SURVIVING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Megan’s Story
My mother did not see me cross the stage on graduation day, she wasn’t
there when I received my driver’ s license, and she couldn’t help me pick out my prom dress. I can’t pick up the phone to tell her about the test I took or the friend I met. She isn’t there when I need advice, support, or inspiration. Because of domestic violence, my mother is only a memory.
According to the FBI, one out of every four women has been a victim of domestic assault at least once in her lifetime. Once was enough for my mother. The man whom she called ‘friend’ had not chronically abused her. Instead, her life had been lost as result of a single ‘friendly’ argument that somehow turned deadly. It is true, however, that the Surgeon General of the United States reports that one out of five women battered by their partners have been victimized over and over again by the same person . As children in a dangerous society, our parents, schools, and mentors teach us the words; ‘don’t talk to strangers’. Although this mentality causes many women to be wary of those they don’t know, the danger often resides elsewhere. Husbands, lovers, boyfriends or other intimate acquaintances are more likely to hurt them than a stranger. According to a United States Justice Department study, two-thirds of violent attacks against women are committed by someone known to them. In America, the most dangerous place for a woman is in her own home, where anger often explodes into violence. Husbands or boyfriends kill approximately 1,500 women each year and about two million men have admitted beating their partners, according to the FBI.
Statistics, however, are only numbers. Percentages, dates, and facts that may cause you to raise an eyebrow or chew a nail. Maybe you have heard that a woman is beaten every thirteen seconds or assaulted every three minutes. You may already know that nearly one out of three women is a victim of domestic violence during her adulthood. Statistics are everywhere and seen by everyone. You can read them in the paper, see them on the news, or surf them on the Internet. But what do they mean to you? What do they mean to me?
It may be that even I cannot relate the starkness of black numbers on white paper. Instead, look at the purple bruise on your sister’s face, the red blood in your daughter’s hair, the reflection of your own tears in the mirror. The victims are not just black and white; they are the colorful people of our lives. They have names, and jobs, and favorite songs. You sit next to her in English class, she sliced your cold cuts in the deli, or she told you the joke that made you smile. It may even be your own mother.
The rain hid our tears the day of her funeral. The morning was sodden with grief and drenched with sorrow. I could not understand the heaviness I felt when my heart was empty and my soul was hollow. My tongue seemed too thick to speak; my eyes were too dark to see. The rayness of the cemetery washed around me like faded watercolors as I searched for the answers to my questions. Unfortunately, the reasons for abuse are not easily understood.
Domestic violence is a learned pattern of behaviors used by one person to gain control of another. The abuse can be inflicted emotionally, physically, sexually, or financially. On the surface, abusers may appear to be good providers, loving partners, and law-abiding citizens.
There is no exact profile of men who beat or batter women. Domestic violence crosses all social and economic boundaries.
Although the details may seem complex and overwhelming, the solution is simple. The ABA Commission on domestic violence recommends a five-step plan to end abuse:
1 – Know What Domestic Violence Is
When spouses, intimates, or dates use physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, harassment, economic domination, or stalking to control the behavior of their partners, they are committing domestic violence.
2 – Develop a Safety Plan
If you, a relative, a friend, or a neighbor are experiencing domestic violence, think about ways in which you can ensure the security of the victim. Leave a spare set of keys, emergency money, important phone numbers and documents in a safe place hidden from the batterer and plan
escape routes in case of crisis. Local hotlines and shelters are always available for advice and assistance.
3 – Call 911
Don’t be afraid to ask for immediate help. Domestic violence is a crime, not a “private family matter.”
4 – Exercise Your Legal Rights
You, or anyone else experiencing abuse, has the right to go to court and petition for an order of protection if you have been battered in one of the fifty states.
5 – Get Help For Your Family
There are many services available to help families struggling with domestic violence. If you are in an abusive situation always remember that you are not alone, you are not to blame, and you can get help.
In an effort to end the devastating affects of domestic violence and because they care, your organization has provided you and your family members confidential assistance through REACH. Let REACH get you the care and support you need. To speak to a counselor contact REACH at 1-800-273-5273.
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