Today is San Diego Momma’s PROMPTuesday #46: Humility.

Deb’s prompt:

Write a story about when you last were humbled, felt humbled by the presence of something/someone in your life, or lay prostrate at the feet of the universe and said “I don’t know what the hell I am doing. I will now relinquish control and let you take over.”

Dear Rihanna,

Over twenty years ago, I sat in a police station. I was alone. I had no parents to call. No safe place to go. I had two small children I was supposed to protect. I was terrified.

I’d been in that police station before. The reason was darker now.

When all of the necessary questions had been answered, words had been put to paper, and the story had been laid bare, a young officer looked into my eyes. With a voice as direct and as gentle as were his eyes, he simply said, “Don’t go back.”

I looked back at him, and for a long moment that has stayed fresh in my mind for over twenty years, our eyes held.

I thought, “Why is he telling me not to go back. Of course, I won’t go back.”

Then I remembered that I had gone back before. Over and over again. I’d gone back.

So, I thought, “I went back before, but now I have children. Of course, I won’t go back.”

Then I remembered that my mother had three children, and she went back. Over and over again. She went back. She’s still there, last I heard.

I told the officer that I wouldn’t go back. He’d probably heard that before, but he didn’t appear doubtful. I wondered later if he had been hopeful. I wondered if each time he said “Don’t go back” to a woman he still had hope.

I didn’t go back.

Over the next few years, I thought about that young officer. I remembered his name. I wondered if I should call him and tell him that his words had made an impact on me. I wondered. Over the next few years. From time to time.

Some more years went by. I graduated from law school and went to work for a downtown law firm. Another attorney at the firm became my friend. She’d graduated from the same law school that I had attended; I’d been in the full-time day program and she’d graduated one year ahead of me in the part-time evening program.

One day, I don’t remember why now, she mentioned that a friend of hers had graduated number one in their law school class. She told me that while some went to law school part time and did not have day jobs (considered an advantage among evening students), this guy had worked days as a police officer, and still graduated number one in their class.

I’d never forgotten that officer’s name, and, yes, he had graduated the year before I did from the same law school, number one in his class, while working full time.

I thought about the incredible odds that our paths had crossed again. Even if I hadn’t know it when they were crossing, I found out that our paths had crossed again.

It seemed to me that was a sign that it was time to let him know that he had an impact on my life, and on my daughters’ lives.

I tracked him down, and met with him in person. I told him that I did not go back. I told him all that he had communicated to me in that moment, and that I would remember it for the rest of my life.

I was given I gift. I thanked the man who gave it to me. Now I think it is time for me to pay it forward.

Rihanna, I understand why you went back. I did it too. I also know that if you don’t leave, you’ll be hurt again, no matter how sorry he seems to be now, no matter how much he seems to love you, and you him. Every woman who has been down that road knows this much is true. You are not alone. If you’re one of the lucky ones, like I was once, you’ll be able to leave again. And when you leave, don’t go back.

Love, Cheri

Resources for Support

45 comments on “Dear Rihanna”

  1. This is one awesome post. You came full circle by letting someone know how he impacted your life. You moved on and didn’t go back. You now encourage others to do the same. You’re amazing.

  2. If Rihanna isn’t reading, I’m CERTAIN someone is who will benefit greatly from your words. It’s a humbling and sad story, but I love how you rise from the ashes in the end – in a glorious way. And you’re still rising.

  3. If you can help at least one woman by writing this post, you will have done a wonderful thing.
    Congratulations for being brave and strong and for going on to have a terrific life!

  4. How do we make sure Rihanna gets this? We need to put Mel on the job.

    I didn’t realize it while it was happening, but I had a mom who went back. But not for very long–and she tried to make damn sure her daughters never would.

    You are so brave.

  5. Thank you for this! Thank you. My mom always stayed, even drove us around looking for him at night while we in our pajamas. I never understood it. I was always afraid.

    I’m glad you didn’t go back.


  6. It’s not always easy to acknowledge or even recognize one’s own role in such untenable situations. Thank God for the kindness and wisdom of strangers and friends – and for being able to find our own wisdom and strength to act and move on.

    And how wonderful and amazing to have met that “stranger” again.

  7. My Mother went back over and over again. After 44 years she finally got the strength to not go back. She had to go to the other side of the US to make it impossible to go back and it worked. She has made up for all the lost time and then some. Great post. Thanks for putting it out there.

  8. Your posts and YOU never cease to amaze me. Thank you for sharing your story and especially the part about being able to chat with the officer. How cool is that!

  9. Hey Jenn,

    I haven’t gone to look, but I am guessing that a lot of bloggers have or will write “Dear Rihanna” posts. Women in abusive relationships generally have well-developed co-dependency skills. We all want to help her.

    What I hope is that people around her will speak up. I hope that the media doesn’t romance their reunion, that at least someone in the media will call of like it is. I hope that all the publicity that came from this event won’t cause Rihanna and those around her to hide the next stage in the cycle of
    violence when it begins again.

    I am full of hope.

  10. I’m so glad he told you not to go back, that he said it in a way you could hear and think. I’m so glad you didn’t go back. I’m so glad you were able to tell him what a difference his words and his concern made for you and your girls.
    God only knows the other lives that have been and will be changed because of people like him and like you.

  11. dude, what the hell is up with everyone’s blogs making me cry today? My mom was in an abusive relationship for 5+ years, and my relationship with my Best Friend was forged from an awful night where we happened to be witnesses to the violence as 7th graders. She didn’t tell a soul at school what a ‘f-ed’ up family I had. My mom went back, and back and back (I was living with my grandparents, thank God). Not really sure what caused her to finally stay gone, but stay gone she did. Again, thank God.

    Your story was so touching, gave me the little lump in my throat and hot tears in my eyes. You simply rock.

  12. And this is why you Can’t give up the blog. As I sit here with tears streaming down my face, despite never having had to face such challenges and not able to explain the tears other than – what – joy that you survived so beautifully? or sadness for those who go back because they think they have no where else to go?

    You will touch many. And thank you.

  13. I do not even have words for how this post touched me. You are incredibly brave and honest and wonderful. I feel very lucky to “know” you.

  14. I can’t write about this on my blog but I observed my mom being emotionally/financially abused by my dad and observed my oldest sister being physically and psychologically abused by her spouse. I was told I “needed a man to control me”. Like hell I did.

    That’s why, against all odds, I went to law school. That’s why it is so hard to give up my license or suffer impediments to it. I just can’t put myself in the position of being dependent.

  15. Wow. I’m in awe. This is so moving. I wish you could bottle up that strength and resolve. I’m sure it took a LOT to stick to your committment.

    And graduating one year apart? Truth is stranger than fiction. I would have liked to see his face, to get a sense of how powerful your visit must have been for him.

  16. My god.I am blown away. Not just by your story. Not just by your past – you? having experienced this? Not just by the amazing coincidence. Not just by your tribute to this wonderful police officer. Not just by your writing.

    By your strength.

    This story is amazing. You should be required reading in shelters. What you achieved, and how you escaped what is so often a trap for many women.

    Thank you.

  17. wow, wow, wow. Incredible story of you. Of him. Of live intersecting.

    Yesterday we had to call the police to go visit the homes of one of our students. He gave some very hard and meaningful words to his mother. Very hard ones to act on.

    And I pray that she does act on them. Just as you did.

  18. I truly wish that Rihanna could see this blog post. Abuse can happen regardless of the color of your skins, socio economic status, gender, religion, etc. It is nothing to be ashamed of and it is never the fault of the victim. I hope that someone from Rihanna’s family gets her to understand that she does not have to be with someone who is an abuser.

    I am so thankful that you were able to get out of this situation. Big hugs to you.

  19. Going through this with my younger sister. She went back. Now we (her family) are the enemy because we supported her in her decision to leave. Just supported her. Did no more, no less than she asked of us.

  20. Going through this with my younger sister (mother of 3 under 10). We (her family) are now the enemy because we supported her decision to leave. We did no more and no less than she asked of us. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking. She’s 1500 miles from us, but she might as well be on the moon.

  21. That was a great post. I don’t know what it is about us that makes us stay when clearly we should leave. I was in an abusive relationship until *he* left *me!* What was I thinking?! Oy.

    I’m glad you found your way out.

    ((Big Hugs))

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