined pale. Yet it is real.
We practice magic. We build walls of blue light around ourselves to keep out those things we do not wish to have near us. We send each other positive energy to keep away those things that have no place in our lives. Healing magic is offered without a thought beyond “let me help you.”
But those spells are easily broken with a slap to the face. Or a hand choking a neck. Or worse. There are no spells that will prevent an act such as rape. No chants printed in our local newsletters, no tapes that will teach us the secret mantra to block a chair being destroyed only inches from us. No oils sold at the local occult shop to filter out the violence.
And even fewer chants for healing the wounds.
Fewer still are the safe places inside this Pagan Community for a victim to go and be heard. We as a community say that we venerate the Goddess, revere the God. If this is true then why are so many of our women being battered? How can we, who claim to have awareness beyond the mundane, who claim to be psychic, be so blind to the truth? The answer is not all that complex. We are no different from the rest of society. It wasn’t that long ago that we acknowledged that we had the same kinds of substance abuse problems as the world at large. We offered healing to victims of rape and incest. In both of these cases, with open hearts and minds. No accusations of the victims having asked for the abuse, the addict having carefully plotted their addictions. So why in the face of domestic violence do we turn away?
Perhaps the reason is because the violence is being generated inside our community and it is far too painful for any of us (including many victims) to face. Domestic violence is different and far removed from other forms of abuse. A victim of domestic violence has to face the abuse as well as the reality that they chose their partner. No matter how many times they are reminded that, no one enters into a relationship with the thought of “Now I’m going to be abused. What a relief.” It doesn’t remove the feeling of failure in having made what now appears to have been a poor choice.
Worse still is that when a victim points a finger at an abuser from inside the community, they are risking harming the community as a whole. “Nice witches don’t beat each other.” It’s bad magic.
But nice witches do indeed beat each other. Nice witches do abuse each other. And all the magical chants and potions in the world will not protect the victim from the falling blows.
So what can we do? What healing can be offered?
In order for the healing to begin, we have to accept that domestic violence does happen here, in this community. Victims must be believed. They must be given a safe space to find the strength to heal. In their own time, not ours.
We do not need to create our own shelters. There are shelters that exist in the world already. We do not need to create tribunals to hear the cases and judge the truth. We do not need to try to counsel the partners into healing the relationship. We need to learn to listen. We need to hear the truth, and act on it. Abuse must not be tolerated or accepted. Abusers must be given a place to find their own healing, to offer less would be inhuman. Within that space abusers must be removed from other potentially abusive situations. We must be certain the victims are safe from further harm. That must come first.
Most importantly, we must look each other in the eye and say:
“Thou art Goddess. Thou art God.”
And really mean it.
The was written some twenty years ago, and the pain of the past is still real. The journey my own life has taken is filled with successes and failures like any other life. Relationships after violence are hard and after another attempt at a marriage that did not last, I am single. I’ve also left the public life of the Pagan Community and have keep my spiritual side private.
Since the original writing of this article I have become aware of other women in the Pagan community who have been severely abused. One victim received a fractured skull. The other victim having been beaten with a bat required extensive medical attention (some 73 staples and 49 stitches, I believe were the number). In both cases, the abusers are known figures in the community. Both women have sought legal assistance and are pursuing their cases.
Gwyddion once wrote, “We won’t wait any longer. We are stronger than before.”
May those words guide other victims to their strength to get to safety. And may they give this community the strength it will need to help itself heal.
***Permission to reprint is granted by the author providing the article is copied without changes. For more information on what you can do to help stop domestic violence in your area contact the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at 202-638-6388, or your local shelter.***