Friday, October 7, 2011

Stop Ignoring - Start Acting

Domestic violence isn’t easy to understand. From the outsiders' point of view, it just makes no sense that someone would stay with and continue to love and protect an abusive partner. From the insider's point of view, there's a whole host of fears interlaced with shame, hurt, and longing which keep us enmeshed in a web of deceit and pain. It is possible to love someone when you do not love their behaviors or actions, and love doesn't just go away because someone is cruel or abusive. For these reasons a culture of myth and secrecy has grown around domestic violence and society perpetuates these secrets and lies with comments like:
   “It’s none of my business.”
   “That’s between the two of them – it has nothing to do with me.”
   “A man has the right to keep the peace in his own home.”
   “It only happens every now and then, and only in lower class families.”
   “She must like it, or she’d leave.”
   “He says she provokes him.”

What would the world be like if we told the truth about domestic violence?
   “I’m afraid for her safety.”
   “I could do something to help.”
   “No one has the right to harm someone else.”
   “It can happen to anyone.”
   “She doesn’t leave because there’s no one to help her, no one to keep her safe.”
   “He should practice self-control instead of hitting when he’s angry.”

This October, commit to looking at domestic violence in a different way. Don’t turn a blind eye to the victims. Don’t ignore what you witness. Domestic violence happens to one in three women, and one in fifteen men. Chances are that you know someone right now who is suffering or has suffered. Ask what you can do to help. Here are some ways to start:
   “I’m afraid for your safety, and for your kids.”
   “It’s only going to get worse.”
   “I’m here for you. What can I do to make this better?”
   “I can help you find somewhere to stay.”
   “You deserve better treatment than this.”
   “Let’s make a safety plan for you.”

Get a list of the shelters and helping organizations in your area. The information is readily available with a quick Internet search. Get a list of phone numbers for crisis lines – 1-800-799-SAFE is a good place to start. Be willing to listen and be supportive, not judgmental. You don’t know what kind of hell the victim is living with – she may have been hearing for years that she isn’t worth helping, isn’t worth saving. She may believe it. Yours may be the voice of reason that cuts through the destruction in her life and makes her know that she is worthwhile and that someone cares. Stop ignoring. Start acting. Someone's life may depend on it.

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