The best of two worlds?
People say, I've got my hands in too many things,
keeping time with paupers just as well as Kings.
I toss my head up to the silver sky
and then I sigh...
Look at all the blessings in my life.
- Teena Marie (1980) Irons in the fire
Writers write what they know and are influenced by their life experience. Like the quote above, I too often feel like I live in two worlds. Outwardly I experience my everyday life within my professional and suburban surroundings one way. Internally I am ever so cognizant of what others may be feeling and never forget who I really am.
Who I really am is a child survivor of domestic violence. I wear that “badge” openly because it allows me to devote my life to affecting change within our society’s families and connect to others on a human level. It is the “brokenness” and pain that consumes many around me that drives me to write.
Domestic violence is finally being exposed in this country at a rate that is alarming. I say ‘finally’ because abuse within the family has gone unspoken for far too long. When we consider the growing rate of domestic violence related homicide, we are forced to pay attention. It is unfortunate that it takes that level of tragedy to get a community to consider the seriousness of this well kept secret.
The danger, however, in pointing at these tragic events to emphasize the lethality of domestic violence is that they are treated as exceptions and we respond with immediate intervention that is too often short lived.
Having experienced this environment as a child and subsequently dedicated my life’s career to bringing forth awareness I can tell you that these secrets are all around us. Many walk among us that have pain, hate, and rage for some reason that has probably been ignored by the masses. We choose to pretend that only a few are truly broken and in danger of hurting themselves or others. But the fact of the matter is that we need look no further than our own extended families, neighbors or communities to see what may be just a little embarrassing situation (one we just won’t talk about) that could possibly lead to one of those cases “we never thought would happen to us”.
Domestic violence takes on many different forms. Although defined by the law (in most states) as violence between partners it is actually violence perpetrated against any blood relative, person you reside with, former love interest (intimate or not), etc. When you look at the broad implications of domestic violence you must agree that more people are affected than we allow ourselves to think about. Not only are many affected but the effects are far reaching and long-lasting.
We often speak of children as society’s future and make sure that most receive an education so that they can become “productive citizens”. Curiously we don’t think much about what is happening outside of the school that can also affect our future.
As human beings we all come into the world with some fundamental needs. Children need food, shelter, medical attention, safety and a sense of belonging. As adults it is difficult and disconcerting to witness anyone physically harmed. It is even more stressful when we have a connection to the person being harmed. For a child it can be devastating to see a caregiver, for instance, be harmed. Naturally that child looks to the victim for security and faced with the possibility of loosing that protection.
The result of such a traumatic experience is a child forever affected by what he has witnessed and experienced. It is not uncommon for these children to experience constant anxiety, stress-related disorders and social isolation. These children then grow up to be an adult child having to cope with the memory of such events. These memories may manifest themselves in flask-backs, nightmares or overwhelming emotional states that can lead to a myriad of unhealthy coping mechanisms like self-medicating, aggressive behavior or isolation.
As a reader I challenge you to ponder the effects of domestic violence, ask yourself if you would even recognize what it looks like and considered how common it is in this society. Some of you may feel that there are plenty of professionals whose job it is to work with these families and figure there's not much you can do.
It is my experience that one of the most effective ways of decreasing the incidences of violence in our society is to expose victims of trauma to the possibilities available to them. Through your experience and empathy you can foster dreams in children of what the future could hold. I also believe that collectively we can make a commitment to not try so hard to separate ourselves from those “dysfunctional” families when we ourselves have imperfect families. It is the shame in many of those victims that keeps them from reaching out to ones they believe would not understand.
The beauty of what I have learned in my own life experience is that because I know from where I came (although strangers see who I am today); I can look at another from many different walks of life and say..."I know. Me too."
This my friend is what drives me to write and inspire others to realize that we are connected by our human condition and that breed and status does not take away the fact that we all experience life in much the same way.
Our fears, loves, desires and experiences connect us and the written word can transcend the differences we hold on too so tightly, believing that they give us a purpose.My desire, therefore, is to write in such a way that speaks to us all as ONE connected by the higher power that urges us to relate to one another in a unified manner.