Leslie Morgan Steiner’s new memoir about abusive love, Crazy Love, comes out March 31st from St. Martin’s Press. View her reading from Crazy Love on YouTube. If you’d like to share your story (anonymously or publicly) please join The Crazy Love Project at www.lesliemorgansteiner.com.
Last month, my husband of 14 years gave me a shiny red iPod as an early Valentine’s gift. One afternoon, waiting for the kids to rush out the school door to my car, I had my headphones tuned to pop singer Rihanna’s “Live Your Life.” Soon after I heard that R&B star Chris Brown had attacked a young woman in a silver Lamborghini in Los Angeles just hours before the 51st Grammys. The news about the “alleged victim” continues – Has she gone back to him? Are they recording a love song together? Taking a break? Rihanna probably doesn’t have the perspective right now to understand that she is a classic domestic violence victim. But from my view, almost 20 years after leaving my abuser, I can see that Rihanna is doing our country a great service by putting a very public, realistic face to domestic violence and the reality that it occurs among people of all income levels, races, religions, and ages.
Like the three million women the Department of Justice estimates are abused in the U.S. each year, I found out that love sometimes literally hurts. In my 20s I was part of a golden couple myself. I’d just graduated from Harvard with a job at Seventeen Magazine in New York. One night on the subway, I met a charismatic Wall Street trader who also had an Ivy League degree and a bright future. In our world, we seemed as impossible as domestic violence victims as Chris Brown and Rihanna.
I was sympathetic but unconcerned when my funny, adoring, street-smart boyfriend, like Chris Brown, confessed he’d been abused by his stepfather as a young boy. I was on top of the world with my first American Express card, a funky New York City apartment, a bright future. Helping a man overcome a disturbing childhood and volatile temper seemed a cakewalk. That's what makes intimate partner violence so insidious -- by its nature, love is unrealistically optimistic and fiercely private. When a relationship turns vicious, a couple’s legitimate hopes battle the insidious silence and secrets required to hide bruises, broken bones and broken hearts.