October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As many of you know, this is something that I take very seriously. As a survivor of domestic abuse, I feel strongly to take a stand, and make others aware that it is NOT okay to abuse others.
I will have a few more posts on this throughout the month. Please feel free to share these with anyone you think may benefit from reading them.
Please note that in this blog I will refer to women as the victims and men as the abusers. I am fully aware that this is not always the case. It is not my intent to offend anyone if the roles are reversed.
If you are in an abusive relationship and wish to seek help, call the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. You may also be able to contact your local police department and ask if they have contact information for a Victim’s Advocate. I personally want to thank the Women’s Resource Center of Northern Michigan (www.wrcnm.org).
Many women (and their friends and families) wonder how in the hell did they get caught up in that cycle; how were they not able to just walk away? I personally know quite a few women that dealt with domestic violence, and most of them I consider to be very strong, influential women. I include myself in that category. So what happened to us?
I think most of us don’t fully process what had happened. We are stunned. “Really, did he really just do that? And what did I do to warrant that?” Self-doubt starts to creep in. No one wants to believe that this will happen again, so we accept the apologies that inevitably follow the assault. The promises that it will never happen again; he tells you he “just snapped”. Funny how he doesn’t “just snap” in line at the grocery store, though. You know, when the line is too long and too slow? Or at work, if he is irritated with the boss.
Usually, before the first strike, we are intimidated by verbal abuse. By lowering our self-esteem, we feel even more inclined to stay in this relationship. How many times have you heard how stupid you were, what in the hell were you thinking, and your WEIGHT?? “How could I possibly be attracted to you with an ass like that?!” We are told that we are not doing a good job at keeping the house clean, even though both he and you hold full-time jobs.
I call that mentality “Blame-shifting“. The abusers do not ever acknowledge personal responsibility for any of their actions. He wouldn’t have gotten so angry if dinner wasn’t over cooked. If the kids could have just been quieter, he would be more relaxed, and wouldn’t have thrown his glass across the room in despair. Apparently, if you could just control everything in his life and make his life perfect, he could maintain composure. How does that make any sense at all?
Some women face the facts, and they are able to end the relationship right then. Others are more scared of the unknown than of staying with an abuser. Who wants to think about losing their home, or what financial hardships will have to be faced? Many of us wonder if we can take care of ourselves. Mainly, we stay because we want to believe that he is sorry; that this will not happen again. We are trying to keep our families intact.
Sometimes leaving doesn’t look like a viable option. Some men would rather seriously injure or kill their partners instead of letting them leave. And when a woman knows this, she can be paralyzed by fear. The man may threaten to hurt or kill anyone that helps her, as well. Being the caring, nurturing people we are, we would rather put ourselves in harm’s way than allow someone else to be hurt because of us.
If you know a woman that is dealing with this sort of relationship, please do not turn your back on her. Please do not tell her she is crazy for not leaving. She knows she needs to end this relationship, but she is scared. It may take several years, several tries, before she has the courage to leave this situation. In the mean time, she is feeling like a failure at life, and will probably retreat into herself, and not tell anyone what is going on. And that can be a deadly decision.
Keep showing that you can be trusted, that she can talk to you. You may be the only light in her life at the time, the only hope that one day she will have the courage to leave. Let her know that she does indeed matter.
As always, I encourage you to share your thoughts and comments on this issue.