Almost every other second, somewhere in America, one of our neighbors is abused by the person they love.
And all the while they might tell themselves …
“I’m pregnant and he’s scared of being a dad, so he hit me”
“the pressure of being a parent overwhelmed him so he hit me”
“my father hit my mother and she stayed, so I’m staying with him”
“I hit my face on a cabinet/door/banister/shelf”
“he rarely touches me but when he does his bruises are like kisses, marks that prove I know him at his weakest and love him for all his faults”
“I started it; I made him mad; I shouldn’t have yelled at him”
“if only we weren’t drinking”
“if I tell someone outside the family, I’ll get blamed for shaming the family”
“men don’t get hit by women; no one will believe me”
“I can’t let my kids see him beat me, but he’s their father”
“I can’t afford to leave”
“I can’t afford to stay”
These and other domestic violence myths I have heard DV survivors say to endure the truth; to bear the pain; to rationalize the shame from family, friends, society.
For the lucky ones, there is an intervention.
Someone sees something and says something.
Bruises are noticed at school or the hair salon or the gym.
Someone tells someone outside the conspiracy of silence
Neighbors call the cops and the victim decides to cooperate with a prosecution.
And the network of concerned Americans steps in to break the cycle.
Then the long hard road of survival really begins. The therapy and self-doubt; the fits and starts; the relapse and recovery; the constant replaying of dialogue that continues long after the relationship ends — but hopefully with answers
“fear is no excuse for violence”
“loving parents don’t beat their spouses or children”
“you can love your parents and choose not to copy their mistakes”
“that was no cabinet door”
“those bruises are not kisses; real love brings you kisses not bruises”
“violence is never a response to a fight”
“alcohol is an enabler, but it’s not an excuse”
“there is no shame in asking for help”
“violence knows no gender sexual orientation or gender identity”
“better off away from violence than in a home where it is practiced”
“there are economic assists to help you get out”
“you couldn’t afford to stay; you were right to put your future over your anger, guilt, and fear”
Violence is learned; it can be unlearned with patience, understanding and trained professionals providing the personal tools and economic resources to survivors.
That is why as we begin Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we must do all we can to assist domestic violence survivors and to fund the federal, state, local and tribal resources needed to live without violence. We must fully fund and expand the Violence Against Women Act. We must stop the government shutdown and reverse the sequester cuts to essential services. We must ensure that help for all continues to be a phone call 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224. (TTY) or click http://www.thehotline.org to the National DV Hotline away. For those in the San Francisco area, advocates will be lighting City Hall purple beginning at 6pm tonight to reflect our community’s desire to help. Because in the time it took to read this article, another 100 people in America were victims of domestic violence. And that has to stop.