Strong as a Rock

by Denise Hills
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Strong as a Rock

As a graduate student in geology, I often teach. I may not inspire students to become scientists, but hopefully we’ll all have fun and learn something about our world. I am always pleased when a student comes to me for help, in class or out. When Betsy held me back after class one day, wanting to talk, I was curious and flattered.

Betsy made me promise not to tell anyone what she was going to tell me: she was contemplating suicide. She was in an abusive home, but “couldn’t leave” because of financial concerns — a condition of her tuition waiver was that she lived at home. Her story wrenched my heart, especially because it brought up memories of my own, previous, assault (although different circumstances). I somehow managed to talk her out of her action that day, and she began to rebuild her trust in others by sharing her secret.

Over the next few months, we talked a lot about how I survived my abuse, and ways she could survive hers. I encouraged her to get professional help, but she refused. She had once talked to a counselor who hadn’t believed her, and therefore didn’t trust them. I was her only support. However, I couldn’t convince her the most important step was for her to move out. “No one will believe me,” she’d say, “and I can’t move without help.” But, I’d tell her, I believe you, and so will others.

One night, I convinced her to leave. I took her to my sister’s house nearby. It was a rough night, with little sleep for either of us. That night, Betsy shared with my sister what was happening with her. Betsy was finally able to tell someone else. Even though we tried to convince her not to, her fears drove Betsy back home the next morning. But, she realized that other people will believe her.

As Betsy started to believe more in herself, we started building a plan for her to leave home. We even set a date, at the end of August. In June, though, she stopped calling me. I was panicked — I thought that she might have gone over the edge. I tried calling or e-mailing her, but no response. Finally, she called. She had started taking control of her life by telling her mother and moving out. She had worked out a way to be financially independent of her abuser, and also started seeing a counselor.

Betsy and I know in many ways she was lucky — she moved out before serious physical harm came to her. Some people may say that I was a hero for being there for her. For me, the real hero is and always will be Betsy. Through talking with her, I also realized that I needed to get counseling for the assault I had survived. Whenever I start to think that things are bad, I think of what she had to face every day for years, and that she found the strength to finally change her situation. To me, Betsy is strong as a rock.

Originally published as HeroicStories #112 on Jan 25, 2000
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.

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