October 31, 2011

Monsters Are Real

Today is Halloween, the last day of October, which is also the last day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

I'm just not sure anyone is more aware of the plague of domestic violence and family abuse than they were in September.

Both adults and children will put on costumes to trick or treat, to party and to scare, all in fun. 

But we must always be aware, that there are real monsters out there. 

Monsters that don't have fangs, or rotting flesh. They don't make you scream when you see them walking down the street. Nevertheless, they are the scariest monsters of all. They are the men and sometimes women, that bring fear, terror and pain to those they are supposed to love. 

They are the ones that cause us to tremble under our covers, keep us awake at night, and give us nightmares. They make the day as dark and scary as the night. They break our bones, hearts and spirits. They spill our blood and cause death to our dreams, souls and bodies. They suck life and hope, out of us. They are the real flesh eaters, zombies and vampires. 

They are hard to spot because they look just like everyone else. They hold good jobs, they are leaders in their communities. They are the nicest guys on their blocks, they are polite and helpful to strangers. They are always smiling.

Don't be fooled. That is only how they appear to others. Behind closed doors, to their families, they are bone-chillingly terrifying.

Remember, violent serial killers and mass murderers, can appear charming too.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month happens to be the same month as Breast Cancer Awareness, but I don't think it's a good idea. Both issues are important and because they affect so many people, each cause should have their own month to be brought to the forefront.

My problem is, people seem to eagerly embrace the issue of breast cancer, while they ignore the issue of domestic violence. 

Why is that? 

Maybe people feel that breast cancer is something that the victim can't help or didn't cause, unlike domestic violence, right? We must've done something to make him hit us or we must be okay with it or we would leave.

Maybe they feel that breast cancer is something that the victim didn't want or ask for, unlike domestic violence right? We must want it or we would just leave.

Maybe they see breast cancer victims as those deserving of compassion, unlike domestic violence victims. Why feel compassion for someone who could help herself but won't. 

Maybe they feel breast cancer is an issue that concerns us all, unlike domestic violence which is a personal one. Right? Hey, not our business. What goes on in someone's home is private. Man's gotta a right to keep his family in line anyway he wants to.

I don't know what the reasons are, but all month long, I saw pink ribbons everywhere. I saw them in the supermarket, in store windows, on TV, and a variety of products from balloons, doughnuts, potato chips and cookies. People wore T-shirts and ran races for a cure.

I didn't see a purple ribbon anywhere, except at the candlelight vigil I attended in honor of victims and survivors of domestic violence. It was not on a single bag of chips, in a single store window, on a single commercial, or cookie. No one ran a race to put an end to domestic violence. 

If I weren't a survivor of domestic violence, I wouldn't be aware of the issue at all and actually wasn't until I became one. I certainly wouldn't know there is a month dedicated to bringing the issue to light. Both breast cancer and domestic violence are extremely significant issues and they both affect women. Actually, domestic violence affects men and children too.

I just feel one is less threatening to the general public and more commercial in terms of selling products. Breast cancer doesn't make people feel uncomfortable, domestic violence does. Why are people so uneasy about it? Is it because they know its wrong and when they know it's going on and don't do or say anything about it, they feel guilt and shame?

Well, I don't know a single person whose had breast cancer. None of my friends or family. Yet, I am very cognizant of the breast cancer issue. The same should be said of domestic violence. People should be as aware of domestic violence as they are of breast cancer.

But domestic violence is pushed to the back, swept under the rug, hid in the closet, the dark secret in our society. 

It's not fair. Women die due to domestic violence, just like they die due to breast cancer. But breast cancer doesn't send women to the emergency room with fractured and broken bones. It doesn't give them black eyes and busted lips. It doesn't cause their bodies to be covered with purple, black and blue bruises all over. It doesn't cause their children to live in terror or grow up and repeat the cycle. Children also die because of domestic violence, they don't die of breast cancer.

I would suggest that Domestic Violence Awareness Month be moved to February - a month that people associate with love. Let's associate it with broken hearts for the love that has been twisted and perverted and turned into a weapon. But then again it would probably just be overshadowed by chocolate, hearts, roses and cupids.

What about January? Too much winding down from the holidays and settling into the New Year.
March? Shamrocks and Leprechauns.
April? Easter.
May? Mother's Day.
June? Graduations.
July? Hmmm...maybe, it quiets down after the 4th.
August? Strong possibility. Nothing special going on this month.
September? Back to school.
November? Thanksgiving.
December? Christmas.

My vote would be for moving Domestic Violence Awareness Month to August. No distracting symbols going on during that month, giving the purple ribbons an opportunity to be seen and the association to the issue to take root.

But whether or not there is a month that centers around this issue, it is something that I personally believe almost everyone has come in direct contact with. Whether its the doctors or other health care workers that treat victims, whether it's a family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, we can all think of someone that has been effected by this. 

Aside from myself, I've had numerous family members, some friends, fellow church members and co-workers, that were direct victims of violence. 

Domestic violence is a  universal pandemic and just as urgent as any other issue that affects the health, physical or mental well being, and quality of life of a human being. 

And we all need to care about that.