Saturday, November 23, 2013

Who Am I? A Look at the Victims of Domestic Violence

Who am I?

I am your mother, your daughter, your sister, your co-worker, your neighbor and your friend.  I am your nurse, your hair stylist, your chiropractor and your son’s piano teacher.  I am the lady in line next to you at the grocery store.  I am the woman sitting beside you Sunday morning at church.
  And I am a victim of domestic violence.

In case you haven’t heard October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Yes, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month AND Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  And both are extremely vital topics for women. 
Did you know that one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime?  Sadly, most domestic violence cases are never reported to police.  These women are scared, ashamed and embarrassed.  They fear retaliation, and they fear their friends and family will not believe them.  Many women do not realize they are being abused.  I didn’t.  I thought I needed to have black eyes and go to the emergency room before the abuse was considered domestic violence.  I didn’t realize that being pushed or slammed up against a wall was abuse.  Now I do. 

According to the Department of Justice, domestic violence is a “pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.  Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”
Why does this matter?  Because this violence could be happening to your neighbor, your sister, your mother, your daughter or your co-worker.  This abuse could be happening to you.  And abuse doesn’t get better.  Only worse.  The abuse and violence will escalate.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence describes domestic violence as an “epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background.”  Domestic violence knows no boundaries.  I know this for a fact.  I am a white, college-educated engineer.  I am fiercely independent and successful in my career.  The thought that one day I could be a victim of domestic violence was the furthest from my mind.  As I have shared my story with more and more friends, neighbors and colleagues, I have met many other survivors from all walks of life. 
We are the fortunate ones.  Every day three more women are murdered by their husband or intimate partner.  Over 1000 women will be murdered in the US this year by their husband or intimate partner.  46 domestic homicides have occurred already this year in my state alone.  

If that doesn’t scare you, what about the effect on children?  “Witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.” (NCDAV)  It is estimated that over 3 million children witness domestic violence each year.  A boy who witnesses abuse is twice as likely to abuse their own partners as an adult.  A girl who witnesses abuse is more likely to tolerate abuse as a teenager and an adult. 
If you are in an abusive relationship, the decision of if and when to leave is hard.  I struggled with this decision myself.  At what point was it no longer acceptable for my son to live with his dad?  I was faced with that frightful decision on December 26, 2010 when the violence became too great to ignore any longer.  I knew in my heart that the abuse his dad was inflicting on me was hurting my son as well. For my son’s innocence and well-being, I called the police and had his dad arrested.  For my son’s self-esteem and self-worth, I obtained a restraining order.  My son is no longer in an unhealthy, abusive environment.  He is in a much safer, peaceful and loving home.  The cycle of violence was broken for my son.  I hope and pray that I broke it in time.

Thousands of women will struggle with this same decision this year.  Some will not leave.  Others will be murdered by their husband or boyfriend as they try to leave.  A few will make it to freedom. 
Then the difficult journey of recovery begins.  These women and children will need a safe place to live.  They will need legal advice and counseling.  Most of all, these families will need our compassion, support and understanding as they embark on their new life and attempt to make themselves whole again. 
Remember who they are. 

They are our mother, sister, daughter, neighbor, friend and co-worker.  They are our nurse, hair stylist, chiropractor and teacher.  They are all around us.  They could be me.  Or they could be you. 

If you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship, please get help.  Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit their website at

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