I am a statistic. I know I am more than a statistic, yes. But I am a statistic. Did you know October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Most people know it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I will post on that as well, but I have found that most people are unaware that it is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I find this sad considering domestic violence is the number one, yep No. 1, cause for injury to women ages 15 to 44 and accounts for more injuries than car accidents, rape and mugging combined. In addition to physical injuries, victims of domestic violence suffer depression, anxiety and/or social isolation.
As I started out this post, I am a statistic. I grew up in an emotionally, verbally and on many occasions physically abusive home until my mother had the courage to leave. To this day, I still consider her the strongest woman I know. At 50 plus years old with Multiple Sclerosis, she left her husband of 15 years, a job of more than a decade, her home, her life, and friends, her security and financial well-being with her 15 year old daughter and fled almost 3,000 miles to no job and no home in fear that if we were discovered before we could get far enough away that my father might find out and might actually kill us. As I said, she is the strongest woman I know.
Years after my mother and I left my father, I sat in a Mary Kay weekly meeting that was dedicated to the pandemic of domestic violence. I remember the speaker sharing, “1 in 3 women will fall victim to domestic violence in her life time and 2 out of every 3 people have been or know someone who has been a victim of domestic violence.” I remember the speaker asking us if we would be brave and raise our hands if we fell into one of those statistics. I remember the shock on my Director’s face when she looked around the room of more than 40 to 50 women and only three to four people had not raised their hand. And mostly, I remember the numb feeling that came over me as I remembered my childhood.
It was a cold reminder that thousands upon thousands of homes are war zones of unpredictable violence and abuse. Many go unreported but it is estimated that anywhere between 1 million to 3 million incidents of family violence occur each year and on September 12, 2012 alone (a little over a year ago), The National Census of Domestic Violence Services reported more than 64,324 victims were served in that one day. One day and over 60,000 people were victims of domestic violence. Sadly, recent statistics from the United States Office on Violence against Women reported every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten. More staggering to me, of all female homicide victims, 1 in 3 is murdered by a current or former male partner.
This truly is a pandemic. Understand that domestic violence knows not race, age, income, education, cultural or religious background. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CROSSES ALL LINES! Anyone can be a victim. This is a rapidly rising problem across the globe but is definitely present here in our United States. And it is a self-perpetuating problem. When children witness a parent getting abused by the other parent, they are more than twice as likely to become abusers themselves. This is especially true of sons watching fathers abuse mothers. It is also statistically more likely for a victim of abuse as a child to become involved with an abuser. And the pattern of abuse continues. The cycle has to stop.
I know that I hear often that people don’t understand why a person doesn’t just leave their situation, leave their abuser. Please understand that there are many reasons a woman (or man) may choose not to leave their abusers. Often victims are isolated and have little resources to leave. As in my mother’s and my case, it was family that took us in. But had we had none, we would have had nowhere to go. And in order to have left and kept a safe enough distance between us and my father meant my mother leaving the security and income of her job. Victims are essentially trapped.
If you are like me and many of our society, you are raised in a religious background that teaches you don’t leave a marriage, you make it work. Victims can often rationalize or make excuses in order to “preserve” their relationships. “If I just don’t do this” or “If I do this” thinking that they have any control of the abuser by their actions. In reality, they don’t but we, especially women, try to fix the problem or make things work. No one wants to give up on the person they love. It happens once, and the abuser apologizes and it can be rationalized as “he had a bad day”, “it only happened once – it won’t happen again”.
But then it happens again and it becomes harder and harder to leave. And if you add children to the mix, it gets more complicated and difficult to leave. This is especially true when our legal system honors the rights of abusers to participate in their children’s lives even though they abuse the other parent. Could you walk away from your children and leave them in the hands of someone who abused you? Or would you stay to try to protect them?
I personally think a lack of education on what constitutes a healthy relationship is also to blame, especially for those that grew up in a home filled with domestic violence. We educate our children on safe sex practices and to say no to drugs but not what constitutes a healthy relationship. Ending the cycle of abuse, to me, starts with two great steps – (1) educate everyone, kids and adults alike, that any form of abuse is unacceptable and intolerable and (2) help break the silence – both as victims and as observers. Standing by and doing nothing when you think someone is being abused is just as much a part of the problem as a victim staying or a person abusing.
If you or if you know someone being abused, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline and ask for advice. This violence hotline is open for victims or anyone calling on their behalf 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hotline counselors can provide crisis intervention, information or referrals to agencies across the nation. Assistance is available in English and Spanish with access to more than 170 languages through interpreter services. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224. www.ndvh.org.
You can help:
- Help a friend who is being abused by being there to listen in a SAFE and PRIVATE environment. Do so without judgment or advice, reassuring her/him that it is not their fault. Help her identify options available to her for her situation and empower her. You call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for more support and advice.
- Volunteer your time to a shelter or hotline or make a contribution to anti-domestic violence organizations.
- Drop off household goods, food supplies or hygienic supplies to a local shelter.
- Speak out against domestic violence in public settings or individual conversations.
- Write your public officials to support legislation that helps survivors, assists victims in making safe transitions from their abusers and holds abusers accountable.
- Check out the Mary Kay Foundation link here to see more resources, programs and educational information available.
- Make sure your children are educated on healthy dating and healthy relationships so that they do not become a statistic.
Thank you for listening and again if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please seek help. You are not alone in this fight.