Thursday, April 22, 2010

Domestic Violence: A Subject Very Close to My (formerly bruised) Heart

This blog is going to be different from what I normally talk about, so I hope you'll bear with me - there will be no jokes, no attempts at witticisms, and nothing whatsoever amusing to read. Instead, I'm going to cite some cold, hard facts that nobody (including me) really ever wants to talk about:

  • 1 in 4 women are directly affected by domestic violence during their lifetime, and guess what? They're not nameless, faceless nobodies who deserve it for taking up with low life men. They're your neighbor, or your sister, the girl behind the counter at the coffee shop or the woman with the great clothes and nice hair that you see at the PTA meeting. They may even be the author who writes the funny/snarky/sexy books you like to read.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
I could go on, but do I really need to? I decided to speak up today because one of my local TV stations, an ABC affiliate, has devoted the last six weeks to the topic, culminating in a one-hour primetime special on Friday, April 23, 2010 at 8pm. Watching some of the videos and listening to some of the stories has really hit home, because yes, I, too - in the past - have been a victim of domestic violence. It's all behind me now - I've been very blessed and lucky to have been married for quite some time to a wonderful man who would never lay a finger on me, but that wasn't always the case. For too long, I was with someone else, someone who had no such scruples.

I've been punched. I've been kicked. I've been called every foul name you could think of, and then some. I've been threatened and stalked and spit on, had my bedding and curtains sliced to ribbons with a knife, hidden my bruises with long sleeves, long pants and makeup. I've lied to my doctor, family, friends and co-workers about a broken wrist and why I couldn't spend time with them. I have lived in fear, and in some ways I still do. When I finally got the courage to leave, I lost my house. I lived in hiding for almost a year. At a time when my safety and self-respect and personal resources were at their lowest, I had to fight tooth and nail for my children, and find the courage to get up and go to work every day in order to put bread on the table, looking over my shoulder the whole time.

And no, I never thought it would happen to me. I was too smart, too independent, too capable to ever find myself in that position - and yet I did.

Why did I lie to my family and friends, you wonder? Why did I put up with it, even for a day? Because weirdly enough, the psychological side of the abuse can be even worse than the physical. Victims of domestic abuse are made to feel ashamed, and helpless, and dependent upon the very person who hurts them the most. It's not an easy cycle to break, particularly when there are children involved, because the children themselves are often used as a weapon in the psychological war against you.

But break the cycle I did, and I'm no longer ashamed. I've finally realized that by not talking about it, by not sharing that I came through it as a much stronger person, I was still acting as though I were ashamed, when I was never the one who needed to be.

So this Friday night, at 8pm EST on ABC, I hope you'll watch "Taking Action Against Domestic Violence", and not turn a blind eye to the problem. Not only do I hope you'll watch it, I hope you'll do something about it, like:
  1. Donate to your local women's shelter. Clothes, money, computers, toys, diapers - if you're a woman (and most of my readers are), put yourself in the position of homelessness and powerless and think about what you'd need. Then donate it.
  2. Drop off your used cellphone in specially marked boxes at any Verizon location, no matter how old it is or what shape it's in. It will be recycled by the Verizon Hopeline Program, providing a much needed safety net to abused women. It costs you nothing, and it's probably just sitting in a drawer somewhere anyway, isn't it?
  3. Speak up. 74% of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. If you see someone with unexplained bruises or witness actual abuse, even if they deny it (and they most likely will) give that person your support, whether it's a shoulder to cry on or the number to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which is 1−800−799−SAFE (7233). They'll be given instant, anonymous referrals to shelters and other valuable resources, no questions asked.
Yes, I have been a victim of domestic violence. There is hope - and there is life - on the other side of it. Do what you can to give that hope to others by donating, listening, and perhaps most importantly - learning not to judge. Believe me, victims of domestic violence are ashamed enough without being judged by those who've never been there.

3 comments:

Indigo said...

Thank you! I used to speak out about this very subject to no end in my last blog. I know it intimately.

I also volunteer at my local Woman's shelter. I can't say it enough about keeping the hotline number on you. Never know when you will come across someone who many need it. Someone passing me the number saved my life once upon a time.

There is a blog dedicated to the stories of victims speaking out about their abuse called:

Violence UnSilenced -
http://violenceunsilenced.com/blog/

My story is in the archives under,
Indigo Ravenwood. I was one of the early submissions.

Once again, Thank you! (Hugs)Indigo

Terri Garey said...

Hey, Indigo. People really don't know unless they've been there, do they? Big hugs to you for what you went through, and big hugs to whoever gave you that phone number.

Never stay silent.

Laura said...

Domestic violence affects you all your life. I don't think it's worth working on as a cause until the laws and attitudes about it really change. I don't see that happening any time soon. There is far more domestic violence than the physical actions which get in the news/ media/ causes. Women and daughters are still told they are over reacting and made to feel it is all their own fault. Anyway, it's probably backwards of me but reading about the cause of domestic violence and what we should all be doing, etc just annoys me a bit. Mainly because it is all on the surface. I don't see anything being done currently as very effective in the reality.