welcome to the danger zone

I Am Glad You Find Humor in That Fractured Eyesocket

Today, you’ll watch some poor animal in a “save these animals” commercial and you’ll cry. How horrific.

Today, you’ll read an article or see a news clip about a child abuser. You’ll be outraged and call for castration, death or whatever could be worse.

Today, some football player will deck his girlfriend, or the girl down the street will beat the crap out of her boyfriend, or a partner in a same sex relationship with assault the other partner. Or they will verbally humiliate them, or they will text them a billion times asking where they are, what they are doing, who they are with, demanding they come home. You’ll cringe. You’ll be embarrassed for them, and you comment on why they stay.

Or worse, you’ll make a lame joke about it. How the person committing the assault has a great left hook, or how if they stay they deserve another slap.

You won’t get it.

You won’t get how an abuser culls and primes the victim, grooming them, creating a cycle where every horrible act is followed by an apology and a promise that things will change. Flowers, or dinners, or gift, or vacations, or cards, or even just a kiss and hug. Begging. Pleading. And for the very same reasons you have taken back your partner after they lied, cheated, called you names, had a fight, you took them back and gave them another chance, a victim of abuse believes that the abuser didn’t mean it, is truly sorry and WILL CHANGE, YES, THIS TIME THEY WILL CHANGE. They won’t. But we all want to believe that things will go back to the way they were before the abuse started. We all remember what it’s like to feel like you are the center of someone’s world. We don’t want that to change. We want to be love, we invest in a relationship and we stay committed because we want it to work. Abusers don’t just start punching a person randomly one day, it’s a lot of little steps until the violence starts. And they spend a lot of time tearing away their partner’s self-esteem until they feel like they deserve what they get, that no one will ever love them like the abuser does. Abusers make them feel isolated, diminished, broken, unloveable, and when the violence starts, they may try to leave, but the promises that it will never happen again seem so real, so true, and they LOVE you.

I could go on and on about what the cycle of violence is, and how to break free of it. I can tell you about how I would never allow someone to hit me, until I did. And fortunately for me, it was only once. But the emotional abuse associated with that relationship was far worse. And I didn’t know what abuse was while I was in it. I thought it was okay because I saw it at home and I saw my friends in those kinds of relationships. We whispered about it and wondered why those who had it the worst didn’t leave. And it never hit home until a good friend’s sister was gunned down in the street by her abuser. Then it was all too very real. And the lives of three families changed forever that day. She did what everyone told her to do, to leave, get away from him. She did exactly that. And he killed her.

It’s not about love, it’s about power. And the abuser holds great power over the victim. It’s not like turning off a switch. Look at your own relationships when they end – even if it was your choice to end it – it’s not like your feelings switch off for that person. We hang on to the good. We try to forgive the bad. And we desperately want to be loved.

I will spare you my feminist diatribe about how our culture creates victims, and creates women with poor self-esteem. It does. But men are victims too. And women are abusers. But the bottom line is this – victims need you to be their ally. To be the ear, the shoulder, the hand, that is there for them, and let’s them know that you are afraid for them, but will be there when they are ready to make a choice that could save their lives. Yelling at them, threatening them, demeaning them will not make them leave. It’s what their abusers already do, and how effective is that to them. So instead of telling them to leave, let them know you’ll listen, and when they are ready to make a decision you will support it. Tell them you love them, you care and more than anything, you want them to be happy. Remind them they are strong, because they are. They are beautiful, because they are, and they are smart. Talk to them about coming up with a plan for safety if they aren’t ready or willing to leave. And let them know they are loved.

And to my friends who think this recent incident in the media is an opportunity to make jokes. I forgive you. I don’t excuse you, but I forgive you. It may make you uncomfortable or remind you of your own experiences, and maybe that’s why you make light of it. But know this, I am disappointed in the fact that you find one person hurting another person to be something to make jokes about. And I hope you never find yourself or someone you love in that situation. But the reality is that 1 in 3 women have experienced domestic violence in their relationships and the statistic isn’t that much greater for men.

Love doesn’t leave bruises (unless it’s by mutual consent with a safe word, but that’s something entirely different)

Educate your self and find out to help someone you love. AND MOTHERS AND FATHERS, READ THIS CAREFULLY – the cell phone is a dangerous tool in partner violence. If you child is receiving non-stop calls and text, and/or their phones mysteriously are being broken or lost, that’s a big fat warning sign. Talk to you child immediately, and keep talking.

Here’s a couple of links to with great information:

http://www.breakthecycle.org/join-love-not-abuse-coalition

http://www.loveisrespect.org/helping-co-worker-abusive-relationship

http://www.thehotline.org/

And if you don’t think I take this dead seriously, understand this…the season premiere of SOA started fifteen minutes ago…but I wanted to make sure I finished and posted this before I started my 90 minutes of joy. Because if I help one person at least think about the impact of abuse…then mission accomplished.

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