Part of the problem with domestic violence is people feel ashamed to talk about it.
There are certain stereotypes about domestic violence, and victims think, "It's not supposed to happen to people like me. I'm too [smart; educated; strong; financially secure; confident...] to be in this situation, so I should be able to get myself out of it." Men are also victims of domestic violence, in both gay and straight relationships, and they face a double stigma, because "real men" aren't supposed to let other people beat them up (especially "the little woman"), and there isn't much recognition or social support for men seeking to stop a partner's violence.
Personally, I don't even like the word "victim" - it sounds weak, needy, helpless. *grits teeth* I, Beverly Diehl, am a victim of domestic violence. I'm not weak, needy, or helpless; I'm a smart, strong, capable woman, and yet I found myself in a relationship where I was being physically, verbally, and emotionally abused. *looks around* There, I wrote it, and the world has not come to an end.
I think, too, that part of it is we don't want domestic violence to define who we are. Yes, I am a victim of domestic violence; I am also an avid reader and writer, a crafter, skilled at my day job, a pet lover and traveler and a picky eater and many many other things. I don't want to talk and read about domestic violence all the time - but I do want to discuss the subject periodically, especially in October.
People don't always understand what domestic violence is.
It is not only being beaten, hit, pushed, slapped and choked. It's also being belittled, ridiculed, called names, cut off and not being allowed to speak. Physical violence has never yet been documented to happen without verbal violence proceeding it. So, if you're being judged and criticized, if your partner blasts you with his/her anger, if s/he throws or slams things, breaks your possessions, threatens you, if s/he blames you for everything that goes wrong... You're being abused, even if s/he never lays a finger on you.
If, as a child, you were told you were stupid, worthless, that your parents regretted having you, if you were not permitted to have friendships or repeatedly yelled at for normal childhood mistakes like spilling your milk... that's domestic violence. Emotional and financial abuse is just as real and as degrading as physical abuse, and does just as much to destroy the psyche of a child or a partner as a fist. Often the painful memory of stinging words outlasts any bruises or broken bones.
If the home atmosphere is sometimes fun and happy, and other times horrifically tense, where everyone is walking on eggshells, hoping to keep from "setting off" an explosion of anger and verbal or physical abuse from a parent or partner - that's a home where domestic violence lives.
I grew up in a home like that. (Which is part of why I missed the warning signs with my ex.)
There's a perception that once you are a victim (or perpetrator) of domestic violence, your life is ruined forever.
In some cases, that's tragically true. In some cases domestic violence ends in murder or suicide. My blogfriend Kim at My Inner Chick writes posts that are tasty and shoelicious and funny, but she also writes poignantly about her beautiful sister Kay, lost to domestic violence in May 2010.
It's important to remember that domestic violence can be a matter of life or death.
But in most cases, a victim can move on and reclaim her or his life. An abuser can learn other, better ways of dealing with his/her own inner fears and frustrations. If you live in a domestically violent home right now, it may feel hopeless, but truly, there are ways out. Please, don't give up, reach out for help.
I know I'm not the only one with a story to tell.
I'm hoping you will join me, with your own story about how domestic violence has affected your life, with a guest post of 500-800 words. It's a huge subject, and it's not that many words, so below are some ideas that you might choose to focus on. Warning - these questions/reminders may be triggering to read and think about, so only do so if you feel emotionally safe enough and strong enough.
If you grew up in a domestically violent household:
- How old were you when it started, or was it always present?
- Emotional violence, physical violence, sexual violence, or all of them?
- Did one parent try to shield you, or did s/he join in or enable the abuse?
- If you had siblings, was there a "golden child," or did everyone get a share of the abuse?
- Was your abuser one of your siblings? Did your parents not notice, or...?
- How old were you when you realized not everyone lived like this?
- What's your relationship like with the abuser now?
- What advice would you give to a minor who is being abused by a sibling, parent or parental figure?
If you have been the victim of abuse in a love relationship:
- If you are still in a relationship with someone who did or still abuses you, why are you staying? What help would you like to receive, if any?
- How did you become aware that you were being abused?
- Looking back, were there warning flags at the beginning that you missed?
- After the first incident of abuse, what happened next?
- Did s/he blame you for the abuse, or did you blame yourself?
- Many opine that in an abusive relationship, joint counseling - which assumes that both parties are equally at fault - can do more harm than good. Did you ever get joint, or individual counseling? What helped, what hurt?
- Does your church/synagogue/mosque tacitly or openly support domestic violence, or has it been a safe refuge for you?
- Did you ever call the police to report a partner's attack? Why or why not?
- How long after the abuse began was it until you left? Why did you stay that long?
- Did the abuse affect your ability to hold a job, or carry out your work responsibilities? Did you ever miss time from work because you were too physically or emotionally battered to go in?
- If you left the relationship, what help from family and friends was most helpful? Most counterproductive?
- Is there mental illness in play; your own or your partner's, either diagnosed or suspected?
- Did your partner ever coerce or force you into sexual intercourse, or perhaps a particular sexual act? Would you call what s/he did rape? Why or why not?
- Did alcohol or drugs play a part in the abuse dynamics - and how?
- What triggered your decision to end the relationship?
- If you have left the relationship, how long ago was it? What remnants of the abuse can you still detect in your life? How has it affected current love relationships - if any?
- Do you feel ashamed that you are/were in a domestically violent relationship? How often, if at all, do you tell people about it?
- What advice would you give someone who is currently being abused by a partner?
If you are a person who has physically or emotionally abused others:
- Why do you think you do it/did it?
- If you can, break down the thoughts and emotions going through your mind just prior to venting your rage at a partner or child.
- Have you stopped? What triggered your decision to stop abusing?
- Were you ever confronted by police as a result of your abuse? Arrested?
- Has domestic violence ever cost you a job or impacted your work?
- Have you been physically or emotionally violent with more than one partner?
- If you have ever been convicted of violence against another person, have you disclosed this to your new love interests? If yes, at what point?
- What kind of counseling/treatment/medications have been helpful, and which have been unhelpful?
- Has alcohol or other drugs played a role in your abusive behavior?
- Do you tell any of your family, friends, co-workers you are/were an abuser?
- What would you tell someone who is currently being abused by a partner?
- What would you say to someone who is currently abusing a partner or child?
If you have been a witness to domestic violence - of a sibling, friend, neighbor, or co-worker:
- Did you notice signs that something was wrong before anything was ever said?
- How did you try to help?
- What methods of help and support seemed to help him/her, and what seemed counter-productive?
- Have you ever called the police because of a neighbor or friend's domestic dispute?
- Do you know someone still in a domestically violent relationship?
- Do you have resources to recommend?
- How has this relationship changed your own life?
- What would you say to someone who knows or suspects domestic violence is occurring to a friend, sibling, neighbor, or co-worker?
As stated above, I'd like your guest posts, 500-800 words long, with at least your own real name if you are comfortable disclosing it, a pseudonym if not, for use here on Writing in Flow during the month of October. If you want to contribute and only feel comfortable writing a short fiction piece of the same length on the subject, I'll take that too.
If you have your own blog and would prefer to do a blog hop with your post living on your own blog, I may put up linkies for that too, that in addition to whatever I post here, provided there's enough interest.
Please send me an e-mail at bevdiehl (at) gmail (dot) com now and let me know you're "in," and if I can count on you for a guest post, or if you prefer to do a blog hop (or better yet, if you're willing to do both). Put Domestic Violence or DV in the subject line so I can sort 'em out from my other e-mails, thanks.
I will send you periodic reminders - October isn't that far away, and this will not be an easy piece to write, I know.
***Domestic Violence Resources
National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) TTY- 1-800-787-3224
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (includes downloadable guides for helping women in abusive relationships)
RAINN - Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network 1.800.656.HOPE
National Alliance on Mental Illness, aka NAMI
National Clearinghouse on Family Violence - you will need to opt for English or French
Women's Aid - 0808 2000 247
Australia & New Zealand:
Domestic Violence Information Manual - phone numbers vary by territory
For Male Victims:
Why Men Stay in Abusive Relationships
Repeating: Please send me an e-mail at bevdiehl (at) gmail (dot) com now and let me know you're "in," and if I can count on you for a guest post, or if you prefer to do a blog hop (or, if you're willing to do both). Put Domestic Violence or DV in the subject line so I can sort 'em out from my other e-mails, thanks.
Also if you have any book recommendations - either fiction or non-fiction, that deal with physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, please e-mail to me or leave in the comments, below.
Also, thank you in advance for sharing this invitation among your social network.