You ever had an experience in your life that you loved to do but hated the fact that you had to do it? That's how I feel about each October. While it's dominated by a very, very worthy cause of fighting breast cancer, it's also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I think that this issue is dangerously and frequently overlooked, and I love that there is a month to help people who are in violent relationships know that they're not alone. Of course, I would be absolutely thrilled if this month weren't necessary at all and it could just be "Save The Pumpkins Month", though I don't know how successful it would be.
Unfortunately, reality is reality, and our day-to-day lives can get in the way. Even this post, which was supposed to be published in early October, was pushed back for one reason or another. In the interests of time, I want to dispel a few common myths about domestic violence:
1) If it were really that bad, then she would leave. Nothing could be further from the truth. The way that these relationships work is through a long period of building dependency on the violent partner. This is done typically through a combination of manipulative techniques beginning social isolation. This means having wedges driven or limits made on contact with family or friends, even convincing the non-violent partner that their family and friends are against them, and even worse, threats made against those family and friends if help should be sought.
The next step is financial dependence. A person is typically bought gifts as apologies for violent acts and promised to be taken care of. Often this is very convincing and literally before she/he knows it, the non-violent partner is either literally unable to support her/himself or is convinced that this is true.
Then there are the promises that it will never happen again, that she/he deserves it, that it's her/his fault, and so on. Coming home to that every day and having the *ONE* person who is supposed to support and protect you instead tell you that you are worthless, all while preventing outside help, leads people to believing it. After all, if your own parents can convince you with only the best intentions that there is a Santa, then imagine a manipulative and malicious partner can do.
2) It doesn't happen THAT much. Just because you don't hear about it doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. One in three women and one in four men will experience intimate partner violence at some point in there lives. One in five women and one in seven men will be in severely destructive relationships. Click here for more statistics, as I don't want this to become a data dump. Bruises are covered, emotional scars aren't visible, and the stigma and public shaming prevents many from speaking out. One in three women, I mean, just think about that. Got a girlfriend, mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, female friend? Pick the two of them that deserve it. Impossible, right? You wouldn't want them to feel that they couldn't talk to you, so even if you are merely saying what you've heard about it being a woman's fault, you're contributing to preventing them from talking. I know that's not what you want to do.
And honestly, the mainstream media will make you think that anything is a crisis that it wants to, so it can go the exact same way in minimizing real epidemics. Case in point: More Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died of Ebola, but that doesn't seem to stem the wave of hysteria that you're probably under, right?
3) There's nothing I can do. Frankly, that's bullshit. The first thing that you can do is just listen. Listen to the facts, listen to men and women who talk about it, and don't judge. Just because you don't like the truth doesn't make it less true. The second thing that you can do is donate to the cause. Whether it's a cell phone or cleaning supply drive (the cell phones can literally save a person's life, by the way) or just spreading the message (NoMore.org is helping this tremendously), you DO have power. Your silent friends and family are worth it.
Again, this isn't a women's issue, but women just tend to experiencing it more than men. That isn't a sign of weakness at all, as that means that more women have the amazing strength to endure, survive, and flourish once given the real opportunity to do so. You and I can help.
While nobody said it would be easy, and nobody said you had to do it alone, nobody said that a problem as big as this will be solved if we let the survivors of this horrible, horrible crime down by casting them off once again.