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How CommunitiesView Domestic Victims
Things need to change
The community where I live still has a law on the books that on a certain Wednesday of the month, a man can take his wife to the courthouse and beat her on the front steps. While there is not a man alive that would dare actually challenge this law by committing what is now considered a crime, the fact that it still stands is curious. Why leave it? This county was recently awarded a grant to fund it's first domestic violence advocate dedicated solely to serving the growing demand for her services. Clearly, if there is an established problem here, why give any man even a remote sense of right by leaving a law that supports what he is doing?
As a direct, though subconscious, result of my lowered sense of self worth, I entered into a number of short term relationships with men I knew where not going to treat me with dignity and respect. Knowing that I still avoided men who clearly exhibited any one or more indicators of abusive tendencies. Men who were disproportionately jealous for the amount of time they knew me. Men who became irrationally upset over disturbances to their meticulous 'principles'. Men who unapologetically put all women down. Men who would not take a hint that I was not interested and called or came by unwelcomed. These men I steered clear from. Even in my vulnerable state, I knew that even if I did not deserve a good man, I did not deserve to be abused. And yet I wound up in an abusive marriage.
The studies that have discovered the signs of potential abusers have done a fantastic job. The problem is that not every man follows the rules. My ex-husband showed none of the standard warning signs. None that I could see anyway. Looking back, there were a few moments when my gut tried to nag at me but he was saying all the right things at a time when I needed to hear them. It was over a year before the violence began and even then it was not on a regular basis. He would go days, weeks, even months in between episodes. He would claim to blackout and not remember a thing and wonder why he would wake up from his 'nap' and I would be tear stained and bruised. There is no question that an abusive man is often a very persuasive manipulative man. I gave him six years, four children, and countless wounds.
That is when I moved to where I am now. Determined to give my children a better life, I focused on work and school and them. It soon became apparent however, that the simple, quiet country life I was looking forward to was not going to be what I had imagined it would be. South Carolina has frequently been listed in the top ten nation-wide for highest rates of women killed by their husbands. It is also high in teen pregnancies. This is the bible-belt location I chose to raise my two boys and two girls. It would be terribly easy to complain and say that this county has made my job even harder but that would not be the Christian thing to do. Instead I have begun using my voice to advocate for a women's shelter here as well as more accessible counseling services. We are quite a distance away from any major city and while that has it's benefits, it also means that women who cannot get out of the house after an attack, if they can get out at all, have no place to go locally.
I have since discovered that if you call the Sherriff's office, they are obligated by law to transport you to the nearest shelter an hour and a half away. While this is a good start, it is far from adequate. It is a drain on local resources and the last thing an abuse victim wants is to feel like a burden on the state or anyone else for that matter. More people need to call the police when their neighbors are fighting. More shelters need to be opened, even if they are temporary. There needs to be a bigger push for awareness.
It is not easy to 'just walk away'! If it was, more women would be doing it. More often than not, she knows that she is in trouble. She knows he is not good for her but she feels as though she is good for nothing better. Abusive men do not just hurt physically, they feed on tearing down a woman from the inside out. It is a power play and a control issue. One that too often ends in her death. When a woman knows that there is somebody out there that cares about her and will help her during the terrifying times to come, she is more likely to take the leap. If our communities do not do more to reach out to these women, how are they supposed to know there is help for her?
Domestic violence is being talked about more these days, but there have not been a great deal of changes made to curb the issue altogether. We have a long way to go towards ending domestic violence. I need more people who are willing to stand up and say that we will not tolerate this anymore and I am going to do something about it. In my community, I am fighting for a local shelter and raised awareness. What are you going to do?