It’s been a while since I have written about domestic violence. When I started this blog site, I focused a fair amount of attention on the subject.
For my kids and me, domestic violence is real. Our abusive past is nearly eleven years behind us now. A lot of healing has occurred, some wounds may never heal. When I watch television programs or movies about happy families or witness them in real life it’s bittersweet. I wonder what it would have been like if we had been valued, been treated with kindness, the kids and I allowed to be anything but perfect. We had to present the face of the perfect family to the world and the church because my ex-husband had a high-profile job in the community. There we were front and center in church, literally sometimes. At the time, we also had a family band. The kids and I felt like frauds, forced to perform songs about Jesus and faith as if everything was fine. It was not.
The church was aware and chose to turn a blind eye. Not that I blame them – who wants to willingly get involved? But the fact that hypocrisy seemed to be the norm grated on me. Finally, I mustered the courage and left the domestic violence and the church behind.
The COVID pandemic affected a lot in our country and globally. Domestic violence increased 8.1% when the country went into lockdown. Worldwide it increased by nearly the same. Already volatile situations were pushed to the brink. Increased alcohol and drug use only fueled the fires of violence and increased murder and suicide rates. Stay-at-home orders and businesses either closing or moving to remote work forced the abusers and the abused to be together 24/7. Shelters were closing down or taking far fewer of those able to escape. Families were in crisis like never before. But, we didn’t hear a lot about it on the news. Why not? Because domestic violence remains in the shadows – no one wants to acknowledge it, much less talk about it.
I am encouraged, however. We might actually get around to discussing the subject as openly as we are the sexual exploitation and harassment of others. People are coming forward with their stories of sexual harassment and exploitation at the hands of men and women seen as powerful, untouchable. I applaud those willing to come forward, willing to speak the truth to a world who would rather not hear.
Unfortunately, the tendency is to doubt the testimonies of the abused, the harrassed, the exploited, ridicule, and dredge up dirt on those who were brave enough to come forward. Is everyone who comes forward legit? Probably not, but plenty are, and we owe it to everyone to listen to their stories without bias, without judgment. Trust me, it will shake out eventually, and those trying to capitalize on the powerful, for whatever reason, will be revealed.
“Why did you wait so long to come forward? Why didn’t you leave? I would never put up with abuse like that. I would have been out of there in a heartbeat.” These, and more, are all things every abused and harassed person has heard from others in their lives – sometimes from their own extended families. We are victimized twice. It’s no wonder those of us who have been the victims of others are silent.
Domestic violence will always be with us, but it doesn’t need to be shrouded in darkness. It is dangerous to intervene directly. When well-meaning people try to intervene in an already volatile situation, things can go south quickly. If you suspect someone you know or love is in an abusive situation, reach out quietly. Let them know you care, that you will support them in their decisions. The abused and victimized want to leave, but the timing needs to be chosen carefully. If you don’t want to get involved, those in abusive situations will understand. At the very least, keep judgments to yourself until you have walked a mile in their shoes…..