Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Week 35: DVAM: Final thoughts…

Last week, I planned to continue my series for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. However, I consciously decided not to write. In case you didn’t notice from the last two posts, domestic violence is a pretty weighty subject. I thought a break might be a good idea and, well, if you didn’t need one, I sure did.

You see the subject of domestic violence isn’t just something I’ve read about. Statistics show that one in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Many years ago I became that one and spent about seven years in and out of a relationship that went quite a few steps beyond “unhealthy.”

He was a handsome, charming man but with an emotionally volatile past and an emerging darker side. Throughout the relationship I experienced frequent physical intimidation and intense verbal and emotional abuse. Although the young man I dated at the time never struck me, he often leveraged his size and strength to pin me against walls or down on a bed or to hold my face in place while shouting obscenities in it. His verbal assaults were toxic, and the effects lasted for many years.

Over time, the level of abuse gradually escalated to personal property. Clothes were ripped; my car was vandalized and other personal property destroyed. I lied to family and friends out of shame, embarrassment and fear. I remained in the relationship for so long out of a mixed sense of guilt, fear and misplaced obligation. By the end of it all, I’d added more than 50 pounds to my physical frame and the weight of depression to my emotional state that could easily have buried me.

Believe it or not, it was years on the other side of the relationship before I even realized I’d survived a domestic violence situation. Today, when I reflect on that season of my life it appears quite surreal. As a young woman, my dream of a fairytale romance didn’t include incessant name calling, embarrassment, verbal battery and intimidation.

Earlier this month, I attended a presentation on domestic violence. The presentation was full of statistics and sprinkled with audio files – actual phone calls, voice mail messages and in-person conversations from abusers in intimate partner relationships. In hindsight, I’m not sure I was ready for the hour and a half that lay before me as some of the descriptions and conversations I heard transported me back to my young, naïve co-ed self. I left the presentation with a heavy heart and a strong determination to share on this topic.

I realize one blog post isn’t nearly enough real estate to cover a story that spanned seven years. Trust me, my reflection and commentary on that experience could easily fill many pages. Still, I felt compelled to share this snippet from my life to reiterate this point:

No one ever expects to be a victim of domestic violence. Yet anyone can be.

And just like no one expects to be a victim, I doubt anyone wants to grow up to be an abuser. I’m thankful that, in my situation, two lives were spared from what could have had a variety of far worse outcomes. As I close this series, I encourage us to examine our own relationships and make sure we’re making healthy choices, not only in intimate partner (or romantic) relationships, but in friendships, as well.  And let us continue to pray for victims, witnesses and perpetrators in domestic violence situations around the world.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Week 34: More than hurt feelings

Domestic Violence isn’t solely characterized by physical abuse. Another common, yet often lesser acknowledged, form of domestic violence is emotional abuse. It’s important to note that any form of abuse can have long lasting emotional effects on a person. However, there are some specific behaviors that fall outside the realm of physical violence and are specifically categorized as emotional abuse. (a website that educates teens and adults on dating abuse) notes that emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors such as:

  • Threats
  • Insults
  • Constant monitoring or “checking in”
  • Excessive texting
  • Humiliation
  • Intimidation
  • Isolation
  • Stalking

I’ll add to the pot:

Any regularly occurring, aggressive communication tactics that berate, manipulate, demean and intimidate with the intent to exert power, control and dominance over the victim.  Victims of this type of abuse experience far more than simply hurt feelings. Trust me, I know.

Yet, with the absence of physical violence, emotional abuse is often disregarded or even unidentified.

Emotional abuse is elusive. Unlike physical abuse, the people doing it and receiving it may not even know it’s happening.

It can be more harmful than physical abuse because it can undermine what we think about ourselves. It can cripple all we are meant to be as we allow something untrue to define us.

The abuser projects their words, attitudes or actions onto an unsuspecting victim usually because they themselves have not dealt with childhood wounds that are now causing them to harm others. – “Signs of Emotional Abuse,” by Maria Bogdanos

Actions and tactics that fall into the categories of the non-physical behaviors listed above should by no means be ignored. To disregard emotionally abusive behaviors could prove dangerous, as the level and intensity of abuse often tends to escalate over time and can graduate from non-physical to physical abuse.

Remember, abuse isn’t always limited to intimate partner relationships. We know that children suffer abuse at the hands of parents, guardians or other caregivers. Senior citizens often suffer abuse in nursing homes or at the hands of their personal care givers. Abuse can even be perpetrated in workplace or in places of worship.

Mary J. Yerkes penned these words of truth about the impact of emotional abuse in her article titled “Understanding Emotional Abuse,” for Focus on the Family:

“Emotional abuse leaves few physical scars. Its victims suffer no broken bones, torn flesh or spilled blood. Still, those wounded might describe it as the most painful and destructive form of domestic violence.” –  by Mary J. Yerkes

Again, I encourage you to take a moment to consider your relationships and even those of people you love. Have you or someone you know ever experienced a relationship plagued by emotional abuse?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Week 33: Domestic Violence makes national headlines

In September, anyone who turned on a television at least once saw and heard more than enough about the incident between (now former) Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his wife (then fiancée), Janay Palmer Rice.

If you’re somehow unfamiliar with the story of Mr. and Mrs. Rice, you get no judgment from me. This saga began back in February, but I  only learned of it after TMZ released full video footage of the incident last month.

The silent video tells at least part of the story of the couple’s altercation that occurred inside an elevator in an Atlantic City, New Jersey casino. The result was a fiancé knocked unconscious by the blink-of-an-eye punch from her soon-to-be husband. When the elevator doors opened, I watched, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, as Rice sloppily dragged his fiancée’s limp body from inside and left her straddling the floor between the elevator and elevator lobby.

I don’t want to spend the entire post recapping the many details of this situation. So if by chance this story is new to you, click here to play catch up with CNN’s nice timeline of the key events. Then, if you’re brave, click here to watch the video.

In hindsight, it seemed a matter of fate, actually. I’m certain it wasn’t their intention on that winter night in Atlantic City, but Ray Rice and his bride-to-be bride (at that time) brought domestic violence and abuse to the attention of the entire nation. Their relational woes caught on tape seemed to prepare the way for Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) in October.

Some statistics

Thankfully, most men and women never experience the likes of an abusive or violent relationship. However, more than a few among us do. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NIPSVS), “20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United states.” 20 people per minute…

That’s 1,200 people each hour,

28,800 people each day

and over 10,500,000 men and women each year.

One is certainly too many; 10 and a half million is heartbreaking.

How can I help?

I’m glad you asked. Here are three simple things you can do this month to support the conversation, the cause and the victims of domestic violence:

Wear purple: Purple is the color for DVAM. Choose to wear purple at some point during the month to remind yourself and others that men and women each day are suffering harm at the hands of people who are supposed to “love” them. Remember it doesn’t take much to show your support.

Start a conversation: Click here to learn more facts and stats on intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking. Then talk about what you’ve learned with girlfriends, family members and young people. You can even post this cool infographic to your Facebook page or website.

Share your resources: There probably isn’t a city in this country without shelters and organizations to support victims of domestic violence. Find one in your area and share your resources – time, talent, goods (like clothing and toiletries) and financial support – to show support.

Final thoughts…

In the domestic violence conversation terms like “intimate partner violence,” “sexual violence” and “stalking” are easily the attention grabbers. Relational abuse forms like verbal, emotional and psychological abuse don’t make headlines but often inflict deeper harm. The bottom line is unhealthy relationships take on many forms. I’ve included this conversation in the Be Completely You series because I strongly believe understanding who we are can help position us for healthier relationships. Join me next week as we continue the conversation.

Until then…

Be Completely You

P.S. This month, visit these sites to learn more about domestic violencedating violence and teen dating abuse .