Domestic violence. Don’t be embarrassed. Say it, loudly. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Don’t turn away. It’s ugly, yes, but it needs to be looked at directly in the eye, seen in the light of day in an effort to remove its dark power.
Domestic violence. It touches so many of us, no matter our gender or our marital status. It’s not only violence by males on females. It can be violence by females on males, or same-gender abuse within a tribe, clan or a household. Some domestic violence is physical, but it does not always have to be. There is emotional abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse… and any such abuse within a family unit can be categorized as DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, with a sub-category of child abuse, and a sub-sub-category of child sexual abuse (all particularly despicable disgusting acts, but not ones being addressed here today).
This cause célèbre (i.e., an issue or incident arousing widespread controversy, outside campaigning and heated public debate – The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy; 3rd ed. 2002) is one of the most heavy topics I carry daily within my heart. Probably, it’s my “least-favorite” (as when we ‘like’ a sad post on FaceBook) but it is by far the most important one, and I am an activist in support of those who have been betrayed and hurt, because I once was betrayed and hurt. I know how it feels, and domestic violence is not something that should be forgotten or ignored, ever.
I know some of you believe that violence in a relationship is normal, that it is something that just rears its ugly head once in awhile and after the incident passes you should simply forgive and forget and move on, as if nothing happened. You could not be more mistaken. Being betrayed and attacked in your own home, by your own most trusted and beloved family member(s), is the worst violence there can be.
Some of you have seen your parents throw pots and pans at one another. You have seen them punch holes in walls, heard them scream harsh words of hatred at one another and seen tears of pain and anger flow… but then suddenly it’s all brushed-off, as if it were run-of-the-mill behavior. It’s the world you were born into, it’s how you were brought up, and it’s how you turned out. Such a shame, such a waste of a life. But you know what’s worse? That you have taught your own children by example that this is to be tolerated, that it’s fine, and that you have demonstrated it by laying angry hands on them yourself, knowing that you could have been the end of the chain when instead you became just another link.
I have seen grown men shove, punch, choke and kick their parents, their life partners and their own children in disgusting displays of bullying and possibly mental illness, only to refuse to admit that they have done anything wrong. I have seen these men argue with various counselors that their behaviors were 100% acceptable because “(they) pushed my buttons” or “(they) made me angry, and that’s what happens when I get angry.” It was always the other person’s fault, never theirs. Never.
It’s insanity to think that such behavior is not only normal, but a right and honorable way to behave! Some of these men proudly say that they are warriors. They say that the warrior’s code does not include surrender. I disagree. Sometimes it is wise to re-analyze yourself, and admit that surrender is best because you have been fighting the wrong way for the wrong outcome. They are allowing themselves to be selfishly led by an erroneous ideal. Honor, integrity, wisdom, courage and compassion should guide warriors, not selfish bullying.
Even in self-defense, if you fight back and you are the weaker of the two, you could die. When I was on the receiving end of the anger and violence, I chose not to fight back because that would have given my abuser an excuse to escalate their attack.
If you are a parent, think of your children right now. Would you advise your children to return to their life partner if they appeared at your door after an argument? A fight? A downright physical battle? A one-sided battery? How about with torn hair and a bloody scalp? Bruises? A split lip? A stab wound? A gunshot? Why is it not okay when we hear about honor killings where women are brought to their deaths by their own families due to cultural or religious beliefs? Where is the line to be drawn? What is acceptable to you, and what is not? Why should any of this violence be acceptable at all?
A few weeks ago, I was at our local CVS to pick up some prescription medication for two of my Clan. As usual, I stood on line at the rear of the store, waiting my turn to be called to the pharmacy registers. I was right behind a rather tall, slender young woman who was wearing a grey and black striped top, with very long legs in grey leggings. She was busying herself with her phone. The speed of her fingers in texting was mind-boggling, and I watched over her shoulder as words danced across her screen.
“He says he is going to kill me if I try to leave.”
“He choked me until I couldn’t breathe. I passed out at the door. I woke up on the bed.”
“He said I made him do it, I push his buttons, it’s always my fault. If I were a better girlfriend he wouldn’t have to do these things.”
“Why does he do this? He always says he’ll stop, but then he does it again. He says I do things on purpose just to make him look bad.”
“He says he didn’t really hurt me, I’m just making a big deal over nothing.”
“The doctor says my lymph nodes are swollen. I am picking up meds now.”
“Don’t tell ANYONE, I’ll be so mad if you do!” and then, “I SO want to go to Florida….”
I glanced at her neck, and sure enough, beneath the make-up I could discern the familiar bruises, easily recognized because I had the extreme personal displeasure of bearing them myself during one of my marriages. There were three or four on one side, but I could not see if there was one on the other side, where the abuser’s thumb presses in, completing the suffocating grip. Sometimes there can be found another bruise up beneath the chin, if the abuser lifts his victim by the neck when shoving her – or him – against a wall.
I was distracted from my memories when the cashier on my right called out “next.” The texter strode away, crossed the yellow privacy line on the ground, and approached the counter. I had to stay put and wait my turn until the cashier on my left called to me. She made a mistake while ringing up my order, and after she made the necessary adjustments, when I turned to look at the texting girl, she was gone. I literally lost my breath. Hot tears welled up in my eyes, and my heart pounded. I had considered talking with her, but had hesitated. Now my chance was lost. I took my purchase and waited on another line, this time to speak privately with someone behind the counter at the “consultation” window. It was there that I learned that the Pharmacist probably could not help, because there is no mandatory reporting of adult domestic violence in New York State.
I looked on-line when I got home and learned the following:
The key components of the American Medical Association’s Diagnostic and Treatment Guidelines on Domestic Violence include the following:
1. Providers should routinely screen all women patients about DV in emergency, surgical, primary care, pediatric, prenatal, and mental health settings.
2. Providers should be aware that asking about DV in the presence of the woman’s partner is not safe, and may interfere with making an accurate assessment.
3. Providers’ first concern must be the safety of the victim and her children.
4. Optimal care for the woman depends on the provider’s working knowledge of community resources that can provide safety, advocacy, and support.
5. Providers need to be aware of state laws, and of local services for victims.
6. Providers must be aware that Orders of Protection do not guarantee a victim’s safety, and should continue to reassess it.
7. Providers should disclose abuse to any third party, including authorities, only with the victim’s knowledge and consent.
At home, I lit a candle and placed the texting woman’s needs before the Goddess. I asked that she be able to trust in and engage with her health-care providers, to find a way out of the deadly maze she had entered. I regret that I was unable to connect with her, and I continue to hope that she does well. Please, readers, add her to your intentions. I know from past experience that those of us who find ourselves in her position need all the help we can get.