It’s been more than three years since Julia Hudson, sister of the Oscar-winning songstress Jennifer Hudson, made a frantic phone call to 911 after finding a bullet hole in her front door and her mother’s lifeless body in a pool of blood on the living room floor.
While Julia Hudson’s story has elicited national sympathy, we shouldn’t lose sight of a critical fact: The Hudson sisters’ real-life nightmare reflects the daily challenges that millions of women face concerning life-and-death decisions about romantic intimacy, trust and self-preservation.
After a two-week trial on the gruesome triple-homicide that also took the lives of her brother and 7-year-old son, jurors are deliberating this week on the fate of Julia Hudson’s estranged husband, William Balfour, who is on trial for the killings. No matter what verdict the jurors reach, the Hudson family will inevitably face a long and arduous road toward healing and closure.
I imagine that Julia Hudson has asked herself whether her loved ones would still be alive had she decided to marry someone else. It was no secret that they did not approve of the marriage and disliked Balfour from the onset. She will have to forgive herself for any traces of self-blame and guilt about staying with a man, who, as the Associated Press reported, “threatened to kill the Hudson family dozens of times.”
But any one of us could have been Julia.
In my college years, I found myself listening intently when the married women in my life cautioned me to always be on the lookout for warning signs and “red flags” displayed by men I was dating. Their advice was meant to help me develop a loving, lifelong relationship with a man who would never abuse me, come home in a drunken fit, cheat, molest our children or one day give up on our marriage.
As I’ve gotten older, reality has set in. There’s no blueprint. There’s only one thing that I can be certain of in matters of the heart — and that is that there are no guarantees. Intimacy is ultimately riddled with risk-taking. Vulnerability, as necessary as it is, can easily give way to domination and abuse of horrific proportions.
“Every day in the U.S., more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends,” says Salamishah Tillet, co-founder of A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based nonprofit that uses art to help girls and women in Chicago break their silence about surviving domestic violence. “At the same time, as a society we do not want to talk about these issues. [Instead we] blame women for the violence they experience and threaten to defund organizations that help victims.”
Tillet’s organization is working to empower women like Julia Hudson to use their experiences to become leaders in the movement to end violence against women and girls worldwide.
Those of us committed to halting the pandemic of domestic and sexual violence must support organizations like A Long Walk Home that work tirelessly to end violence and abuse against women and children because, as Tillet says, “to ignore this pandemic means to condone it.”
The tragic reality remains that we can commit to protecting ourselves and guarding our hearts and still find ourselves on the losing end of a fist fight or stomp-down. We can vow to never let harm come to our children and, yet, still have to face our children’s violated innocence after they find the strength to tell us about unimaginable acts that took place in our brief absence. We can do “all the right things” in pursuit of our lifelong dreams, as Jennifer seemingly did, and still be confronted with trauma of this magnitude.
Julia Hudson’s story may be written off as a made-for-TV domestic abuse tragedy that would never greet us at our doorstep. But there is a high price to be paid for denial. It can be the difference between preserving life and having it violently taken away.
Rahiel Tesfamariam is a columnist and blogger for The Washington Post and TheRootDC. She is the founder/editorial director of Urban Cusp, an online lifestyle magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change and global awareness. Follow her on Twitter @RahielT.
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