Last week I attended a luncheon at the YWCA of Cincinnati. The lunch itself was lovely (including one of the best cookies I have ever had). The topic was highly un-lovely but exceedingly important. So important that I am taking a moment to be serious and tell you about it. The topic was Domestic Violence. #YWeEndViolence
Scary Fact #1: 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives.
One of the speakers at the lunch told us this. Then she said “Look around. Many of you in this room have directly encountered domestic violence.” Wow.
Truth: A home should be a safe haven. No one should ever have to worry about their safety or the safety of their mother or child in their own home.
Scary Fact #2: In most cases, abusers make a choice to use violence.
The notion that most abusers “can’t help themselves” or “are driven to violence” is a bunch of hogwash. These men (most, but not all, abusers are men) are making a decision to use violence or emotional exploitation.
Truth: No one deserves to be abused NO MATTER WHAT.
Scary Fact #3: Chronic stress damages the brain and our youngest children are the most vulnerable. If no one is available (or able) to soothe, settle, and make the child feel safe, toxic stress builds up. Toxic stress causes children to lose more IQ points than lead exposure does.
Most children can recover from living with domestic violence. One of the most important factors is having a strong relationship with the non-violent parent.
Scary Fact #4: Little boys are more vulnerable than girls. They are more likely to be hurt, more likely to become violent, and more likely to be written off by family members including the non-violent parent (“Oh, he’s just like his dad”).
When the parent “writes off” the child, the nurturing environment is taken away and the boy is more likely to become a batter as he grows up.
The court system awards custody to the violent parent more often than to the survivor—even when the survivor is recovering and likely to be able to provide a safe, nurturing environment for the child.
Scary Fact #5: One out of three (that’s 1 out of 3) teens experiences dating violence. Often this is our younger (12-14 year old) kids.
As a mother, I find this absolutely terrifying.
Scary Fact #6: In homes where children and a spouse are abused, the majority of pets are abused.
Often children are willing to tell a non-family member what’s happening with their pet far earlier than they will admit what’s happening to them or their mother. Women frequently won’t leave an abusive situation because they are afraid of what will happen to their pet.
Scary Fact #7: Children frequently blame themselves for not being able to make the situation better.
No one should ever have to feel they are the cause of domestic violence. No one should ever, ever be told “if only…”.
What Can You Do?
What You Can Do #1: Donate your used cell phone to Verizon’s Hopeline. They’ll refurbish the phone and donate to people in need.
What You Can Do #2: Listen. If someone needs to talk, be there to listen and support her.
What You Can Do #3: Always, always respect her decision. There are many reasons a woman may choose to stay in an abusive relationship. There are reasons a woman may choose to stay in a relationship where her children are seeing the abuse. You cannot know the situation as well as she does.
What You Can Do #4: Learn some of the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships.
What You Can Do #5: Find out about resources in your area. In Cincinnati, the YWCA provides all kinds of services including several shelters where women and their children can go with just the clothes on their back and be in a safe, supportive environment.
I hope that you never meet anyone who has lived with or who is living with domestic violence or emotional abuse. But the numbers suggest otherwise. So I hope that you will be the solid rock someone needs to take back control of her life.