H.O.W. Breaking The Silence
Recently I heard two women speak on their experience with domestic violence. I was moved by their sharing of the daily assault they endured while married to an individual who dominated and controlled their lives. Although one's sufferings were physical, the other woman was verbally abused. Nevertheless, both underwent intimidation and were victims of domestic violence.
According to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. This is quite a large number of women who are suffering in silence. These women may be someone you know well or even someone that may become a victim in the future.
Resources That Help In Dealing With The Violence
It's A Daily Occurence
Domestic Violence, or battering, is a patten of behavior used to control another person through fear and intimidation and often resorts to threats or use of violence. The assaults may also include children of the partner as well and involve sexual, emotional and psychological abuse.
Imagine living daily with someone who you cannot please and is a loose cannon, any words you speak are likely to set them off on a rage of violence. Victims not only suffer physically, but their homes are often destroyed. Punched walls and broken furniture are reminders to remain silent. The isolation from family and friends is often a byproduct as well as shame in having to wear marks of the abuse in public.
The following is a brief summary of the domestic violence Olivia (name has been changed to protect her privacy) endured. Her hopes are that others who are suffering will learn from her experience and make the decision to speak out and remove themselves from an abusive relationship.
"I would like to open this discussion sharing my personal experience. I was a battered woman in my first marriage, but it was a verbal assault. He tormented me on an everyday basis and it affected me so that I could not function like a normal mother. I feared for my life and my kids. He constantly told me I was no good, that I was worthless, and criticized me for every little thing I did.
I thought I couldn't take the chance of leaving at all. I stayed silently suffering. Living from day to day thinking that this could be fatal to me, or that I may have to leave my kids behind if I fled. It was eating me alive!
But, I stand before you today as proof it can be done; there is no need for anyone to endure this pain. I fled knowing that I had to survive. I could not leave my children in the hands of the abuser who would have destroyed me and them as well. I knew that I had to take the step and run. And, I did."
Olivia later shared with me that her chance to escape the abuse happened one day when her husband left for work. She quickly took the children out the door and ran to her parent's home. She mentioned that he did follow her and confronted her father, but her father stood firm and forced the abuser to leave.
Today, Olivia is completing a degree in health care and is making a new life for her and her children.
Here is a small part of Contessa's (name has been changed to protect her privacy) story.
"I was physically abused for years. I endured being beaten and intimidated on a regular basis. I spent time in jail due to the law's interpretation of a domestic violence occurrence in my home. Here is how it happened: One day, my husband beat me but left no marks on my body. I went to hit him back. My nail was broken and swiped across his face leaving a cut and mark. As a result, when the police came to investigate, I was taken into custody because he showed the physical abuse."
When I asked Contessa what caused her to leave the abusive relationship. She stated, "When he picked up my child by the back of the hair and neck and slammed him down onto the bed, I knew I had to leave. You can hit me all you want, but when it begins to affect my child that is the end! I waited until he was asleep and climbed out the window with my kids"
I am happy to report that today Contessa is also completing her degree in health care and living safe and well with her children.
Can We Imagine a World Without Violence?
Advice from the NCADV
If you are still in the relationship:
- Think of a safe place to go if an argument occurs - avoid rooms with no exits (bathroom), or rooms with weapons (kitchen).
- Think about and make a list of safe people to contact.
- Keep change with you at all times.
- Memorize all important numbers.
- Establish a "code word" or "sign" so that family, friends, teachers or co-workers know when to call for help.
- Think about what you will say to your partner if he\she becomes violent.
Remember, you have the right to live without fear and violence.
If you have left the relationship:
- Change your phone number.
- Screen calls.
- Save and document all contacts, messages, injuries or other incidents involving the batterer.
- Change locks, if the batterer has a key.
- Avoid staying alone.
- Plan how to get away if confronted by an abusive partner.
- If you have to meet your partner, do it in a public place.
- Vary your routine.
- Notify school and work contacts.
- Call a shelter for battered women.
If you leave the relationship or are thinking of leaving, you should take important papers and documents with you to enable you to apply for benefits or take legal action.
Source: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Important Documents to Take
Social Security Card **
Photos of past abuse
Birth Certificate **
Proof of Income
** Include child's information
Note: Take those that are in your name as well as your partner's.
H.O.W. Founder Speaks From The Heart
- H.O.W. Humanity One World: I Cry Real Tears
Thank you for taking the time to read my very first, and quite possibly last, poem. I hope you appreciate the sentiment and message and do not concentrate quite so much on the poetic style.
Listen For The Silence
Both women shared that one in every four women are being battered, many go unnoticed due to the fear of the abuser. Even if they report the abuser and he is jailed, upon release the abuser will return to finish the job or try to amend the relationship. The victim experiences additional oppression and it makes it difficult to escape because it breaks down their personality, they lose themselves and their surroundings. They begin to think like the abuser and fall into patterns of abuse. It is a vicious cycle.
They also said the government had programs to help abused women but the "safe houses" they send you and your children to are often in crime-ridden areas. The homes or apartments usually need cleaning, are infested with pests and have very little furniture. It is almost as depressing as the environment you just left. As Olivia stated, "It makes the decision to leave hard because you wonder if it is worth the trouble."
If you know of someone who is being abused and suffering in silence, encourage them to talk to someone. Let them know that you care and will listen. Refer them to the NCADV hotline, a toll-free number, at 1-800-799-7233.