October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. It is also Breast Cancer Awareness month. Most are familiar with the pink ribbon campaign supporting breast cancer awareness, but do you know which color recognizes domestic violence awareness? Purple.
I love statistics because they tell a story. In the U.S. over 12 million women and men experience some type of domestic violence annually; that’s about 24 people per minute. Nearly half of all women and men experience psychological aggression in their lifetimes, usually by intimate partners. Most often domestic violence occurs behind closed doors and the survivors suffer in silence, however, the workplace is not without its issues. Nearly 33% of women killed in the workplace between 2003 and 2008 were killed by current or former intimate partners.
Domestic violence, for the most part, is swept under the carpet while false, hurtful stereotypes persist. Recently, the “Me Too” campaign brought awareness of sexual violence in the workplace to the forefront, but in some ways, I believe it hurts the cause more than helped. I don’t doubt many of the women and men who stepped forward, but there are always a few who bandwagon or step forward with ulterior motives that tarnish the overall purpose of any subject brought to light. Humans tend to go to extremes of ridiculousness, often due to a misplaced need for recognition. Most disconcerting is the tendency toward outrage when a celebrity comes forward with their story of domestic violence or a priest is exposed, while countless unknown Jane and John Does remain anonymous, or worse, judged by those quick to point out, “if it had been me, I would have left”. And here’s the thing; none on the outside looking in are in the position to judge those living in abusive situations. Speculation is all they can offer. My advice is to keep hurtful, unhelpful opinions to yourself. Trust me, I don’t mean to sound harsh here, it’s a kind gesture on my part to keep the outside-looking-in crowd from the taste of shoe leather.
Aside from the celebrities who come forward, priests who are exposed, and political jockeying taking place on any given day, we who have lived or are living the nightmare of abusive relationships are living in silence next door, sitting in the same church pews, shopping at the same grocery stores, and sitting in the same boardrooms as everyone else in every city and state in the country. We remain invisible to the world around us. We are not incapable of getting help for ourselves, in fact, many of us are highly intelligent people who unfortunately were standing too close to the forest to see the trees. The cycle of abuse is so insidious, we are imprisoned within before we are fully aware, believing we are at fault, and if we could just find the magic formula to make it stop, life would be back on track. But, it doesn’t work that way. So ingrained in us is the lie we are the cause of the abusive behavior, we accept it and turn our attention to survival; we are survivors, not victims. Let me qualify for those who have followed these blogs and have read about the role we play in creating our own realities. The abused are told they cause the abuser to abuse; sorry, lots of abuse in that sentence. Where the reality creating comes in is when the abused believe the lie, in other words, accept the limiting belief and allow it to create their reality. A better response, albeit much more difficult to put into action at the time, is countering the limiting belief with positive affirmations and get the hell out at the first sign. Kudos to those who have pulled that off; no easy feat for sure. Allowing is a huge component to the creation of reality. The Law of Attraction and the Law of Allowing work whether we believe them or not, whether we exercise our right to attract and allow or not. Onward!
The “Me Too” campaign has its share of detractors, Perhaps what the “Me Too” campaign has accomplished, to the benefit of survivors of domestic violence, is ripping the veil of silence from the issue and starting a public conversation. Whenever evil is exposed to the light we are given an opportunity to change course from the previously accepted norms. The “Me Too” campaign got people talking; everyday people, the movers, and shakers of society, and hopefully the church. Perhaps prior to the issue exploding all over every news outlet in America, we were able to turn a blind eye to an evil in our midst, but we don’t have that luxury any longer. The conversation needs to continue, and further, move beyond the conversation into action. The veil must be ripped to expose the abusers for what they are; wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Very often abusers are like chameleons, changing to fit into social and business environments to maintain the veil of secrecy; many are the respected businessmen, societal leaders, clergy, or members of the nice family next door who seem to keep to themselves. In other words, no one truly knows these people except for those who live with them. When something tragic does happen, the man-on-the-street interview usually includes statements like, “We had no idea, he/she seemed like such a nice person”, or “He/she always had a hello or kind word when we saw each other. I guess no one knew what was going on.” The ones I find the most honest are those who say, “I thought something wasn’t quite right, but I didn’t want to get involved.” As a society, the time has come to get involved. Abuse will remain veiled in secrecy as long as we allow it.
So what do we do? Keep the conversation going. The conversation from here on out needs to be solution-based. What is the best course of action? Education? Maybe. Talking about it from the pulpit and not invoking archaic and clearly misrepresented scriptures about the man being the head of the house, and the wife’s role being submission. Listen. Listen to what people say, correct them when stereotypes are thrown into conversations, and listen for cues from the abused. Offer help in the form of support, a code word to be texted in the event a dangerous situation is unfolding signaling the need to call 9-1-1, check on those you have concerns without raising the suspicions of the abuser – and this is a really tricky area, not to be taken lightly. My suggestion is to get advice from a knowledgeable person first. Rushing in where angels fear to tread is not always a good option.
In an age when society is raising awareness for every issue under the sun, those in abusive situations remain veiled in secrecy; one veil imposed by the abuser, and one imposed by society’s choice to turn a blind eye. This month, I encourage all to wear purple and explain why to as many as will listen and keep the conversation going…..