Sandra Charite (Courtesy Photo)

By Sandra Charite

The pallbearers from the funeral home rolled her casket into the church as family and close friends proceeded behind them. Hundreds of mourners within the congregation were at a loss for words as emotions exploded. This was a day that no one saw coming.

Her smile was her signature but the tears that hid behind that smile were invisible to those who loved her the most. A devoted wife and mother of three, she spent her life doing so much for others. She served as a deaconess at her church, president of the Parent-Teacher Association, a part-time nurse at the local hospital, and volunteered at the Big Brothers & Sisters weekly. 

At 25, she met the man of her dreams. She had been through so many bad relationships in the past so she avoided the dating scene but when she met him, she couldn’t resist. His charm was everything.  He romanced her with fancy dinners and introduced her to his family after their third date.  She believed he was the one that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. A year later, they married and formed three beautiful kids. Yet, after 10 years of marriage, things changed.

He became distant and angry from the stress at work. In return, he turned his frustration on his wife, the one who always had his back. Each time, he apologized or said he would never hit her again but those were just words on his tongue. Not only was the abuse physical but it was verbal. She never told any of her family or close friends about the abuse. 

After each attack, he reminded her that no one else would want or love her. He called her, damaged goods. Finally, one night, a fed-up wife packed her bags to leave. Before she could make it to the front door, her husband beat her to death while their kids cried and hid inside their bedrooms.

The morning after, the father was arrested and the kids were sent to live with relatives. Still, the murder shocked family and friends. They were such a perfect family, people said.  Those who were close to the couple found the abuse allegations to be unbelievable. As the kids began to share their accounts of the abuse, the wife became someone that many didn’t know.  Her silent tears never reached her loved one’s ears.

As women, we have been told for years that if he hits you then leave or don’t give him a second chance to abuse you no matter how many times he apologizes and professes his love. Yet, the number of battered women in the U.S. continues to climb.  

Many times, battered women are afraid to leave the relationship because of their children or financial security. They might even refuse the help and advice of friends for fear that the abuser will find out and become even more violent. I know this because I have had family members and friends who have been victims of domestic violence. 

For years, my mother suffered physical abuse at the hands of my father. He even threatened to kill her.  Some of her kids witnessed the abuse and she knew that she wanted to give them a better view of love and exhibit self-worth. So, one night, she gathered the little that she had and decided to leave my dad. She took her three daughters with her. Even though there was a possibility that my dad could retaliate, she knew she was loved by the Most High and did not deserve that abuse. “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

There are mountains of pain that have no words but they are visible. Check on the strong women in your life because what you see as a smile may just be a mask for silent tears. To the battered victim: Your voice has power.

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