Buster, bust her
October is Domestic Partner Violence awareness month.
You have seen it before, I know you have. Maybe out to dinner, at a club, listening to your girlfriends talk about their boyfriends or husbands. Probably just a casual friend, maybe it’s your sister or your mother. That man, you have seen that man before. Smile on his lips, cold darkness in his eyes, a grip on your arm that is a bit too tight and he is telling you to not do whatever it is that you are doing. He is standing really close and you are in public and are scared because you know what will come, later, in private. If you see this somewhere it is easy to turn away because you feel afraid too. Domestic violence is everyone’s problem.
It is not only the physical abuse but the shame and guilt you feel because maybe you could have stopped it. Maybe you do bring it on, maybe no one else will love you enough to care this much about where you go, who you see and what you do. Maybe it feels romantic at first because he wants to know everything you do, only spend time with you, is jealous because you talk to your girlfriends. The first time he makes a ridiculous demand or comment you make the mistake of thinking he is joking. He is not joking. Maybe you don’t know he is out of control and will attempt by any means necessary to control you.
If you have a child with this man your chances of dying increase-over one third of women who are murdered are killed by their intimate partners. These women are raped, beaten, tortured, humiliated and kept quiet. The circle of domestic violence is so deep and real that they know when they say something, things just get worse. Laws to protect women and children are only as effective as the abuser allows them to be. Restraining orders are pieces of paper that do not keep someone away.
Sometimes you have to lose everything, live in a shelter and lose all your belongings. Sometimes your family is in denial and resents you for rocking the boat and pursuing a divorce or legal action. Maybe you will struggle to keep your children from witnessing the violence, horror and screaming. They will feel in the middle, they will be afraid and will grow up to more likely be an abuser or victim themselves.
Sometimes they leave, finally and try to make a new life but they might also have to share custody of their children and continue to have contact, worry about their children’s safety every time they are away and might have to depend on them for spousal or child support. The tie in that case can never be broken. She might be forbidden by a custody agreement to leave the state. She may be forced to have phone contact. He might still call the house. He knows where she lives.
And he is angrier because she is gone. Sometimes he will seem as though he has turned over a new leaf. He is trying to be nicer, kinder, a better father and ex-spouse. He will be charming and accommodating. You will be so relieved that you believe it because the horror can only go on for so long. Maybe enough time has passed. It is a holiday and you want the kids to with their father. You agree to meet somewhere, a park to exchange for the rest of the holiday.
Your family doesn’t hear from you after your call of telling them you are waiting and they are late. They wait and wait. And wait. Then the police call say they found your sister and her three children. All dead. All killed. The abuser killed himself as well.
That is how it ends.
The statistics are staggering and considering that domestic violence , sexual assault, stalking and other forms of abuse are the most under-reported crime. So, she is next you at Starbucks buying coffee, running next to you on the treadmill, coming to your bookclub, picking up her daughter at girl scouts, in line in front of you. She, is all around you.
Please consider donating to your local women and children’s shelter. They have wish lists, can always use money, donated phones and cars. Talk to your sons and daughters about violence, rape, consent and stalking.
Don’t turn away if you see it happening.