Love Shouldn't Hurt
What is Domestic Violence? Domestic violence is defined as violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse of partner.
Let's be honest. Even in this day and age there are still some subject matters that cause discomfort when addressed. It is a perpetual tragedy. In fact, as long as there is a constant level of discomfort surrounding what is deemed "sensitive subject matter", stigmas continue to discourage those affected to reach out and seek help, mainly out of fear and judgement. Per the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence statistics, 34,841 adults, youth and children received domestic violence services in 2014. That is just for the state of Missouri. Domestic violence is not nor has it ever been a passing happening. It is an epidemic. It easier to speculate as to why women stay, sometimes up until their death at the hands of their abuser. In fact, the leading cause of death for pregnant women is homicide. However, my goal is not to criticize or victimize any survivor that happens across my words. What I want instead is to spread a little hope and provide some helpful resources.
During my junior year of college, I had a professor offer extra credit for any student that chose to attend an Anti-Domestic Violence film screening to be followed by a panel discussion. Seeing as to how this opportunity for extra credit didn't involve a long drawn essay about some mundane subject, I decided to study on campus and attend. I found a seat near the back of the darkened auditorium just as the film credits for the documentary film, "Sin By Silence." Fifteen minutes into the film and I was already trying to force my breathing past the lump that seemed to be lodged in my throat. One story after another, I listened to the horrific tales of women incarcerated at the California Institution for Women. I could not fathom being in the the shoes of the women that suffered physical, mental, and emotional abuse until they reached their breaking points and killed their abusers. What must it be like to suffer in some cases, for decades, before you are stripped down to the bare minimum of who you were.
Although Battered Wife Syndrome rose to prominence as a defense in the 1970's, it was not and in some cases, still not accepted as a legal defense. Instead some of the women were sentenced to up to life in prison for premeditated murder. Essentially these victims left one hostile prison, only to be moved into another. The irony? Prison was safer than the men they had at one point, chosen to build their lives with. Many times I found myself wiping away tears and I was not the only one. Women and men alike were captured by the devastation presented before us. I can honestly say I signed in relief as the film drew to a conclusion. When the lights came up, everyone just sat in silence, perhaps too afraid to even look at the person sitting beside you.
Olivia Klaus, producer of the film, began the panel discussion on how this film came to be. In 1989, Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA) was founded to help abused women become vocal about their abuse, as well as advocating for other survivors. When it was announced that there was a special guest speaker, I said a silent prayer that it was one of the women from the film. I needed to believe that at least one of those courageous women would feel freedom once more after having overcome such horrendous odds. When Brenda Clubine walked onto the stage (you have to see the film to know why just seeing her walk was so uplifting), the entire room, myself included, rose to it's feet, offering thunderous applause to a woman that beat the odds, served 26 years in prison, and was reunited with her son. The point of this entire story? Never, and I mean never think the situation is inescapable. Know that you are not alone, you are not helpless, and above all else, you are worth it. You deserve peace, happiness, and the freedom to experience newfound joy away from an abusive situation.
Common Characteristics of Battered Wife Syndrome
She takes full responsibility over the abuse, and finds it difficult or impossible to blame the abuser himself;
She fears for her safety;
She irrationally believes that the abuser is all-powerful and will hurt her if she contacts the authorities and seeks help.
There can also be signs of depression, withdrawal, decreased enthusiasm in activities that were once enjoyed, and maybe even begin to abuse drugs and alcohol. Once these signs are recognized, it is imperative to seek help.
There are resources readily available. There are hotlines, shelters, advocacy groups, a lot of these services have volunteers that were once themselves victims of domestic violence. There is no argument, tiff, or disagreement that makes it okay for a spouse or significant other to respond with violence. If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, please reach out for help.