Domestic violence awareness month happens in October. Maybe that’s because it’s getting closer to the holidays, and that’s a prime time for tempers to flare, control to be lost, and violence to erupt. Domestic violence impacts 1 in 3 women. That is a huge number of victims. In addition, there is a double standard when it comes to defending one’s self against domestic violence: women are more likely to go to jail for defending themselves than men are for the initial attack. Men murder their partner, and they go to jail for maybe a few years. Women killing their partners in self-defense after years of abuse will often get sentenced into the decades.
This isn’t about statistics, though.
About now, some of you may be wondering, if domestic violence awareness month is in October, why am I bringing this up in May. A week and a day ago was the seventh anniversary of my friend’s murder by her ex. She was murdered while washing out a tea kettle in the bathroom. One of her roommates was also killed. I am sad and embarrassed to say that I was in the ranks of being a victim-blamer, and I take every May to reevaluate her situation, realize how little I was able to see from my vantage point, and promise to do better when I see things in the future.
I made assumptions based on the little I knew, not realizing that there was an iceberg hidden that I was only seeing a very small, tiny bit of. That tiny bit gave me a false sense of security as well as superiority. Hubris.
It took me a long time to come to grips with my part as something of an enabler by dismissing what I was hearing as nonsense; by ignoring the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. I’ve prayed. I’ve journaled. I, along with other friends, did an anniversary/memorial tea tasting meditation ceremony (not sure how else to describe it.) It brought me closer to my friend and closer to closure for myself.
Leaving an abusive situation is not as simple as walking out of the door. There are emotional factors. There are economic factors. The one thing I learned is that it’s easy to judge someone from the outside. It’s easy to know the “right” call to make when you’re not the one who has to make it.
I wasn’t close enough to the situation to have stopped her murder, but I could have been less judgmental. I could have been more patient with her idiosyncrasies that in hindsight made sense even if they didn’t at the time. I could have been more supportive.
If you are, or someone you know is living in an abusive situation, ask what you can do to help. Offer options and solutions. Don’t tell the person what they “should” be doing or what you would be doing differently if you were in that situation.
The number to call for help is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233