May 7

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It was three years ago today that I was introduced to Domestic Violence Awareness. I hadn’t thought much about it before. What I did have in my head (If they really wanted to leave, they would), was the simplistic, naïve, victim-blaming misinformation continues to appease our collective consciences.

Even before May 7, 2011, I questioned the motives behind many actions that I did not understand at the time, often cynical, always having the answer that for some reason the others in the situation couldn’t see. I still can’t believe this was my thinking.

I won’t ask the questions, but I will give you the answers:

All of my earnings were banked jointly.

I worked for my marital partner. He didn’t always pay me.

I sold my car because I couldn’t afford to fix it.

Do I sleep on the street or in the house that I own?

These are just the tip of the pull yourself up by your bootstraps domestic violence skeptics’ iceberg used to justify scorn against the victim. Below the water is the big part; the unseen danger, hidden away from the public eye, shared only if you trusted the person. And after years of abuse from someone you had trusted, how many more people can you safely let in?

Three years ago today at 5:30pm EST (2:30pm PST), I received a phone call from my friend. He was at the hospital with a bullet in his ankle. He said he didn’t know about Brittany and that he’d call me later. In retrospect, I think he did know, but he wasn’t ready to say it out loud and I certainly wasn’t ready to hear it. I couldn’t blame him for that.

Just a few minutes after Noon, California time, Brittany’s ex, who lived on the property, had shot and killed her while she was washing the kettle in the bathroom. He then shot and killed a second roommate and then shot a third (who survived) before killing himself.

Domestic violence awareness isn’t posters or slogans. It isn’t easy solutions or reconciling with your abuser because of children or money or shelter.

It is violent and brutal and needs not to be glorified in music or television or pop culture as it often is.

It is about getting them away from their abusers.

It is support.

It is blaming the guilty – the abuser, and in this case, the murderer.

It is about protecting and remembering the victims.

Brittany would have been thirty in March of this year. I now know her longer in death than in life. As much as I talk or write about the inspiration her spirit has given me. I would have preferred her presence and the positive impact she would have made on my life and the lives of those around her.

Domestic Violence Awareness is looking at a picture of Brittany, her timeless youth a reminder of all that was lost and all that we still must do to help the victims of domestic abuse and violence and continue helping and rescuing the victims. That is domestic violence awareness.

It is keeping others from having a May 7th.

If you or anyone you know is in need of advice or support, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at:

1-800-799-7233

or visit them online: http://www.thehotline.org

Domestic Violence Affects Us All

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Every month has something, and October is listed as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but for me that will always be in May.

Today to be precise.

May 7th.

Before that date, domestic violence was something that happened to someone else; someone on the news somewhere. Victims of domestic violence left their abuser and went to shelters and lived happily ever after, didn’t they? At least that was the myth I grew up with.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

Most victims of domestic abuse never leave their abusers. Many blame themselves for their abuse. Women who fight back are more likely to be arrested and convicted and sent to jail than their abuser was for his offenses. You do not always see a victim of domestic abuse. Their bruises are not always on the outside. Some bruises are hidden. Or they’re “accident prone”. Or they’re emotionally and verbally abused. Or sexually. There is no way to know, but one in three is a victim of some sort of domestic abuse or violence. Despite restraining orders, many of those (mostly) women are murdered.

The last thing I expected when my phone rang on May 7th was to find out that my friend had been shot. He survived, but his other two roommates did not.

Brittany was twenty-seven years old in 2011 when she died from a gunshot. She and our mutual friend moved back into her house where her ex lived on the property. She had just lost her apartment and was in the process of suing him for money that he’d owed her from the house and their business. They hadn’t been in a relationship for the previous two years before that. Since it was her property, the judge said she could live there and they would need to get along.

It remained very tense and stressful. Nearly every time I called, there was some reference made to her ex and some violent display he’d exhibited including the night before the murders.

Before May 7th I wasn’t terribly worried. I was a little worried, but my two friends were leaving soon. In a few weeks, they’d be flying to meet up with another mutual friend and hike for the year and a half to two years on the other side of the world.

That day wasn’t going to come, though.

I received the phone call. A very serious voice on the other end of the phone, no time for chit-chat, I could hear that in his voice, just the facts, ma’am – that was the voice. Listen to me, this is important.

There’s a moment during one of these phone calls that you go deaf. The same thing happens on a television show. The camera pans the room, and begins to focus on the person holding the telephone. They’re not talking but everyone is talking around them; it’s probably a dinner party. The voices turn into a buzz and the sound effects people do a great job of lowering the conversation and raising the sound of the telephone in the person’s ear; the one we’re supposed to be focusing on, and pretty soon we can’t hear the crowd of people around her, and we’re not supposed to. The special effects and sound folks have done their job, and we hear what the person on the telephone hears and it is a very dramatic moment.

This is what happened. Except that it wasn’t a television show; it was really happening, and I didn’t notice it until after it was over. We were in the car – my husband, me, our three kids. It was very noisy. We just pulled into the driveway when the phone rang. I almost didn’t answer it. But for some reason I did, and while I listened to the words that I could barely comprehend, the sound in the car lowered and the buzzing began, and I couldn’t hear my kids or the engine anymore. All I could hear was my friend. And he was so serious.

I was calm in that maybe-it-will-go-away way.

He gave me the name of the hospital. He gave me the name of the officer whose desk he was at. I think he gave me a phone number; his phone had been confiscated for the time being.

And then he hung up.

We didn’t speak until later that night, and by then we both knew that Brittany was dead.

I was in shock.

Two years later, there are still some days I still am.

 

If you know anyone in an abusive situation, be it parental or spousal or any other; please give them the resources to get help and to get out. Here are some resources for you:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-7HELPLINE (743-5754)

Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project: 24 hr. hotline: 1-800-832-1901

Domestic Violence International Resources: http://www.vachss.com/help_text/domestic_violence_intl.html

Safehorizon – moves victims of violence from crisis to confidence (domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, child abuse & incest, stalking, anti-trafficking, others): 1-800-621-HOPE (4673)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 (for LGBT Youth)