October 1, 2009

This Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is currently recognized as domestic violence awareness month. So many people lose their lives due to family violence that virtually all of us are or will be touched by it directly or indirectly at some point in time. It may be a friend, family member, classmate, neighbor, co-worker, or member of your church. You may know the victim or you may know the perpetrator. That's why it's important for people to become aware and educated about the various dynamics that are involved.

You may be in a position to help someone find their way out of an abusive life, the way a friend of mine helped me. You can carry hotline numbers in your cell phone and give them to someone who may need it. You may be in a position to talk to the batterer that you know and advise him to get help. You may be able to donate money, your time, clothing, food, toys, bedding, etc., to an organization that helps victims.

Maybe you can be that shoulder to cry on for someone that confides in you about their situation. If you are, do me a favor, don't ever ask them what did they do to make the person who abused them mad, don't ask them why do they stay. Don't make them feel in any way that they are at fault for what has been happening to them. What you can do is listen, let them know that they aren't alone and you will help them get out if they want to.

I lost a cousin to domestic violence many years ago. She had a violent boyfriend that used to beat her. Well one day this man shot her in the apartment they lived in with her 3 young children (ages 5, 3 & 18 mos.) - the 2 youngest were his daughter and son. He blew a hole in her with a sawed off shot gun and then left, leaving those terrified and traumatized babies alone with their dying mother. I can't imagine the fear and shock those children were in. It still makes me cry to think about what they went through.

The friend we are staying with also lost a friend to a violent husband. She was planning to leave him. She was doing it more methodically and was almost done with all she felt she needed to do before leaving. But it wasn't soon enough. Her husband shot and killed her, then killed himself, leaving their two young sons orphans.

Sometimes people forget that usually there are children in these homes where violence is occurring. These are the smallest and most innocent of victims. It is terrifying for children to witness adults fighting, let alone their parents. My children experienced it their entire lives and that breaks my heart much more than anything that was done to me.

When my daughter tells me that at times she was under her covers crying and trembling while hearing her father fighting me, it makes me cry. She was the only little girl in the house and this is her introduction to what a man is and how he treats women. I was supposed to be daddy's girl and she was supposed to be daddy's little girl. Yet we were nothing to him. During one of his violent episodes she and I huddled in the kitchen on the floor next to a window. He came over and dragged me across the floor, and as she clung to me screaming, he just dragged us both. This was about a week before Christmas.

I think of all the times when she was a baby and toddler before her brother was born. Then even after he was born, but still too young to be a companion to her. How frightening it had to be with no one to hide with while daddy hit mommy. My daughter said that she hates her father. I am trying to help her move past those feelings through forgiveness so that she can be free.

My little boys who may have been too young to clearly articulate it's affect on them, other than to say they were scared and it makes them sad, have also been deeply wounded. They naturally looked up to daddy as little boys are expected to. Daddy was supposed to show them how to treat women. But daddy didn't know himself and showed them the wrong way, so I guess I'll have to.

I'm saddened at the fact that my cousin, like so many other women, have lost their lives at the hands of stupid, angry and violent men. Women who didn't make it out in time or didn't know how to get out. I thank God that I had someone help me. Thank you Shei, I love you girl!!! You saved us!

So please take a minute to follow a link and read a little bit so that maybe you can be that lifeline to someone else one day.

http://www.safehorizon.org/ - This organization was the one I called after I was given the hotline number by a good friend. They offered to get me and the children into a safe and confidential location. It was in that moment in time that I decided I could actually leave my husband. We were in a secret shelter within 2 days. Having some place to go made the difference.

http://www.tplv.org/index - After leaving NY and coming to PA, I was told about this organization. They offered counseling and support groups for victims in addition to shelter. My children and I were able to continue the counseling we started in NY with some great people down here. Because the damage inflicted by domestic violence goes so much deeper than the physical wounds, being in counseling is so very important. Every person that has experienced DV should have someone to talk to that understands them.

http://www.stopfamilyviolence.org/ - This organization works to bring about social change in the area of domestic violence by giving a voice to those affected by family violence. They bring the much needed attention to these issues to the legislators and politicians on every level of government to bring about the changes that are so necessary. The website is full of tragic news stories that are sad examples of family violence to the extreme. People lose their lives everyday because of this, it's more prevalent than you can imagine and it's so under reported.

The following links deal with the effects domestic violence has on children.

These links are to various organizations that provide information, resources, and help.