Love doesn’t break your arm

I never knew what mood he was going to be in or if he had too much to drink and was going to take it out on me,” Alicia Consuegra, a survivor of domestic violence, said to me. A seemingly common narrative among victims of this type of abuse, but what is not usual about Consuegra’s story is how atypical her profile is. It highlights the fact that domestic abuse crosses all demographic boundaries.

Alicia Consuegra is a business owner. She was not financially dependent on her partner, they did not have children. She is a well-educated, articulate woman who has a supportive family — and yet she is a survivor of an abusive relationship.

“We come in all shapes and sizes,” she said. “Yet we’re all stricken by the same horrors.”

I listened to Consuegra’s story days after I had purchased the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao boxing match via pay per view. It was the highest grossing pay-per-view boxing event in history. Few of us who bought access to the fight were concerned with Mayweather’s sordid abusive past.

Mayweather’s charisma and boxing skill — and the magnitude of the long-awaited fight — overshadowed the fact that the champ is a convicted batterer of women who has served time in prison for his repeated offenses.

Worse yet, Mayweather remains defiantly unrepentant and shows no remorse for his deeds, brushing off questions from reporters and going as far as banning from the fight the few reporters who pushed him on the issue.

No self-respecting, sports-sanctioning body should allow this man to fight and bask in the spoils of the fame and fortune he garners. And no sports fan who happens to be a parent, like myself, should support this kind of thuggish behavior — shame on me, lesson learned.

Domestic violence is a dirty little secret that despite a dramatic statistical downturn over the past 10 years in Miami-Dade County (according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement statistics) is still far too commonplace in our city. Much of this has to do with how little attention we pay to the warning signs in abusive relationships that many times wind up in tragic situations that are dramatically played out on local newscasts.

There is a prevailing cultural notion in our city that stems from the ultra macho cultures from where many of us hail from originally. In the Cuban culture, you often hear the adage, Nadie debe de meterse en los asuntos entre hombre y mujer — “No one should interfere in the relationship between a man and a woman.” This widely held belief is what keeps us from asking friends and family members probing questions when we suspect something is awry, or we simply turn away and hurry to get into our cars to ignore that couple violently arguing in the shopping-center parking lot.

Liz Baker, a family-law attorney who has handled hundreds of abuse cases during the past three decades and is the founder of Safespace Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy organization that works closely with government agencies that assist victims of abuse, explained that, “Awareness and education are the best weapons to fight abuse.”

“Most victims are the last to admit there is a problem. Many are of the mindset that the abuser is going to change and yet, sadly, many of these people end up with a broken clavicle and 10 stitches on their head,” Baker said.

Alicia Consuegra agrees, which is why part of her mission in combating domestic violence is to lecture high school students. She doesn’t want them to experience what she did in her five-year relationship.

“I recently lectured a group of high school girls and asked them simple questions that can be signs of a potentially bad or abusive relationship. Does your boyfriend show signs of jealousy? Do they try to control your life? These are all questions parents should be asking.”