No one is more painfully aware of the reality of domestic violence than Bianca Tanner’s family. The beautiful young teacher from Charlotte had the entire world ahead of her, but found herself in a relationship that ultimately lead to her tragic death.
She left a son that will only know of his mother the memories that his family gives him. She will never see him graduate college, or get married. She will never be able to spoil grandchildren. What is more tragic is the fact that Bianca Tanner is one of the estimated 4,000 women that will lose their lives to domestic violence this year. That does not account for the alarming rise in men that being abused by a partner. And yes, it happens more than you realize.
It could be fairly easy for someone that has not experienced abuse at the hands of a loved one to ask why she didn’t leave sooner, or how she let someone so close to her treat her so poorly. Many people ask why family doesn’t step in and help the person being abused. Let me first say that no one enters into a relationship knowing that they will be treated like they are less than human. Domestic violence victims are frequently silent because it is part of the abuse cycle. The threats, the verbal assault on your character, constantly being told that no one but your abuser would ever put up with you because you are stupid or pointless, all of it weighs on you until, eventually, you believe it. Once the mind is beaten down, then the body shortly follows. The threat of the pain keeps you in line, keeps you pliable and unable to complain about the little things that constantly chip away at the person you once were. Gradually, you are replaced with an automaton, a person that is screaming inside for someone, anyone to listen to your silent cries for help. That’s when you abuse yourself. You tell yourself that you could leave if you were stronger. Or that you deserved that smack in the mouth because you know how he or she liked things a certain way. Or worse, you begin to tell yourself that you deserve it.
I’m not quoting statistics or pulling information out of a pamphlet on spousal abuse. I’ve consulted with no psychiatrists or counselors. I’m speaking from experience. I lived in an abusive relationship for years, one with physical, emotional and sexual abuse. When I left, I did so with my four-week-old son in a car seat and the clothes on my back. I did for my child what I would not do for myself. Eleven years later, I am married to a wonderful man that values me, that understands what I’ve been through. My son is blissfully unaware of the life he could have led. I thank God for that moment of strength every day.
Asking questions like why are you with this person is easy. Recognizing the silent cry of someone longing to break free is a little more difficult. Often, people in abuse situations do not think they have a place to go, or that they will be outcast or judged. They are afraid to speak up.
Silence is not always golden. Silence can literally be the difference between life and death. As a community, our hearts should go out to the Tanner family. As a community, we should take a stand, to help others break their silence and say “no more.”
I spoke up and got my life back when I could have easily been another statistic. Someone could have written an editorial about me, about my silence and how the community should say no more.
Though nothing can bring her back, Bianca Tanner needs to be the last Bianca Tanner.
Annie Blackburn is a staff writer with the Lincoln Times-News.