October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, though it is something we should be aware of every day. We should learn to see the signs so that we can be the voice of those who otherwise have no voice. To speak out for those who are afraid of the very real consequences of telling someone about their situation. It can be anyone you know – your best friend, your neighbor’s husband, your mail carrier, or even that little girl you see walking alone every day at 3:30pm.
Domestic violence isn’t just the obvious bruises and broken bones, it is also emotional, mental, spiritual and sexual. If you are hit – even once, that is Domestic abuse. If you are constantly yelled at or belittled – that is domestic abuse. If you don’t have access to the family finances – that is domestic abuse. If you aren’t allowed to see your family and friends – that is domestic abuse. If your partner forces intimacy on you when you don’t want it – not only is that domestic abuse, but it is also sexual assault. If you have to witness any of these things happening to someone else in your home – that is domestic abuse. As you can see, domestic violence can occur in many ways and more than what I have listed.
Domestic violence affects everyone in the family, not just the immediate family living in the house, but the extended family as well. It affects friends, coworkers and neighbors. The effects of domestic violence reach far into the community.
Abusers will use pets, children and other family members to keep control over their victim. This is one of the things that makes it hard for people to leave their abusive partner. Many animal shelters now offer boarding for the pets of domestic violence survivors, so that they can leave the abuse. The victim needs assurance that their pets and children will not be harmed if they leave. The abuser will have their partner feeling like no one else will love them if they leave, that they are stupid, no good and damaged goods. They damage the self-esteem so badly that the victim stays, thinking they deserve it and won’t find happiness anyway.
The scars from domestic violence run deep, but we can help. We can listen between the lines, pay attention to our intuition – our gut feelings. We can be firm but gentle in guiding the victim towards the help that they need. If you don’t know where to go to get them the help they need, you can call your local family service organization for resources. Keep calm at all times no matter how angry you may feel.
Some things to watch for:
– Excuses for injuries
– Personality changes, like low self-esteem in someone who was always confident.
– Constantly checking in with their partner.
– Never having money on hand.
– Overly worried about pleasing their partner.
– Skipping out on work, school, or social outings for no clear reason.
– Wearing clothes that don’t fit the season, like long sleeves in summer to cover bruises.
You also need to remember that as important as it is to support the survivor through the process, you need to make sure you have the support that you need. There will be many dark days and if you are to be the light, you have to keep re-charged.
Please share this information with your friends, family and peers, and lets all do what we can to bring domestic violence out of the shadows