They walk on the most fragile of eggshells. One uneasily shifted in her seat before pushing up her sleeves – revealing the black and blue polka dots on her upper arms. Another whispered to me with her eyes cast downward that she slept with a hammer underneath her pillow. And another told me of the time he kicked her when she was pregnant, leaving the beets she had been boiling in a mess all around the kitchen.
I take in these stories that are soaked in shame, reported to me with fear. I brace myself for the helpless feeling that follows. Domestic abuse continues to be a chronic challenge in our community for our families. On average, one out of every four women that comes to my office to discuss divorce, reports some measure of abuse inflicted over the years. Physical, emotional, psychological, financial – I hear it all.
I see the power and control wheel spinning around without ever losing steam. I wish to be a part of the support team that pushes her up and out this time. I weep in private moments for the trap she has found herself in – believing that if she leaves, the children will then be with him without protection – the very thing she thinks she can provide by staying. I raise my voice in frustration in the courtroom when seeking an outcome they may seem trivial to the court, but is practical and real in providing safety for my client.
Domestic abuse has haunted me since long ago when a hole was punched in a wall just near my face. Enough to scare me. Enough to warn me. Enough to stay with me and propel my path onto that of an advocate. And decades later I still wince, like I did that day, when I hear these stories with new and different shadings but with the same hopeless undertone.
I do not write this message for those supporting a woman to leave an abusive place. I write to you – you in the dark. I write to you afraid of many dreaded outcomes. I write to you who choked back a sob in my office when you confessed you most feared he would kill you, forever punishing your children. I write because I am here to listen. And if you let me listen long enough then maybe I can help. Maybe we can get strong together or maybe you can let me carry you for a bit of your journey. I write to be your advocate.
If you or someone you know is experiencing the warning signs of domestic abuse, let in support now. Call the 24 hour domestic violence hotline at (800)799-SAFE (7233). Develop a safety plan. Call an attorney knowledgeable about protection orders. Get an advocate.