Sticks and Stones May Break my Bones……But Words Can Too
66,581 – The number of domestic violence victims who called a hot line for help, in one 24 hour period, Sept. 17, 2013, in the US. These are just the ones who called – who were able to call – who were still alive to call – who weren’t afraid to call. I would feel safe in saying this is a small fraction of the victims of domestic violence who experienced violence on that day – or any other day.
Maybe you have or maybe you haven’t been following the drama of Ray Rice, former Baltimore Raven’s running back. The video has been widely publicized on the Internet. He beat his wife (then fiancé) into unconsciousness in an elevator last February. He apologized with her at his side in May. In July the Ravens gave Rice a 2 game suspension. Last week they fired him. Tuesday of this week SHE has apologized for her role in this…………Say WHAT ????? SHE apologized because her fiance/husband hit her so hard she lost consciousness? Of course she did. This is what domestic violence looks like. One partner hits the other, says he is remorseful and will never do it again but will add “it wouldn’t have happened had YOU not made me so mad, so upset, so…….etc, etc, etc. And the abused partner says they are so sorry for making the abuser do such a thing and they won’t do it again and the honeymoon starts all over again until the dancing stops and the abuser abuses again.
Notice I say ” abuser” – not HE or SHE. Domestic violence victims can be male or female. We read more and hear more about female victims as they report more often. But it’s out there and it’s real and it’s happening every minute of every day. And it’s a nasty cycle that must be broken. Children who are victims of abuse or who witness abuse frequently grow up to be abusers. As children they learned to recognize the quick temper, the walking on egg shells, the hit, punch or slap that comes out of nowhere, the secrecy and the shame. But at the same time they are NOT learning the coping skills necessary to handle conflict, temper, anger, disappointment they will need as an adult.
Chances are you know someone who is a victim, either adult or child. You may or not be aware of the nightmare that person is living. Cover up is a big part of the dance of violence. The bruises are from a fall, the dwindling communication or frequency of getting together with friends is attributed to “being so busy”.
I remember the shock I felt late one evening while I was still at work in my office. The phone rang. When I answered I barely recognized the voice of someone I knew quite well. “Help me!” she said, crying. “I’m afraid he’s going to kill me. He pushed be down the stairs and then put me in a choke hold.” I could here the spouse in the background yelling and knocking things over. Not at all the quiet man I had met in the past. “where is the baby?” I asked. Go get him. Take the phone with you. Take the baby to the car and leave immediately. If this phone goes dead I am immediately calling the police. Leave the phone on until you are out of the house and safe at your friend’s house. Go NOW !” She did. She survived and took the first step to breaking the cycle for her and her child. It doesn’t always work out so well. We read those stories every day in the paper. The ones who don’t make it are frequent fodder on the nightly news.
Not all bruises are visible or physical injuries. The ones to the psyche and self esteem hurt just as much and frequently last longer. I had someone once tell me “I wish he would just hit me so people could see and understand how much he is hurting me. People think he is a saint.” I’ve seen it over and over again. In my work as a nurse, in hospitals, in home care, at the battered women’s shelter, in the bookstore. in the grocery, in a restaurant. The withdrawal, the fear, the timidity, the blankness, the cringing when the partner berates or belittles the other partner in public – it’s there and it makes us uncomfortable so we look away and pretend we didn’t see anything at all. After all, it’s none of our business…………Or is it?
It isn’t something that only happens to children or young adults. Spousal abuse occurs among the elderly as well, sometimes the continuation of many long years of abuse, sometimes the result of disease, dementia, medications.
GET INVOLVED. If you see changes in a friend’s behavior, see frequent bruises or injuries, ask ! Tell them what you suspect. Listen. Help them get the help they need before it’s too late. Help break the cycle.
IF YOU or someone you know is being abused help seek help now. Call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at:
800-799-7233or go to www.hotine.org.
Think about it then ACT !