Friday, November 9, 2007

A Bit Off Topic. . . .but not Entirely

Last Saturday morning I realized once again how incredibly lucky I am.

Lucky to have people in my life who love me.

Respect 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.


The Writers' Group said...


Great post; I'm sure you just offered your blog readers some unexpected grace. Knowing your manuscript deals with this important issue, the title is so moving.

Have you read Mary Pipher's book, Writing to Change the World? I love that you write about important things.

Lynne Griffin

Lisa said...

This is so important and I'm very glad you wrote about it. I think one of the most important things a friend can do is to help someone in trouble is to be trustworthy and non-judgmental. Living with an abusive person or an addict is a something many women bear silently and with great shame. To confide in a friend makes the situation real and it forces the victim to cross a terrifying line. Many people can't do this until it's too late because they feel they have no one to turn to. If it hasn't happened to you, the odds are that it has happened, or probably is happening to someone you know.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Thanks Lynne, I hope so. And that sounds like a great book; I'll have to find it.

Lisa, thanks--and you make a great point too--for those of us lucky enough to have not personally lived it, we need to be open to others who have and reach out to help them. We've got to feel less helpless and help the victims to feel empowered.

kristen said...

Thanks Judy. What a moving post. And well worth passing on. I'll try and do just that over the weekend...

Carleen Brice said...

Not off topic and well worth the time to read and pass along. Thanks for sharing!

Larramie said...

Judy, just think how many more women your new book will help and give a voice to their plight? Good for you!

The Writers' Group said...

Judy, a helping hand is always on topic.

It's simple for society to tell women to "get out," but when we don't provide a place to go, how then to leave? We must do what we can in our corner of the world, whether it's giving a friend a place to stay, donating to the local women's shelter, or calling our state representative or Member of Congress.

I won't soon forget this post, Judy. Thank you.

Amy MacKinnon

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Kristen, Carleen, Larramie, and Amy, thanks for stopping by and for passing this on--there's so much each of us can do. Now we just have to do it!

Sherry said...

Speaking up against violence and abuse is important. Breaking the code of silence so that others know it is "okay" to speak and there is no guilt in being the victim. I'm just discovering this on a personal level now. Thank you for giving a voice to this.

debra said...

This is so so important, Judy. Thank you for addressing this issue. We have always donated our good seconds to our local battered women's shelter. Gifts are given to women for Mothers' Day, Valentine's Day and the holidays. We received a note form one recipient thanking us for valuing her at a time when she wasn't so sure she deserved it. She said she was able to renew her life with beautiful items in it.
Thanks, again

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Sherry, thanks for stopping by; we're all "breaking the code" in our own ways.

Debra, what a wonderful idea--donating to the shelters so the women can receive gifts--and then you never know all the ramifications of what's being given and received.

Daisy said...

We had a terrible incident near our area where a stalker-type boyfriend came in and shot his ex and five friends. One lived by playing dead. It's so important to bring this out and work to prevent more deaths from this type of violence.