Since 2006, 14 Valentines has striven to both celebrate how far women have come, and to increase awareness for how far we still have to go for full equality, autonomy, and inclusion.
TW Domestic Violence, TW Violence Against Women
Thank you to zao-gao/perfectivity for providing today's essay!
There are two common misconceptions that people have about domestic violence, the first being: “Why do people abuse?”. This was a question presented to me two years ago, and I diligently listed out all the reasons I could think of: substance abuse, mental health issues, coping mechanisms, anger issues--I came up with every single reason I could, except I the most important one: “Because they choose to.”
No matter what excuse we might use to explain abuse, or to dismiss it, in the end, everyone has a choice. Violence has become such a fixture in our society, that we cannot even imagine ourselves free from its reign. Since that day, I find myself questioning more of the things that I see in television and film, more and more of the anecdotes that my friends tell me about their significant others. I must remind myself, and other women: this is not okay. You did not do anything to deserve this--whether it is being followed, having your privacy violated by someone who goes through your phone and computer, being slapped, hit, punch, beaten, strangled, being insulted, humiliated, manipulated. Being afraid. No one should ever do these things to you, especially those whoclaim to love you.
A second misconception about domestic violence is that it is easy for a woman to leave an abusive relationship. This is completely untrue. It can be the hardest thing that she will ever have to do, and that is telling as she has already lived through the abuse. There can be many reasons for this: one of the most common is that she wants to stay for her children. After all how can you explain to a child that he or she will have to leave their father? That their mother is afraid of the one of the people they love the most in the world? On the other hand, can you imagine making the decision to leave your children, even if it is for your own safety?
There are many other reasons that a woman chooses not to leave her abuser and this is no coincidence. An abuser’s most powerful weapon is the control he has over his victim. He may be supporting her financially after convincing her to leave her job. He may have isolated her from her family and friends and she may have no one to turn to for support.
Culture and her religion can be used as tools to keep her from leaving: an abuser could use the concept of family pride and dishonor, to prevent an Asian woman from leaving her family or speaking of her mistreatment. For those that practice Orthodox Judaism, an abuser might refuse a divorce, meaning that the woman can never remarry under her religion. These are only a few examples of why a woman has trouble leaving.
Abusive relationships can be different for each person, so I believe the best thing you can do if you mean a survivor of domestic violence is to meet her where she is--listen to her story: does she want simply want someone to speak to? Has she considered leaving him? Is she ready to speak to a domestic violence counselor? Let her know that she is not alone, that she does not deserve to be mistreated, that she should not be ashamed. Call the police if she is immediate danger and advise her to do the same.
If you want to get more involved, please consider volunteering at a local domestic violence agency. Volunteers may be needed to do administrative work, answer hotlines, spend time playing with children, help with events or a number of different things. If you are unable to volunteer, but want to help those in your community please donate to local domestic violence shelter. Some high-need items are women’s clothing, food, diapers and other baby items. You can search for domestic violence agencies in your area and speak to a representative about volunteering or donating.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Fact Sheet:
National Network to End Domestic Violence: Coalitions by State