Let me be honest with you, this is very difficult for me. For the first time, I am going to share things that I’ve never publicly shared over the air. This show is one that hits very, very close to home.

This topic, for me, started a long, long time ago…

I was such a little girl. That night, I could feel my breath bounce back into my face, hot and labored, as I pulled the covers tighter over my head. I was praying hard to a God that I didn’t even know.

Her voice was loud and hysterical at first calling and crying out for me. He was hitting—no beating her violently—and she kept calling me for help.  I could hear each blow and I couldn’t move.  I could taste the fear in my throat and feel the pain coursing through my body as the knots inside my stomach tied tighter and tighter.  The more she called, the more I asked God to stop them.  What could a six-year-old do?  What could I say?  How could I make it better?  My brother was lying next to me in his twin bed asleep, my parents were in their bedroom fighting violently and I lied there, huddled in fetal position. But as horrible as that night was, I will never forget the next morning as I peaked my face around the corner and saw my Mother sitting at the table, sipping coffee with black eyes, swollen lips and bruises covering her face and arms…

I began to learn then, that love and being in love with someone could hurt, very, very badly.

The CDC says that on average 24 people PER MINUTE are victims of physical violence, rape or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. Being choked, beaten, stabbed, shot, punched, slammed against something or hurt by name-calling or hair-pulling for MANY PEOPLE occurs daily in their relationships. Domestic violence by definition is a pattern of coercive behavior that’s used by one person to gain power and control over another. Why in the world do we feel the need to HAVE to control the ones that we love?

I learned by watching my parents day in and day out, for years, exactly how painful relationships can really be. What commonly took place in our home was physical intimidation and the controlling of what could or couldn’t be done. My dad checked the gas gauge in my Mom’s car to see how far she’d driven in any single day. As kids we were always questioned about her whereabouts, or who she was with or who she talked to. He CONSTANTLY accused her of sleeping around. He controlled by physical intimidation, financial intimidation, he controlled by every means necessary and I grew up with literal knots in my stomach…fear was my constant companion and the only way that I knew how to relate for a very long time was by yelling, screaming, drama and fighting.

You know it’s real easy to hear about domestic violence situations and sit there and say, WELL, WHY DOESN’T SHE JUST LEAVE? You don’t know how many times I thought and said that to myself as a kid growing up in that hell. When we’d have to go stay at my Aunt’s home or the police had to be called or I had to see my Mom black and blue from head to toe…you don’t know how much I WISHED she’d just leave.

But now as a grown woman, I think I know why she endured for 17 long years. She loved my Dad. She wanted to be committed to the relationship, while at the same time she was afraid of him, afraid of living alone, not confident that she could care for my brothers and me by herself. They had history together, kids together, a life together, money and a home together and I know she hoped as much as I did day-after-day that things would improve.

They didn’t.

It’s so easy to hear about abuse and immediately distance ourselves from it. We say, that’s not me, why should I care? That’s for THOSE people to deal with. But let me ask you something, let’s get real for a moment. Where do you think abuse begins? Have you ever fought with someone you love and said something that you regretted? Have you called your husband or wife boyfriend or girlfriend an IDIOT, or STUPID or even worse? Have you sarcastically put your partner down or drug up the past time and time again raking them over coals of old wounds or betrayals, not letting stuff go? Have you ever picked up their cell phone to check their call record or text messages? Are you jealous, always grilling or questioning your partner? Have you ever been judgmental or used silence to punish someone or ever said you’d DIE if he or she left you? These “non-violent” manipulative behaviors, ladies and gentlemen, are like gateways that could lead to much, much more.

You see abusers don’t come out of their mother’s wombs abusers—they learn, they grow and they develop over time and it starts with the way we learn how to love and behave from very early on. Many people think cussing each other out is normal. Some think it’s just the way to fight. Others see nothing wrong with punching, or slapping, or shoving. We grow up in homes were violence is the norm and we don’t know any other way to relate.

Relationships don’t necessarily EXPLODE into violence the first time you start dating or get married, or fall in love with someone. The violence is a result of “broken” men and women and it begins benignly—a little name calling, a little possessiveness, a little grab, a little push , a little shove and before you know it YOU’VE CROSSED THE THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE & HATE…and your relationship begins to hurt very badly.

Today’s show isn’t about an OUT THERE, someone else’s problem subject. I believe everyone listening to me knows a story of someone who’s been touched by violence in a relationship. Whether it’s emotional or verbal abuse/break-ups that go very, very wrong, wives being beaten by their husbands or men being tormented or stabbed by the women in their lives. Please know that abuse goes BOTH ways. About 1 in 7 men has experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

NO ONE DESERVES OR WANTS TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP THAT HURTS! And tonight, we have the opportunity to talk openly and honestly about OUR ISSUES; about this issue about THE THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE: when our relationships “hurt.”

I want to talk with you. What’s your definition of abuse? What’s your story of abuse? Do you know someone who’s in an abusive relationship? Have you ever crossed the line between love & hate? Leave your comments. Do you think domestic violence is okay as long if the victim fights back and defends themselves? Let’s talk, email thejenniferkeittshow@gmail.com.

I am your chief empowerment officer, JENNIFER KEITT and the PODCAST of this show can be heard right now by clicking here. Tune into THE JENNIFER KEITT SHOW on KISS 104, Atlanta’s R&B every Sunday evening, 7 – 8 pm ET. Be sure to visit my website at www.jenniferkeitt.com for a special SHOW NOTES RESOURCE GUIDE to empowering articles, data, hotlines and information about domestic violence.