As today dawned on the fourth anniversary of my friend’s death, I remember how she died. Why she died is never far from my memory of her, inexorably entwined with the sound of her name which is sad because she was much more than her murder.
Why then do I continue to talk about her death on this day in addition to her life? I read something recently that answered just that question.
“Finally, the scariest thing about abuse of any shape or form, is, in my opinion, not the abuse itself, but that if it continues it can begin to feel commonplace and eventually acceptable. Writing this book and knowing it will be discussed around the world is in some way insurance for me that my story will never be thought of as commonplace, never acceptable, and for that I thank my publishers and everyone involved with making it happen from the bottom of my heart.” – Alan Cumming, Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir
Continuing to talk about, continuing to bring her experiences to light lets people suffering now, tolerating now, afraid to get out now that there is help for them now. Regardless of what their family tells them is or isn’t abuse, regardless of what society tells them to put up with, to ignore, regardless and despite that, there are people who will listen; people there to help.
If Brittany’s death means anything, it is a reminder that domestic violence is often hidden from the neighbors. It is often ignored by the people closest to the victim. Victims should not be ashamed or silenced. We need to more reliably hold the abusers accountable and refuse the double standard that puts women in jail for defending themselves and blames them for their own abuse.
In 2013, Patrick Stewart said about his childhood, “I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, “She must have provoked him,” or, “Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight.” They had no idea. The truth is my mother did nothing to deserve the violence she endured. She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it” and that is true. It is never the victim’s fault. We need to stand up and defend and support victims, offer them an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, and know the resources for assistance, and to offer whatever kind of help we’re willing to provide.
Donate money and time to a battered women’s shelter. Be aware of all the forms that abuse takes: emotional, economical, sexual, verbal, physical.
Four years ago, I received a phone call that made me rethink many things, one of which was my ability to forgive myself for some of my poor reactions and choices in hearing about some of Brittany’s abuse before she was murdered. I wasn’t a close friend of hers; I didn’t witness Brittany’s abuse personally, but I was close enough that I should have supported her more than I did. That is something that I could have done. It was nearly too late when I had.
Why is this about me? This yearly anniversary is my redemption. I can learn from my mistakes and make others aware of the mistakes they may be making by “minding their own business.” It is my reminder to do better and to offer solutions rather than add to the troubles.
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-273-8255
The Trevor Project 1-866-488-7386