We feel safer when we think domestic violence happens somewhere else to someone else.
In reality, domestic violence occurs in our neighborhoods and in our families. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, regardless of race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or economic status. Abusers control and terrorize our daughters, bosses, sisters, friends, and even our sons – who are most often abused by their male partners and sometimes their female partners. While I work to end domestic violence for so many reasons and in honor of so many people, rarely a day goes by when I don’t connect the work I do to the life and experiences of my aunt; a highly respected doctor and beloved mother.
There is a myth that women who are victims must have low self-esteem, but this is exactly that: a myth. My aunt was a trail blazer. She went to medical school when most women were told that their career options were limited to nurses, secretaries or teachers (three honorable and critical fields, but a narrow list at best). When my aunt was assaulted by her former partner, she tried to get the local justice system to hold the offender accountable. When the justice system failed her, she moved 500 miles to keep her and her children safe. She testified in front of the state legislature to help improve a system that would create a safer world with effective and real protections for victims and their children.
Never doubt that all survivors are incredibly strong. They get up every day knowing that the person who should be most supportive will likely spend the day threatening to harm the children and pets, controlling and monitoring their activities, and verbally or physically abusing them. Victims get out of bed every day despite the odds against them to persevere, raise their children with love, and make the world a safer place for the next generation.
As Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to an end, let us all continue to do our parts to make the world safer for our aunts, colleagues, neighbors, and the next generation. Here is what you can do:
- Continue to bring up the issues of controlling partners, encourage healthy relationships, and talk about what safety at home means wherever and whenever possible. You never know who you might reach and whose safety you might increase.
- Never tolerate a friend or relative belittling or controlling his or her partner. Tell your friend or relative that what they are doing is not okay.
- Donate new items and gift cards to a local shelter throughout the year. Your gift can ensure that moms residing in an abuse shelter feel supported on Mother’s Day and children wear a new backpack filled with school supplies when they walk down the shelter steps to their first day of school.
- Sign up to receive NNEDV’ s action alerts and tell your elected officials that ending domestic violence is important to all of their constituents.
- Donate critically needed funds to NNEDV, your state coalition, and local program. Your donation helps us keep our lights on, our phone lines open, and allows us to work valiantly every day to make the world safer.
While there are so many good causes, rarely will you find an issue that impacts 1 in 4 women. It is likely that someone in your neighborhood, office, or extended family is in danger right now from an abusive partner.
Thank you for helping us raise awareness and end domestic violence throughout this past month and going forward.
– Written by Cindy Southworth, Vice President of Development and Innovation
Each day, 3 women die because of domestic violence
During a visit home a few years ago, an old friend of my mother’s dropped by. As we talked, the conversation turned to her poor health. “It’s the stress, you know,” she said. “Stress can take such a toll on your body. I never really recovered after my daughter passed away.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“Well, dear, don’t you remember?” she said. “Her husband beat her to death with a hammer.”
In my shocked silence, she continued, “Oh, it was terrible. He hit her over and over again until she died. My oldest grandson had to leave the army to come home and take care of his younger siblings.”
Following my useless murmurs of, “Oh, that’s awful. I’m so sorry,” she continued, “With their mother dead and father in jail, someone needed to take care of the younger ones. He’s a good boy,” she said proudly. “Taking responsibility for his brothers and sisters the way he has.”
As we continued talking, she added, “She tried leaving him before. The first couple times, he tried running her over with his car.” Then she smiled at me. “But she survived those attempts.”
I remember looking at her, unable to think of what to say. All of the knowledge and understanding I have as a domestic violence advocate just seemed grossly inadequate in response. In fact, as she sat there, so calmly telling me about the tragic murder of her daughter, all I wanted to do was burst into tears; but I knew if I did, she would try to comfort me and make me feel better, which would be absurd considering the horrible loss she had experienced. So I just sat there feeling numb, helpless, and so sad. A mother should never lose her child that way, and no children should ever have to live with the reality that their dad murdered their mom.
Today – October 1st – marks the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month is a time to mourn those who have lost their lives, celebrate those who have survived, and connect all of us so we can work together to end violence.
The unfortunate fact is that so many of us know someone who has been affected by domestic violence—a friend whose creepy boyfriend we never really liked, or a family member who, years later, reveals harrowing abuse no one ever knew about, or a family friend whose daughter’s tragic murder weighs heavily on her every day of her life.
At the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), the stories and experiences of survivors and their families are at the core of what do every day. In honor of them, NNEDV is launching a domestic violence awareness campaign—31 facts about domestic violence in 31 days (31n31). We will post facts about domestic violence on our Facebook page, and we encourage you to share it with your friends and family. Every Monday, we will post a blog on our website to talk about the work that NNEDV does and our commitment to creating a world with no violence. And every Friday, we will ask you to donate $31 to a local shelter, state coalition, or NNEDV in honor of the women in your life who have been impacted by domestic violence.
Domestic violence thrives when we are silent. But if we take a stand and work together, we can end domestic violence. We can end it by telling our friends and family that we will not tolerate domestic violence and by asking them to take a stand with us. We can end it by supporting the programs and shelters that provide refuge and safety for hundreds of thousands of survivors every year. We can end it by ensuring that our communities hold abusers accountable for their actions. Throughout this month, help us raise awareness about domestic violence and join us in our efforts to end violence. Together, we can make a difference.
Here are a few things you can do today to start taking a stand against domestic violence:
- Sign up to participate in the 2012 National Call of Unity hosted by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.
- Like NNEDV on Facebook and share our 31n31 facts every day during October.
- Use NNEDV’s 2012 Domestic Violence Awareness Month Facebook images as your own for the month of October to show that you stand with us as we remember those who have lost their lives and celebrate those who have survived.
– Written by Kaofeng Lee, Safety Net Project & Communications Specialist