October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, so we are again sharing Susan’s personal journey on today’s blog.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month was launched nationwide in October 1987 as a way to connect and unite individuals and organizations working on domestic violence issues and raise awareness for those issues. For more information on their work and to obtain additional resources, visit their website http://ncadv.org/
We argued about the garlic in the guacamole. He stormed outside. I stood at the bathroom mirror focusing my shaking hand on my mascara when I heard the front door open and his footsteps on the stairs. He opened the bathroom door, punched me in the stomach, and calmly said, “Now you can tell your friends I’m abusive.”
I was young but I was strong. Confident. Independent. How was I reduced to justifying the purchase of a two dollar tube of lipstick and defending why I wanted to see a movie with a girlfriend? How did I stay with a man who threw the bowl of my freshly made pasta against the kitchen wall as I set the table, cracked the windshield with his bare fist as I drove, and smashed the bouquet of flowers against the mantle as I wept?
Despite knowing that domestic violence is the misuse of power and control, I couldn’t see it clearly when I was in its midst. I compared myself to those I considered “real” victims—the ones with blackened eyes and broken bones and battered children—-as I denied my own reality.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Despite decades of public education and the fact that one of every four American women reports being physically abused by a spouse or partner at some point, many people still don’t understand intimate partner abuse. Being a divorce attorney taught me that whether you are a welder or an accountant, rich or poor, a Gen Xer or a boomer—you are not immune.
How was I able to move on? First I had to tell the truth to myself. What helped was others gently asking about what I failed to see. “Is this the first time he hit you?” “Do you think that’s normal?” The concerns of others—shared without judgment—helped me to see the seriousness of my situation. “I just called to see if you were safe. I’m worried about you.”
I was lucky. I had enough income, a number of options, and lots of support. The thousands of victims who are killed each year aren’t as lucky.
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. Don’t wait.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is the time to be aware of the risks, your rights, and the next small step forward for your family’s future. As for me, the only regret I ever had about my first small step was that I didn’t make it sooner.