I knew the jokes were coming, before I even saw them made.
That’s is the normal order of things, in the competitive jokesterism of the social age. A famous athlete, Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov is arrested, charged with assault and kidnapping for an alleged act of violence against his girlfriend.
In the typical sequence of events, the Twitter jokes are the most assured next thing, before evidence is known or facts have been heard. Before we have a clue what happened, or who was hurt.
Because the Avalanche’s coach, Patrick Roy, was once arrested for the same.
And because fans were concerned Varlamov’s arrest might fuck up their fantasy team.
For the most part, people don’t make jokes because they actually find domestic violence funny, I don’t think. They make those jokes because to them, domestic violence is an abstract concept.
It was once also an abstract thing, to me.
The second that it wasn’t: a heartbeat, a sudden lunge, not long enough to scream. The hard dull thud of a fist against my cheek, I am slammed into the couch cushions now, all I know of him is weight and shrinking space, I can’t see and I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe —
And now there is no time —
And now the time has stopped —
It lasted ten seconds, maybe. But in those ten seconds I learned a lot, as my lungs stood cold and my cheek screamed hot. I learned that he could kill me, and that there would be nothing I could do. I learned what the pain of total nakedness felt like. And helplessness, too.
Let me be clear: I was lucky. For me, time started again, more quickly than it seemed, and I fled the house and ran away and tilted the rearview mirror checking for visible injuries. There were none. He didn’t leave a mark.
So I’m lucky like that, where so many are not.
I didn’t even leave him, then. I stayed. But that’s another story, more muted in the telling: I never told it, really, not for years. In the cold accounting of these things, there was too much to lose, and when I imagined telling it I imagined telling it towards suspicious eyes:
“But he would never…”
Yeah, he did.
“He’s such a fun guy, though.”
Yeah, he is.
That’s enough about that. The point is: Evgeniya Vavrinyuk went before media today, and told them that Semyon Varlamov drank, and beat her. That he had done it before. And that this was not accident or misunderstanding, but the fury of him dragging her to the floor, where —
No, not now, that’s enough.
If Varlamov is indeed guilty of these things, then she is almost impossibly brave. Because we all know what is said of women who allege abuse against rich and powerful men. Because we all know what is said of women who fuck up someone’s fantasy team.
“Innocent until proven guilty!” someone screams —
Yes, yes I agree with that. I would defend that concept with all my heart, that courts must prove guilt, that a person is innocent in the eyes of the law unless the evidence against them is strong enough to push past the threshhold of reasonable doubt.
I do not deny this, and would never give it up.
What “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t mean: that life must continue on the same. That we cannot recognize that these are serious charges. Or that we do not acknowledge that if the crime is real — and on that, time will tell — then there is a victim at its heart. Someone who felt, in that moment, time stop and pain bloom and fear send out its cold and stabbing shoots.
But here’s a strange thing: how some who shout “innocent until proven guilty” as a defense against the crime, should then convict the alleged victim of false accusation, without evidence or charge. Well, except for the evidence that she is a woman, and the suspect a rich and famous man.
I could do a lot of things, now.
I could dredge up a further dozen examples from Twitter, a hundred, even more, all people declaring the charges bullshit and lies, and naming she who went to police a liar and a whore.
I could post statistics on domestic violence.
I could elucidate how it so often goes that nice people, in public, hurt their loved ones behind closed doors. Because abusers are often charming, like that. They know how to make people like them, believe them, trust them. They know how to get control, and this is part of how they are able to wound.
Because now, who would believe you —
Who would ever believe such a cool guy could do —
“Oh, she’s just vindictive / broke / a bitch / she’s bored.”
God, the guy who did it to me wasn’t even famous and on someone’s fantasy team.
So yeah, I will leave those parts of the dialogue to other folks. Instead, I end this here: I do not know if Semyon Varlamov is guilty or innocent. His case will be decided, after some fashion, in the courts. That is the best that justice can do, since nobody who wasn’t there and didn’t see it can ever really know.
Before the courts, he is innocent until proven guilty.
And before me, Evgeniya Vavrinyuk is someone who has reported that a horrible, terrible, terrifying thing was done to her, as it was to me. And she is someone I do not know and have no factual reason to discredit or disbelieve — and who Denver police evidently believe enough to carry their investigation forward to the courts.
So I respect her as a victim of abuse, which is how she enters the records now in those same courts, and I will respect her words.
If she is, instead, a lying money-hunting bitch already to you —
Or if this is funny to you —
I hope that you never have to feel the moment where time stops, and pain blooms, and you realize that the only thing between you and the abyss is whether or not he has the will to kill you.