1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some sort of violence at the hands of their partners, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On an average day, 20,000 calls are made to domestic violence hotlines in this country, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports.
The numbers are mind blowing. What’s worse… We probably don’t even know the half of it. Many victims don’t come forward.
We’re in the middle of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it’s about damn time we push the conversation to the next level.
For the better part of the last year I’ve volunteered in a shelter for women and children who have left abusive homes. I’ve also interviewed survivors and put their stories on television. Rape, broken limbs, terrified children. The list goes on.
I’ve never felt so heartbroken and so angry in my life.
Too often we ask these women (and men) why they stayed. Why the hell aren’t we asking the abuser why they hit? Why aren’t we demanding harsher penalties from our lawmakers? Why are celebrities being glorified after their headlines go away? It’s a disgrace.
By ignoring domestic violence, we’re enabling it. Simple as that.
Silence is society’s way of saying we don’t care.
Let’s do something about it. Here’s where we can start.
1.) Have an honest, straightforward talk with your kids, especially if you have teenagers.
Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18, according to loveisrespect.
It gets worse. Young women ages 16-24 are the most vulnerable to violence, more than triple the national average, the Department of Justice reports.
From my experience in talking with survivors– and through my own unhealthy relationships as a young woman– it starts with comments here and there. And then it leads to manipulation. “Why are you flirting with him?” and “You make me so mad!” leads to “Fatty” and “Whore”. Grabbing an arm to the point where it hurts can lead to a shove against a wall and then a slap on the face.
Violence doesn’t start overnight. It is sneaky and it is isolating.
Learn the signs and talk to your children.
Trust me, you would be surprised how quickly an abuser can get into their mind.
2.) Don’t be a bystander. You may be their only way out.
People tend to think “it’s their business” when they see a man being verbally or physically rough with a woman (or an abuser in any kind of relationship).
We HAVE to speak up. Call police, call security, do whatever it takes.
Because if we don’t, that woman will leave and who knows what could happen. They could lose their life.
Be the one who speaks up for her.
3.) Get involved in your community.
Local shelters for have little money and few supplies. If you have the time, volunteer or spend an afternoon serving meals or playing with the kids.
If you’ve got the money, start shopping. Toiletries, clothing, bedding, anything. Call them and see what they need.
It may be one of the most rewarding things you’ll do. It certainly was for me.
The more we do together, the safer and healthier we’ll all be.