October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and domestic violence has been on my mind a lot lately.
Disclaimer: As a white, heterosexual, college educated, married woman my lens is somewhat narrow. Please take this into account, as my thoughts and experiences are not common to everyone.
What do you think of when you think of domestic violence? I know a lot of people who would say things that would qualify as physical violence (hitting, kicking, throwing, biting, etc.) While that is certainly true, there is more. Domestic violence can include any kind of abuse, including psychological and sexual abuse.
When I think of domestic violence I think of my own experience with partner abuse. While I didn’t live with my “boyfriend”, I was with him a lot. Mostly due to the fact that I was affraid of what would happen if I wasn’t with him. I was also affraid of what would happen when I was with him. I was basically affraid all the time. Was he going to call me stupid? Was he going to say that I was smart? Could I expect sexual violence? Would today be the day when he finally hit me? Would today be the day when I finally left him?
Sarah Burris wrote an excellent post on Feministing about partner violence. She tells us that three woman and one man are murdered by their partners each day in the United States. That means that 1,460 people each year are killed by their partners.
25% of women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. That means you probably know someone who has experienced, or is experiencing, domestic violence.
What can you do if you suspect that someone is being abused by someone? In my own opinion, the best thing to do is to be there for that person. In my journey I had a lot of people who talked to me and helped me. They were nice and helpful even when I was horrible to them because I was terrified and didn’t want to admit it. A colleague of my dad’s took me under her wing and showed me that I wasn’t stupid or useless. She showed me that I had a lot to offer.
In my interview with Eryn Lockhart I talk about The White House Project, which is an organization that trains and supports women to run for public office. It is because of my dad’s colleage (Emilie) that I got involved with this organization. They were doing their first ever rural “Go Run” training in Tower, MN and Emilie heard about it. She said to me, “They’re about empowering women, you need to be empowered. We’re going to this!” And before I knew it she had signed us up and I was off to a weekend of being empowered and being surrounded by women who were smart, funny, and encouraging. I spent my 20th birthday with this fantastic group of women. Their love and support made me feel that I could do anything. Of course, at that point anything was really just making small decisions on my own. But that love and encouragement has grown until I can do something like talk about my experience to a rather large audience.
And now I have a fantastic husband, my sweet man. He’s everything to me that the group of 300 White House Project women were to me 3 years ago. And those are pretty big shoes to fill.
In conclusion, I just want to encourage you to stay close to your friends. Be there for them when times are hard and when times are good. Get to know your neighbors. Even if you don’t know them, take action if you can see or hear violence going on. Domestic violence affects us all and we all have to be part of the solution.