Domestic violence thrives when we are silent; but if we take a stand and work together, we can end domestic violence. —the National Network to End Domestic Violence
October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Have you thought much about domestic violence? I’ve always thought the word “domestic” minimizes the crime, as if it’s less brutal, less meaningful, less harmful. It’s not. The emotional wounds, especially, run long and deep.
Have you been impacted by domestic abuse/violence? If you answer, no, I’d be surprised. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women will be the victims of physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Victims of domestic abuse are as close as your next door neighbor, your co-worker, the woman worshiping next to you, your hair stylist, your friend, your niece, your college roommate…you just may not realize it. I can personally list about 20 women by name (family, friends and indirect acquaintances) who have been victims of domestic violence/abuse. Several of them died. Murdered by their abusers.
Are you in an abusive relationship? If you are, I want you to know that you do not deserve this. You are not somebody’s property. You are stronger than you think. There are individuals and organizations who can help you. Don’t do it alone. Leaving an abuser is dangerous; have a safety plan in place before you attempt to leave. You can break free. I believe in you.
Are you a survivor? I admire you and your strength. You are F-R-E-E. Your abuser can no longer claim you.
Through the years, I have written on this topic, and I will continue to do so. Because we need to speak out, to understand, to educate ourselves, to support victims and survivors, to hold offenders accountable, to care.
It’s that important.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Trust your gut. If someone raises red flags (whether in words or behavior) in a relationship, trust your instincts. Trust yourself, not him.
- Educate yourself. If you learn one thing about domestic abuse, it should be this: Do not blame the victim. Ever.
- Believe her.
- Support her. Listen. Keep the communication open. Simply be there.
- Realize you cannot “save” a woman who is in an abusive relationship. She must decide, on her own, to leave her abuser.
- When she is ready to leave, help her stay safe. Reach out to resources in your community. Support her. Believe her.
- Support the victim’s/survivor’s family, too. Listen. Encourage. Be there. The impact of domestic abuse spirals like a stone dropped in water.
- Talk to your daughters, your sons, your grandchildren, about healthy relationships.
Domestic abuse is about control, manipulation and power. It can take the forms of physical (including sexual), mental, emotional, financial and spiritual abuse. Abusers want to “own” their victims; they do not.
If you are in an abusive relationship and are in immediate danger, call 911. Leaving an abuser is an especially dangerous time.
Seek help from a local resource center or safe house. Or call the National Domestic Violence Helpline at 1-800-799-7233. You deserve to be free.
© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
For purposes of this article, I reference women as victims of domestic abuse, realizing that men and children are also victims.