National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
I stayed up way too late the other night with a heavy heart, reading and thinking about the things that are going on in the world right now. Normally, I would say I lead a pretty sheltered life (at least partly by choice)…I don’t pay attention to the news as often as I should, and I have all but deleted my Facebook account. Let’s face it, I follow a toddler around all day, every day. However, each October I share a post about National Domestic Violence Awareness, an issue that is close to my heart. As I lay reading the news and the women’s stories and allegations of sexual assault in the film and movie industry (and so many other industries!), I can’t help but think about the timing of it.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and that includes sexual assault and harassment, physical, verbal and psychological abuse as well. These topics are often deemed “hard to talk about” issues, but let’s face it, everyone who has been through it, knows the hardest part isn’t speaking out about it…it’s dealing with these situations day in and day out, alone and in silence. Internalizing a situation and struggling to make sense of it all, placing blame (not on ourselves), and letting go of haunting memories. The #MeToo Movement is a great way to spread awareness of these horrible acts that should never have happened, let alone be accepted or covered up. While we sometimes find ourselves overlooking or brushing off an important issue, simply because it’s flooding over every social media channel and news outlet, hopefully we can all take them time to give this issue the importance that it rightly deserves. 3 women are murdered every day in the US by a current or former male partner. That’s approximately 18,000 women since 2003.
Along with the #MeToo Movement, there’s another great hashtag movement (among many) from a couple years back, that also brought awareness to a much different manifestation, but equally extreme, type of domestic violence. It was called #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou and its focus was on verbal, emotional, and mental/psychological abuse. While up to 1 out of every 4 women suffer from physical abuse, there are as many as 1 out of every 2 women and many men that suffer from verbal, mental or emotional/psychological abuse. Physical abuse is often preceded and accompanied by this type of emotional abuse. And while it can be hard for “supporters” of an abused person to stand by, always remember that the frustration you feel when an abused person “stays” in the relationship, is nowhere near as great as the hurt and frustration of the person suffering from the abuse. While many see it as a black and white situation, often using the phrase “Just Leave [him/her]”, someone who is in the midst of an abusive relationship is dealing with a great amount of fear for their safety IF and WHEN they are able to leave, and also fear of financial independence and the ability to survive on their own. It’s much more complicated than just “leaving” and unfortunately statistics point out it can be quite dangerous, even fatal, for many women who do in fact terminate a domestically abusive relationship. 70% of murders of women by a domestic abuser occur in the weeks after they have “left” the relationship.
There are a several myths about Domestic Violence. First of all, abuse is not cookie cutter and does not target only one class or personality type of women…Ivy-league graduates, doctors, lawyers, and very successful women can just as easily find themselves in an unhealthy turned abusive relationship. The positive side: I have read so many gut-wrenching, and yet inspiring stories from women who have ended abusive relationships and moved on to live happy lives. Here is a great read by a domestic violence survivor Leslie Morgan Steiner, and her TED talk is especially powerful. Fallacy #2: People who suffer from mental/verbal/psychological abuse don’t have lasting effects…FALSE. Emotional abuse can be equally as extreme as physical abuse and although they don’t show outward signs such as bruises, they can often develop PTSD, depression, and crippling anxiety. I read an article recently about an emotionally abused woman stating that she double and triple checks each door lock at night and sleeps with the security system remote in her hands every night because she is afraid her abuser will find her…that sounds reasonable, right? Wrong, she hasn’t seen him in almost a decade and is now married with children. This is a great example illustrating that the effects of abuse last much longer than you can imagine. In this case, the illicit threat that her ex-boyfriend would find and kill her if she ever left him still haunts her every day, even though he was not physically violent. A powerful quote from the movement: #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou is this: “#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou …but you should be grateful he doesn’t”. “Lack of physical violence does not mean the abuser is any less dangerous to the victim, nor does it mean the victim is any less trapped by the abuse.”
“That’s how badly emotional abuse get in your head. It’s like it changes your brain and you can’t sort out what you think from what he told you to think.” (For more stories such as this one on emotional abuse, click here) Psychological abuse is much more than “being mean”…it is a carefully designed plan to manipulate someone a.k.a. “brain-washing”. An abuser skillfully manipulates, often making the abused person think they are crazy. I’ve heard it said a thousand times that it takes 14 times/days to make something a habit…Well, just think of how long it takes to get something out of your head that you’ve been told 2-3 times a day for 7 or more years (that’s over 7,000 times!!). As I tearfully read story after story last night, I wanted to share these helpful resources with anyone who needs them or knows someone that does. Anyone who has ever been or currently is in an abusive relationship, always know, you are NOT alone! Yes, getting out is hard, but it is worth it, and you do deserve happiness!
Domestic Violence Awareness Project http://www.nrcdv.org/dvam/DVAM-history
30 Signs of Emotional Abuse https://liveboldandbloom.com/11/relationships/signs-of-emotional-abuse
Emotional Abuse: Definitions, Signs, Symptoms, Examples https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/emotional-psychological-abuse/emotional-abuse-definitions-signs-symptoms-examples/
“Abuse thrives only in silence,” said Leslie Morgan Steiner. Just remember, the more we talk about it, from the warning signs to the frequency of it, the less likely people will feel they have to deal with it alone and in silence. Also, support is vital. Love, listening, and endless support are the best gifts you can offer someone in an abusive relationship. Fight for someone you love, and don’t give up on helping them, no matter how hard or frustrating it might be. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, always know there are survivors out there who can help, and many amazing resources today for women (and men) in abusive situations.
Thanks for reading…it is my hope that we can better educate ourselves, our friends, and our children on the many forms of domestic abuse. I can honestly say I have watched the TED talk video (link above) many, many times. When I recently shared it with my husband we agreed that it was one of the most logical, on point recaps of domestic abuse we’ve heard.