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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

While I never set out for this particular topic to be my platform, I do hope that my experience with this issue can help other people.

A few important things to know:

Domestic violence is not a “public” thing. It is a very private thing, when it happens. It is a quiet thing. It is an embarrassing thing. And the abuser both knows -and- uses the fact that it is an *embarrassing* thing, to continue the abuse.

It doesn’t always start out with them hitting you. It starts out slow, like a leak under the kitchen sink, that you may not notice, until everything is ruined…. until it's so bad that the damage control takes on a much bigger role.

And why do we have this focus on “why didn’t she just leave!?” Why isn’t the collective thinking shifted more toward, “why is it happening and how can we make women (or men being abused, it isn’t just women being abused, it can go either way,) feel more empowered to speak up sooner?”

Let me tell you why someone being abused, DOESN’T speak up so quickly:

[I will use the term “she” just for the purpose of this example.]

She is embarrassed. No one sets out in this life, thinking anything like that will ever happen to them.

She carries her own judgment. Maybe it is the stigma…. maybe she carries the thought or stereotype of “oh, that only happens to low income, wrong side of the tracks people. That only happens to totally dependent people. That only happens to uneducated women. That doesn't happen to ‘good’ people… or ‘good families,’ or middle or upper class families. That doesn't happen to people of my socioeconomic status. That doesn't happen to a college educated women. That doesn't happen to someone like me.”


It happens every day. And that makes the person being abused, feel shame. And that shame makes them hide the abuse, and protect the abuser. And that fact, allows the abuse to continue much longer.

And, it starts out quiet. It’s some harsh words. Some insults. Control. Then the control factor turns into a snowball. And the belt tightens. And before you know it, you can’t breathe. You’re isolated. You lie to your family and friends, to protect your abuser. You don't want anyone to know that you have no self esteem, that you didn't sleep the night before because you were being screamed at all night. You don't want anyone to know, that he yelled at you for the entire 12 hour drive and threatened to crash the car when you were pregnant. So instead, you tell everyone that everything is great. You don’t want to tell everyone that today you will be spending the day trying to find another bedroom door, to replace the one he broke yesterday, in a fit of rage. You don’t want anyone to know that he took your phone and hid it so you can’t reach out to anyone. You don't want anyone to know, that you feel like a whipped dog, who cant look another person in the eyes.

You don't want anyone to know that he finally reached the point where he hit you. Because this was the first time. And he says he is so sorry. He promises it won't happen again. He buys you flowers. He’s sorry. You want to believe him. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I just need to be kinder to him.

But it does happen again. You don't want to break your family up by leaving, and you question if it is really your fault. You weigh the pros and cons, of staying versus leaving. You fear that your children won’t understand.

Finally, after trying so hard to stay, after trying so hard not to do anything to trigger him, it *still* progresses to the point where you KNOW that this is the tipping point. You KNOW he is REALLY going to hurt you. You have never felt fear for your literal life, until this moment. He threatens to kill you. To shoot you. Your children are home. They have witnessed all this, all this time. Your 7 year old screams to daddy, to leave mommy alone. This is your life. It cannot be fixed. It will not get better. If you stay, you could end up dead and your children then have no mother.

You have to weigh, at that moment, in a quick discussion with yourself, what you can live with the most…. will it be the embarrassment and hardships that may come, if I finally call the police and air out everything that has been happening all these years? Or do I continue to keep quiet, even though he just pinned me against the kitchen counter, spat in my face, and threatened to shoot me and our children in the house?

You decide. You know you will face judgment. After all, so often no one believes victims of domestic abuse/violence.

But you finally call for help. You call the police. But it doesn’t end there. Now you have the long battle of “proving” this all happened to you. You may have no money. You may or may not have a supportive family. These are things you knew you would have to weigh.

But you finally air it all out. And you feel like you’ve taken your life back. You can breathe.

But then comes the next chapter. Court, custody, financial things. Abusers find ways to continue the abuse, even if they aren’t able to physically harm or intimidate you.

If there’s anything I want people to get from this, it’s that....

YOU ARE NOT STUCK. Please please please reach out to someone that you trust, you CAN leave. Life is SO MUCH BETTER when you leave and you’re safe.

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