October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and a time in which some of us prepare for a remembrance ceremony to honor all who have passed on (that ritual being conducted on Samhain, pronounced “SAH-win”, or “SO-win”). For more information on Samhain, here is just one of many links:
I have chosen to make this post about domestic violence. Not to downgrade the other 2 things I just mentioned (I have a beloved sister who passed from breast cancer, and I also celebrate Samhain), but because I have a few suggestions for actions that everyone can take which could actually make a difference in the lives (or deaths) of domestic violence victims/survivors.
I will remind my readers that the main focus of this blog is to stand as a record of what my life is like in the 21st century – mostly for my relatives, descendents, and interested friends. It is a place for me to express my opinions, not a place to provoke arguments or controversy. I don’t think this will be much of an issue, at least not at this point, as I do not know any relatives or friends who would argue against the existence or importance of domestic violence issues.
I am also not going to quote statistics. It is easy to see the violence that is perpetuated upon women, unfortunately, on a daily basis. Even if you never leave your house, it’s on the news and it’s certainly on the internet. I don’t think any reasonably sane person would argue that it doesn’t exist.
But what I am here to write about is what you, as just an ordinary person, can do to help eliminate this problem. It doesn’t have to cost money, and it doesn’t even have to take up much time. But you can make a difference to some woman, somewhere, and I am going to tell you how.
For the edification of people who do not know me well, especially for those born in 2000 and later (i.e., grandchildren, grand-nieces/nephews, descendants, etc), I have just a brief explanation of how this issue came to affect me.
I am a survivor of domestic violence.
Not just once, but a few times, beginning with the very first household where I grew up. I witnessed it, and I was a target of it.
The reason I go all the way back to my childhood is two-fold: first, to illustrate that violence against females has never really been taken seriously until recently. Second, it is to show that the effects of domestic abuse can have far-reaching consequences, even for intelligent women with advanced degrees in psychology (I once had a policeman in Memphis ask me, when called to my apt while an ex was destroying it, “Don’t you know any better? You’re a psychologist!”).
There were no shelters, really, back in the day. I am talking late 1950s up until around 2000. Growing up in a pre-feminist era, just in time to see the growth of that movement, it’s hard for me to explain what it was like back then. ALL abuse – child, spousal, and to a certain extent animal, was pretty much blamed on the object of the violence, not the perpetrator.
People did not want to “cause trouble” by raising these issues – though thank goodness people did, or we would still be living in a world where certain members of the populace are blamed for acts of violence they neither started, perpetuated, nor deserved (as if anyone deserves to be assaulted!).
Women covered up bruises and other evidence of violence – and we still do that today. People saw the evidence but didn’t ask what happened, as it made them uncomfortable (“What if her husband hit her? What if he didn’t? Am I making a big deal out of nothing?”). The police were not often called, and if they were, it was usually the man’s version of events that was believed (“She fell, she attacked me, she’s making a big deal out of nothing”, etc).
Imagine just for a second that the household was headed by a policeman, as was the situation in my case growing up, and you can possibly understand what a hopeless situation that would have been. It’s quite different today, thankfully.
I am not going to chronicle in detail the events that led up to me fleeing for my life to a domestic violence shelter in Altoona 4 years ago, because I am acutely aware of how very uncomfortable that makes people. I was subjected to emotional, spiritual, economic, and physical abuse (thankfully not sexual abuse, not this time anyway – that was an issue growing up, involving a trusted family friend who lived next door).
4 years ago, I was slapped, punched, kicked, tied to a chair, hit with various objects, strangled, smothered, had my hair pulled, spit on, pinched, bit (yes, really), screamed at, had my money/keys taken away, isolated from most everyone, had my spiritual beliefs mocked, had my pets and kids threatened (no, my kids were not living there, thank Goddess), stalked at work, and had my car sabotaged so I couldn’t leave. I was humiliated in public several times.
The long-term effects of this are PTSD, dental issues from having things thrown at my mouth, and probably a lifetime of second-guessing any future romantic involvements I might ever have. Amongst other things. I am recovering from it. This blog helps.