I’ve not been a victim of domestic violence. Even so, domestic violence affects me. It degrades my quality of life. It harms my friends, my neighbors, my colleagues, my community. Domestic violence hurts me.
The National Center Against Domestic Violence defines it this way:
Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.
So if I’ve never been a victim, how does domestic violence affect me? Well, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been affected. So if I look around me on any given day, in any given place, I can count the women – 1, 2, 3 – and the men – 1, 2, 3, 4 – and figure out how many people around me might have been affected. Try it sometime. Walking through the grocery – 1, 2, 3rd woman, 1, 2, 3, 4th man. Sitting in the church pew – 1, 2, 3rd woman, 1, 2, 3, 4th man. Sitting in the restaurant – 1, 2, 3rd woman, 1, 2, 3, 4th man. Doing that reminds me that domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. It crosses all boundaries, affects all races, infiltrates all socio-economic classes.
And that means, that domestic violence is all around me. It affects me. My tax dollars get spent on responding to, investigating and treating domestic violence. My kids go to school with children who may act out because of watching domestic violence at home. Those I do business with may be distracted because of their experiences of domestic violence at home. The driver on the road next to me may be tired because of being up all night from their experiences of domestic violence. My friends may be silently suffering because of domestic violence at home.
Domestic violence affects me.
And it affects you too.
Still don’t believe me? Consider the national economic impact of domestic violence:
- Victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8.0 million days of paid work each year.6
- The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $8.3 billion per year.6
- Between 21-60% of victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.6
- Between 2003 and 2008, 142 women were murdered in their workplace by their abuser, 78% of women killed in the workplace during this timeframe.4
Still don’t believe me? Consider this story from my experiences with women:
I remember it was a snow day. School had been cancelled for a couple of days at that point. I remembered that the family in the next apartment had a child (we could hear it playing at bath time since the bathrooms shared a wall). There were other kids in our building. Since I was not yet a mom, I loved giving moms a break and playing with their kids. So I went to the apartment next door, thinking I could give the mom a break from snow day crazies and play with her child. The dad answered the door and slammed it back in my face. I was hurt, even a little offended. But I carried on.
Just a couple of months later, I began working at a domestic violence shelter. I met a lot of families. And then I met that family. The mom that lived next door came in with bloodshot eyes from having been strangled. The child was small and shy and scared. I didn’t remember them. But she remembered me. She knew me right away. And she remembered that snow day.
Those times I heard the kid playing in the tub? Mom made a bubble bath for it to enjoy while she was being beaten and raped. That snow day dad slammed the door in my face? I had interrupted a physical argument. That day in the shelter? I came face to face with the domestic violence that shared walls with me.
And it hasn’t changed. Domestic violence still shares walls with me. I have friends that grew up in violent homes. I have friends that have scars from injuries from people who “loved them.” I’ve helped friends leave. I’ve bristled at professionals in my communities who say things that trigger the “abuser radar” within me. I’ve listened to the stories of survivors. I’ve been at vigils for victims. I’ve talked to law enforcement who know that domestic violence calls are always unpredictable, heartbreaking and unfortunately, reoccurring. Oh yes, I still share walls with domestic violence.
So what do we do? Those of us who have not had first hand experiences, how do we stand as supportive allies for those who are or have experienced this community disease?
There are lots of ways we can help. Here are some ideas:
- Listen without judging.
- Share that you are concerned for safety of the people in the home.
- Provide information.
Click HERE for a more extensive and concrete list of ways to help.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Use this opportunity to get informed. Use this opportunity to support a local organization that is working to stop domestic violence. Use this opportunity to be a safe space for someone who is experiencing domestic violence. Listen to the stories of those who have survived.
Because domestic violence shares walls with you too.