Last Saturday morning I realized once again how incredibly lucky I am.
Lucky to have people in my life who love me.
Lucky that the choices I've made, even the ones that didn't work out, have ultimately made me stronger.
Lucky that I have friends and family to lean on.
I tried to remember the last time anyone ever hit me. I'm thinking it must have been my brother when he was about 14 and I was 9. I'm sure I cried and he was sent to his room.
I tried to recall when someone I love has said demeaning, hurtful, threatening things to me. I couldn't come up with anything.
And then I tried to imagine what if? And the prospects horrified me.
Last Saturday morning I attended a Community Conversation called "Why Didn't She Leave Him?" put on by the Women's Initiative for Health and Safety. It dealt with domestic violence and explored what we as individuals and in community with one another can do to empower women who are in abusive relationships. It was stunning, painful, instructive and powerful. And I realized how much I don't know about what goes on behind closed doors.
The manuscript I've just completed deals with some aspects of domestic violence--mostly emotional abuse. I attended this conversation because I wanted to be sure I was striking the right note in my characters. I wanted to be sure I was accurate in my portrayals. What I came away with was so much more than the fine-tuning of characters.
Here are some of the statistics:
~somewhere in America a woman is battered every 15 seconds
~in the US, there are nearly 3 times as many animal shelters as shelters for women and their children hoping to escape domestic violence
~22%-35% of women who come to emergency rooms are there for injuries related to ongoing partner abuse
~40% of girls age 14-17 report knowing someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend
One of the issues in my manuscript is how we often don't see or sense abuse going on nearby and how hard it can be for women to speak out about it going on in their own lives. And ever since last Saturday I've wondered what I can do, what anyone can do. It seems so foreign, so far away from me, but I know it isn't. I'm just lucky. And perhaps a little naive.
I came away from the morning wanting to help spread the word about what can be done.
One of the handouts I received listed 5 statements that women say helped them to break the cycle of abuse:
1-I am afraid for you
2-I am afraid for your children
3-It will only get worse
4-I'm here for you; let me know how I can help
5-You deserve better than this
Other things you can do? Don't look away if you suspect something is wrong. Offer to help out at shelters or organizations in your community.
And if you're being abused, make a plan, tell someone you trust, get help. You deserve better. As a society, we all deserve better. Our children deserve better. But mostly, you deserve better.
Here are some web resources:
The Battered Women's Justice Project
The Domestic Abuse Intervention Project
Family Violence Prevention Fund
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Network to End Domestic Violence
Without a doubt, this is the most important blog post I've ever written. Feel free to pass it on to others. As a matter of fact, I'm imploring you to do so.