We are approaching the month of October and Domestic Violence Awareness month. Domestic violence and other forms of violence against women, men, and children are on the rise. Physical, emotional psychological, sexual and spiritual violence, the specific type doesn’t matter. Nearly half of all women and men in the United States will experience psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Twenty people per minute will experience physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States adding up to more than 10 million in a year. When guns are involved in domestic violence situations the risk of homicide increases by 500%. (The Office of Justice Programs and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence) Disheartening statistics to say the least. Most everyday news outlets throughout the nation report on domestic violence cases, some involving the workplace putting even more people at risk. When will it end?
Perhaps you know of a domestic abuse survivor and have thought abuse could or would never happen to you. Think again. Domestic abuse and violence have no boundaries, touches every walk of life, socioeconomic class, and ethnic or racial demographic. The people we work with day in and day out may be living within an abusive situation and their co-workers have not the slightest clue. The people sitting in the church pew next to us, in front or behind, or even those in the pulpit may be experiencing their own personal chaotic hell, and we are none the wiser. Too often when the abuse is found out the victim(s) are treated differently by others, questions and judgments are whispered, “why didn’t she/he leave?” “He/she must like it or he/she would have left”. Until we have walked a mile, as the saying goes.
Lately, stories about priests, nuns, church leaders, teachers, athletes, and businessmen and women abusing others physically, sexually, and emotionally are commonplace. There are public service announcements from big-name sources encouraging those in domestic violence situations to reach out, tell someone, stop the violence. But how many do? The big question is if the ones in violent situations reach out would they be believed and protected? Some will and some won’t, and the next story broadcast may well be of murder at the hands of their abuser.
The recent stories involving high-power athletes, trainers, and businessmen are disconcerting. Lawyers come to the defense of the accused, but who is defending the accusers? On the surface, it appears the accused are more readily believed than the accusers, sometimes requiring multiple accusers coming forward before the allegations are taken seriously, in essence, victimizing the abused twice. Why, as a society, are we more likely to be suspect of the accusers and not the accused? It takes a tremendous amount of courage to come forward as a victim. Fear is the constant companion of the abused, and overcoming the fear to reach out, to ask for help and protection is not easy and often proves more dangerous than staying silent. Those in the spotlight likely have more resources for protection once coming forward than does the average person, but even money does not always provide enough protection from their abusers.
Light dispels darkness, the more the subject of domestic violence is discussed, the closer we come to ending it. It is an icky subject, but worthy of discussion in the schools, church, the workplace, and at the local, state and national levels. Bringing the subject out into the open takes power away from the abusers as violence occurs apart from the light. Will it ever truly end? Not anytime soon, but one less victim, one less death at the hands of an abuser is a victory for all victims and survivors of domestic violence. If we suspect someone may be in a potentially dangerous domestic violent situation, speak up and ask if they are safe, offer a code word for them to text or call should they need a police presence. The abused often feel very alone and many have been isolated from family and friends. Knowing there is someone willing to make a phone call to the police on their behalf helps the abused to feel less alone when violence rears its ugly head.
As long as the subject of domestic violence remains in the shadows abusers will have the upper hand, will maintain control, and for the most part, domestic violence is about controlling others. We need to take the power away from abusers, dispel the darkness, and live in the light until the violence ends…..
(If you are in an abusive situation, please know you are not alone, there are likely resources and shelters in your community to provide protection and help with leaving. If you suspect or know someone in an abusive situation, educate yourself on the resources available in your community and let that someone know what you are willing to do to help.)