October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. I find this ironic following the media explosion surrounding the domestic violence against Janay Palmer (Ray Rice’s wife), just last month. Following the media explosion, facebook exploded likewise. Suddenly, everyone had an opinion on Janay or domestic violence, or worse yet, they were suddenly experts and life coaches. Talking about how weak or money hungry she must be to have now married him.
Even now, when the issue is discussed, it’s “Ray Rice’s wife”. Janay has no name, yet when the blame lands, it often lands on her shoulders. Here is one of the main issues our society perpetrates surrounding domestic violence, victim shaming. Victim shaming makes it hard for someone to speak out. Even if a woman in domestic violence wants or needs help, why would someone emotionally shattered and terrified of her abuser ask help of a society that will twist it back on her? Just as the abuser likely does. Next, how do we expect to educate the next generation on this issue if survivors hear those same lines of shaming and are therefore themselves ashamed to speak out?
So, in honor of my last blog; in honor of speaking out, pushing standards, and breaking norms as I suggested we all do I will follow my own advice. I will speak out on my own experiences, and try to shed a small ray of light for anyone that may be willing to listen.
I am a survivor of domestic violence. There, I said it, for all the public. Something I thought I would never do. My friends and family closest to me know, some without ever having been directly told, but announcing it to the world has always been a terrifying prospect. Part of my lack of desire to do so comes from the very victim shaming referenced above. I’ve opened up to people to hear responses of, “what did you do to make him hit you?” “Well, you should have left.” “I would never stand for such a thing.” Such callous responses took away my voice for a long time, causing me to turn inward and sabotage many potential relationships. I chose to be alone, rather than open up myself to anymore pain.
I have survived years of emotional warfare, verbal storms, choking, hitting, and many other unspeakable terrors. I am not a “victim” of domestic violence, I am a survivor. I got away, but could not have done so without the amazing support system that is my family. I can say, with sincere certainty that had it not been for the financial and emotional support of my family, I may have never left and I would likely be dead. But, then what of those women who do not have the resources I am so blessed to have had?
So, here is my little ray of educational light. Before we judge women involved in domestic violence, present or past, let me explain some of the dynamics that cause women to stay. Why I stayed, why many others stay, and, hopefully, by doing so, it will cultivate compassion in others. So that next time the topic arises, we can lift survivors and victims in hope and love, rather than further their pain through misunderstandings. Continue reading