October 12, 2014

Domestic Violence Awareness Every Day

Domestic Violence Awareness month.  So much to say about this issue, and yet so little time.  I will start by first saying that we need to have discussions about this issue more than one month out of the year and certainly in different venues (churches, schools, locker rooms). 

I have been very busy trying to bring awareness during many of the events I have spoken at and been involved in this month.  I have spoken about my advocacy work, my book, what the community can do to help; every chance I get.  I’m eating my veggies because the invitations keep coming and I’ve accepted every one (almost). 

I sound like a broken record sometimes, but I know that if I keep talking someone will hear me.  And just maybe one person in the audience will have the light go on in their head and have that “ah ha” moment, and find a way to help someone out of an abusive situation, or better yet, help themselves.
So how does a woman or a man find themselves in this place?  I’m asked this question a lot, but there is no answer that will satisfy every circumstance.  

No one walks down the street and says, “hmmm they look like an abuser, let me go up and introduce myself”.  There is no way to tell who will abuse or who will not abuse.  We don’t get into relationships thinking the worse, we go in sometimes half blinded by love or adoration and want the honeymoon to last forever.  Sometimes it does for the most part, but in these situations all of a sudden the victim finds themselves in a position they never thought they would be in for the first time (or maybe the second). 

The abuse may start so subtly at the most abstract level that it isn’t detected until everything breaks loose and it becomes volatile.  I’ve spoken to women who have said “yes, he puts me down but he doesn’t hit me”.  Well, you can hit just as well with your words as you can with your fists.  Then I hear, “well he said that he was sorry and I forgave him”.  I’m all for forgiving someone who has done you wrong, but what is the next step; do we let them back in or love from afar.  Once their eyes are opened many times they are already so deep into it, that they feel they can’t get out.  Some may think they can love the person enough to stop the abuse, so they keep loving.  Some feel that if they are “more perfect” or try harder it will stop.  I will talk more about why women stay later, but for now this serves as an preamble.  There is no formula that we can calculate and determine how someone gets into an abusive situation, they are probably having the same questions once they realize what’s happening

Domestic Violence Awareness
every day of the year

Some of the strength that women and men need to get out of and far away from an abusive relationship has to do with a good support system. 

A support system can be family, friends, coworkers and even a church family.  A co-worker may notice that you’re acting different and have a good idea about what’s going on, but may be waiting for you to reach out.  A family member may say “I told you so” and offer nothing more than a moment of regret for you because you opened up.  A friend may stick by you for the third and fourth time you try to leave, but may throw their hands up in disgust not knowing that it takes an average of seven times before someone decides to leave for good.

We cannot fail those affected by abuse.  I wrote my book so that the faith community can come together and wrap their arms around those who are hurting.  Sometimes the church is the last place someone may go because they feel that they can’t be transparent.  Well, we need to ensure that anyone who needs it can be transparent without judgment.  The faith community needs to step up and step out and be recognized as a fortress.  Counselors should be trained appropriately, congregations should be educated about the dynamics of domestic violence and leaders should continue a dialogue all throughout the year and provide the refuge someone may be looking for as their last resort. 
As a member of a faith community, what can you do to help someone in an unhealthy or abusive relationship? 

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