The second entry in this year’s “First Word” entries comes from Miranda Cox. It was nominated by Dr. Justin Thurman.
About this piece, Dr. Thurman writes:
For this assignment, students were to read James Baldwin’s “My Dungeon Shook” and compose a letter to someone important about a moment that reshaped them. While many students wrote letters to themselves, their future children, their parents, or their good friends, Miranda took a different—and stunning—approach. Furthermore, the subject of Miranda’s letter is wildly relevant. The writing is both heartbreaking and thrilling to read.
Every piece that is nominated for the “First Word” column is eligible for one of the English program’s annual awards for exemplary student writing.
Great job, Miranda!
Dear Man with No Face,
You do not know me, but I know you. You are ignorant, cowardly, and dependent on control, or at least you were twenty-six years ago. This letter will explain who I am, how you have affected my life, and why I am writing to you. Most importantly I hope it will help you to see that you have the ability to overcome the flaws that you possess.
Now, I would like to tell you about the first time that I met you.
You were standing in a photograph wearing a black suit with a crisp white collared shirt and a dark crimson tie. Your pants and coat were nicely tailored, but your tie looked old and worn out, like your dress shoes. You were tall and slim, almost overbearingly so. There you were next to my mother, only you were lacking a certain feature that most people are in possession of—your face.
I was nine years old when I happened upon the box filled with pictures of my mother and you with your face missing and this was the first picture I reached for. I asked my mother who you were and why your face was cut out so nicely. She told me it was a past life and she’d tell me when I’m older.
Nine years later, here I am writing you this letter, knowing what that past life entailed and exactly what your role in it was.
I want you to know that your presence in my mother’s life has impacted me greatly, and I am truly thankful for it. Without you, I would never understand the inner workings of domestic abuse, both psychological and physical, or what a strong and inspirational woman my mother is. Indirectly, you have become a teacher of mine. By making my mother feel weak, you taught me to be strong. By controlling every aspect of my mother’s world, you taught me to be independent. By deceiving my mother into believing you were a good man, you taught me to be knowledgeable. You are the reason I see and want other women to see life as a beautiful and inspiring phenomenon to fight for; independence, confidence, and education is what will bring the beauty of life back into our grasps.
As I am sure you are aware, control is the focal point of physical and psychological abuse. Let me give you an analogy, which is a similarity between two like things so that a comparison can be made, that is extraordinarily apparent once you look closely at the need for control. The need is like having a drug addiction: when you do not have cocaine, or control, you will do anything for it. Drug addicts steal for the drug, while control addicts abuse for the control. I know that you once had or presently have this powerful addiction that takes over lives. You deserve your independence from it just like any offender out in the world. However, only if you want relief from the addiction can you truly be independent or deserve to be for that matter.
Again everyone deserves independence, especially after it has been taken away. Women in situations of domestic violence have a right to independence, not just from their offender, but also from victim blaming. If you happen to ever turn on the news or read your newspaper, then you will see that blaming the victim has become sort of a way of life in America. Women who have been abused are often asked the question, “Why didn’t you just leave?” These questions have downplayed the true crime that men, like you, sir, have committed. It terrifies people to see the reality of abuse. They choose to sweep it under the rug and believe that it is easy to leave someone that has absolute control.
Some even choose to believe that abuse does not exist at all.
Domestic abuse has truly been oversimplified throughout history. I’m sure you spend a large amount of your time on the internet, searching for… specific websites. It should be effortless for you to take a look into this website, domesticshelters.org. It has a myriad of statistics that show the reality of domestic violence. According to that website, an estimated 1,300,000 women are victims of physical abuse in the household just in the United States alone. These women are told everyday that they are ugly, weak, and worthless. These false ideas are all communicated by one slap to the face or one gun held against the head. The one thing those women need to hear is that they are beautiful, strong, and priceless. Confidence in who they are is the power they need to get out of the relationship they are in.
This power can also be achieved through education. Educating women in how to recognize the signs of an abusive man is vital in the progression of stopping domestic abuse and giving them their power back. You, I’m sure, can recall the behavior aligned with abuse from twenty-six years ago. Over-criticizing, refusing to communicate, and never accepting fault are just some of the tell-tale signs. I am sorry to say, there will always be men like you who crave control in the world, but educating women before they meet these men allows for the women to be protected by their own knowledge and make the powerful choice to stay away.
I’m sure it is hard for you to understand the reasoning for me to write this letter to you. It is truly very simple; I want you to fully fathom the reality that the pain you caused my mother only prepared her for the amazing life she would have later on. As a result of the hell you put her through, she met a man who had gone through his own hell and created a life together full of beauty. The women in these abusive relationships are strong, stronger than you and me, and their voices deserve to be heard. You may have been on the side of the offender, but I forgive you. Through you I learned what it means to be independent, confident, and knowledgeable. Thank you again for opening my eyes to the beauty of life that every human being is warranted.
“Domestic Abuse Topline Facts and Statistics.” DomesticShelters.org. Theresa’s Fund, Inc.