October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The goal is to bring attention to the issue of domestic violence and how it effects families, communities, and our society at large. Public awareness of domestic violence is definitely an important part of addressing the issue. However, many individuals on the receiving end of domestic violence are not truly aware themselves that they are being abused, or convinced of the extent of their abuse.
If there is a pattern of childhood abuse, no matter how subtle, a woman may not be fully aware she is being abused as an adult. She either won’t know there is anything wrong, or if she does, she will not be outraged by the abuse. For example, if a child grows up feeling ignored and devalued, she won’t know she does not have to accept belittling and disrespect in her adult relationship. She is already used to it.
If she experienced violence of any type – physical, verbal, or emotional in childhood, it will be difficult for her to be aware of her present adult danger and do something about it. Therefore, individual awareness is the crucial first step to addressing the issue of domestic violence. The woman must have knowledge of domestic violence and all of the many ways it presents itself. She must be conscious of herself as being in an abusive situation. She must also perceive the situation as totally unacceptable. This is awareness for those on the receiving end of domestic violence.
Secondly, domestic violence exists because, as recipients, we are silent. We are silent because we are ashamed, stunned, numb, afraid, and confused. We have never, in our wildest imagination, thought we would be abused as adults. It is very easy to pretend the very first incident never happened. Even though we know it did take place. However, if it happened the first time, it will happen again unless we speak up.
The very first time you are abused in any way, tell someone and do even more research on the subject. Become fully informed. Let the abuser know his actions and words are totally unacceptable from the very beginning. If the abuser is your spouse, make sure he knows, if it happens again, you are gone for good. Then you must make plans to leave. Don’t wait for it to happen again before you begin making your plans to leave for good. You will need to have the plans in place. Abuse is a terrible violation of trust. You must be ready at any moment to protect yourself and your children. If your partner seeks counseling and learns non-abusive communication, that’s fine. Overtime, you may begin to trust him again. If he does not get help, the abuse is in him. Develop and refine your plans. If anything abusive happens the second time, you’re on your way to a new life!
Many women ask, “Why can’t I just stay and pretend? We are all settled –children, nice home, manicured lawn, cars . . . “. The answer is NO, you cannot pretend. Your spirit does not pretend. Your body does not pretend. The emotional and physical health of your children do not pretend. Domestic violence is traumatic for you and your children. Medical studies have proven that trauma remains in the mind and body long after the traumatic events have passed. You cannot stay and pretend!
National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is for the victim as well as the public!