October is domestic violence awareness month. I wish it were every month, but I’ll take this for now.
I see and hear every day in my office people who are looking for ways out of domestic violence and abuse, people who don’t realize that they are in it, and those that even though they know they’re in it, they don’t want to let the reality of the facts sink in. One clue is when clients refer to their poor treatment by others as “they’re just crazy” or “they’re such a jerk” or explicitly, “such an asshole”. I believe that the more accurate word (after much further learning) is “abuser”. When we use the more accurate word, we get more accurate information and can access more effective tools.
I am always so proud and humbled by the magnificent resilience of the human spirit, the ability to weather unspeakable tragedies and ruthless behavior. We are strong, adaptable creatures but sometimes even when we do everything that appears to end the cycle, we are faced with new methods of continued torture.
Take the family that posted this obituary for a deceased mother. Too many times I hear victims who, by leaving a home or state, believe that they will be free of abuse, but find out in harsh reality that that is not the case. It appears in this family, the mother was dedicated and ruthless in her stalking and pursuit to ruin her children’s lives. I too see this, maybe not these exact same details, but this kind of story is by no means rare or unique. Today’s technology in the hands of a dedicated abuser can become hell for victims and their loved ones in no time. Please note too that the domestic violence that continued for decades in this family was not just physical, it was also stalking, verbal, emotional, financial. They all count.
I always recommend to every client facing non-physical DV: file reports, make 9-1-1 calls, keep building the paper case against the abuser who is cunning enough to play just below the radar. Don’t think that divorce or distance will make things too terribly different. Don’t get me wrong, proceed with both, but don’t attach a magic panacea to the separation.
Another media piece is the full 1-hour episode on Nick News, hosted by Linda Ellerbee, about domestic violence from the perspective of kids, for kids, “Family Secrets: When Violence Hits Home”. It is very moving, quite troubling, but also an amazingly well presented picture of childrens’ experience of domestic violence. You can watch it here. I recommend, after parents have screened it for themselves, that they watch it with their kids and talk about the different experiences each family member has when domestic violence is (or has been) part of the home.
Trauma is a pretty scary word in our culture yet it is a part of every one of our lives. Each one of us has traumas and processes them our own way. Some of us have great resilience and strong, stable support systems to help weather these events, others are not so blessed. One doesn’t have to have a black eye or broken bone or to have been raped to have it count as a trauma, each of us defines our own in our own ways and therefore we cannot compare one to another. It is something I reiterate daily; don’t compare. I call it “the comparison trap”. When we compare, we judge, and when we judge, we create arbitrary “right” and “wrong” delineations which then creates separateness. There are always multiple possibilities to every situation and different does not mean better or worse, it’s just different.
When we slow down and sit with the pain of trauma, we can hear each other better, lifting the veil of judgement and separation, and create healing.
Today is my birthday and I am spending it at work helping victims and creating this post to hopefully reach even more who need hope and resources.
This domestic violence awareness month, and every month, let us create more healing through knowledge and listening.