“My rage becomes quiet. And there is a solace there” – Ronna Detrick “The Solace of Silence”
This past Monday, there was a murder suicide in a Miami South Dade county neighborhood, the media reported as a couple in their 40s the man fatally shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself. What they didn’t report but what I found out through Facebook posts from friends and others was that the female victim was a publisher and author named Carmen Hendrix. The sheer sadness that poured from the tributes to this woman got my attention and drew my curiosity. I know lots of writers, but I didn’t know her personally. We have a few mutual friends but what really drew me to her was her backstory. and the realization that her story, like many forgotten women in this world is one that we’ll probably never hear in the media for many reasons (all wrong). She was not a school shooter or victim of one so there won’t be politicians pontificating on gun control or offering thoughts and prayers to her grieving family. She was popular but hadn’t achieved the level of notoriety that would compel the media to follow her every move both good and bad. Those factors, and the touching expression of grief made me want to write about her and so many other women who survive domestic, and sexual violence only to become trapped by their pain
But this wasn’t Carmen, she had survived molestation and rape which she discussed freely and openly. She was breaking free from domestic violence and then this past Monday her life met a tragic end. Carmen is a symbol of hundreds of conversations I’ve had with close friends, relatives and relationship partners who have described in detail abuse they suffered at the hands of men. The #metoo movement has given voice to many of those women but there are many more still coping with the trauma silently, hoping to find solace in removing themselves for daily life, and even from loving again. These women are diverse, professional, artistic, spiritual, and a down right brilliant group of people. Some will never share their story, some share it freely and bravely. Some it will take decades to even speak about it openly. I think about sitting through the stories of domestic abuse, and brutal assaults that women have felt safe enough to share with me and no matter how uncomfortable I feel, I know them sharing is more important than my feelings as a listener ever will be. I’ve listed as one friend described having her nose broken by her boyfriend, another shared the story of a traumatic gang sexual assault, others have talked about molestation by relatives and family friends one was beaten and set on fire. I sat either in person or on the phone and listened intently, it’s all that I could do but its important.
I have no idea why so many feel so comfortable with me but I do know I have the duty to make sure women know that they matter, their story matters, their healing matters and there are organizations and people who want to help them. I owe this to every woman who shared painful and horrific experiences with me. Carmen did this, and I was impressed and saddened that I would never be able to hear her speak, read more of her upcoming works and help spread her story. Maybe she was the catalyst to make sure not only that I do more, but that I implore men to do more as well. We are the friends, brothers, boyfriends and husbands that need to be more attentive to the signs, and sometimes just listen. There a many forgotten women that the various movements will never reach but as the men they trust and, in some cases, eventually love, we can make the difference. I’ll be the first to admit that there is no blueprint to being “that” man. I’ve failed at it many times and probably missed out on signs. We aren’t expected to be perfect, but we are expected to be present. The women in our lives need that from us. I thank every woman for sharing their story with me, while it hurts my heart it makes me a better person to know they trust me enough to share. Some have gone public others have not and probably never will, I hope they know that I support them whatever their decision.
So, through the triumphant life of Carmen Hendrix, I hope this leads one woman to know she’s not alone and one man to understand he plays an important role. And as her friends keep her memory alive online I hope I’ve done my part. This is for her and all the other women who share a story very similar to hers. May we never forget. #carmenhendrix.
Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE