Ok, so my title is a little inflammatory, but read on before you become too defensive.
I’m hoping you’ve seen at least one purple ribbon this month and have a general idea of what Domestic Violence (DV) is. I could talk about statistics or how many deaths each year are DV related (22-25% nationally and believed to be grossly under-reported). You can Google that. Or you might have already heard it if you attended one of the many DV Awareness events that happen in October. What about the other 11 months? Silence is Killer.
We’ve all had THAT friend that has been a victim. We are sympathetic, we offer to help, we might even offer to beat up the abuser (or worse!). But are we really helping or are we adding to the problem?
To understand, let’s first define DV:
Any abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household on another can constitute domestic violence.
We can split hairs and say it’s technically between two intimate partners (married or not) but I like the above definition.
So if you’ve never beat or raped your intimate partner, you’re doing pretty good, right? What about the VERBAL part of DV? How many of you have called your partner worthless, a**hole, wh*re, etc. in the heat of the moment? ONE or TWO incidents of this in the heat of the moment does not an abuser make, but it definitely puts you on a slippery path. Let it become a pattern and it becomes more difficult to label yourself “not an abuser”.
But what about the friends of that above mentioned “friend”? We’ve all known someone who dates a jerk that beats her/him, puts her/him down, etc. And what do we do as the supportive friend?
We say things like:
“You don’t need to put up with his/her sh*t!”
“Leave, you can do better!”
“Why on God’s earth would you stay with them?”
“I told you they weren’t right for you!”
“I can’t believe you’re still with him/her. I wouldn’t put up with that!”
By saying these “helpful” statements, we are just helping the abuser out. The abuser has already taken our friend’s self-esteem and made it virtually non-existent. We re-enforce that by telling them how “Stupid” they are for staying. Read the italicized statements again– they are all judgemental. To someone with no self-esteem they can sound like an attack. We might even get mad at them (the victim!) for going back to the abuser, for dropping the charges, for giving the abuser “just one more chance”.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve said similar. I have too. I wanted to just make my friend see how precious she was and how she deserved SO MUCH BETTER. I was so happy when she took out papers against her abuser and madder than hell when she dropped those charges/papers within 48 hours. Now I know better. Educate yourself. Educate your friends. Be supportive and NON JUDGEMENTAL of anyone that is going through this. Try to find resources for them to get the help they need without making them feel bad. Speak up. One awesome sheriff that totally gets the victim’s mentality said “if it’s predictable, it’s preventable.” If you see violence escalating in you or someone you love’s life, get help! There is safe help out there.