According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are the victims of domestic abuse. One in three women and one in four men will be victims of abuse at some time.
I have two friends who were victims of domestic abuse. Their stories are different from each other but not that different from those of other victims.
The Polished Professional
L is hard working and smart. She put herself through school, working three jobs to make ends meet. She’s now a polished professional, a C-suite exec at a major firm. Before that, though, she was the battered wife of a police officer. Four small children at home. When she’d call to have him arrested, make him stop, his cop buddies would discourage her from pressing charges. It took years for her to get the courage (and belief in herself) to leave him and take the kids. Those kids grew up to be amazing young adults, respectful, good people, because of her strength and character.
The Girl Next Door
T had terrible self-esteem issues, really devalued herself. She was a college grad with a decent job and a big heart. At face value her husband was a catch: handsome, an advanced degree and a good job in higher education, fun to be around. But he was intensely jealous of any time T spent away from him. If she was not at her job he had to know her exact whereabouts, and he routinely tailed her. He discouraged her friendships and did his best to isolate her. The abuse turned physical the day he was caught kicking her in the street, no care that he was directly in front of the police station, T curled in a fetal position on the pavement.
Help for Victims
I recently saw the President of Women in Distress of Broward County speak. She talked about how hard the recession had been on women and children, how it increased the number of abused. She talked about how, now, her organization is seeing more male victims of domestic abuse and more elderly. She spoke about the things her organization is doing to help stop the cycle of abuse, efforts starting with children as young as 2.
There are many assumptions, or myths, about why domestic abuse occurs.
There are also many things victims of abuse are told that prevent them from leaving the abusive situation. That it was their fault; if only they had not made the abuser angry. That it won’t happen again. That the court will blame the victim. Immigrants are told they will be deported. Mothers are told they will lose their children. That the family will be busted up and the children sent to foster homes, never to reunite.
These are fallacies concocted by abusers so they may retain their control: physical, financial, emotional.
- A safe shelter can be found for you and your children.
- Legal assistance is available to help you divorce or otherwise leave your abuser.
- If you are an immigrant you have avenues to help keep your family together.
I am by no means saying it is easy, or assuming I know the right time to leave an abusive situation. But there are professionals who can help. A list, by state, of more than 2,000 organizations that can help can be found here. Here in Broward County, Women in Distress can help you with a safety plan. They have a 24-hour crisis hotline (954.761.1133).
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/10275967@N05/867199866″>Kota Ezawa</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>