Abuse IS Your Business

The statistics are clear: you know someone who is being abused. You may not be best friends. You may not be family. You may only know them by association. A neighbor. A church member. Your kid’s friend’s parent. The abuse may not be physical. But you do know someone who is in an abusive relationship. And it is your business.

Statistics*
1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime (it is possible more men experience violence but under report due to shame or disbelief).

20% of teenage girls who have been in a relationship say a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.

An abuse victim is 70 times more likely to die AFTER leaving an abusive situation than during.

Intimate partner violence is the leading cause of female homicide and injury related deaths during pregnancy.

2 in 5 gay or bisexual men and 50% of lesbians will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

Women of domestic violence are 8 times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner if there if there are firearms in the home.

Domestic violence is the 3rd leading cause of homelessness among families.

10,000,000 children are exposed to domestic violence every year.

Symptoms
The symptoms of domestic violence are difficult to detect. The abuser and the abused are masters of disguise…their lives perfectly choreographed to ensure that any blips in the performance can be excused or covered up. They masquerade as a loving couple. They have photographs to prove it. They have good jobs, lots of money, a nice house, fabulous vacations. If ever questioned their friends will tell you they were the perfect couple and violence is not even the remotest of possibilities.

But it is all a lie.

An abuser has complete control over the individual they are abusing. The abused is not allowed to go places without the abuser in tow. If they are allotted such a freedom they are plagued with texts and phone calls requesting check-ins, pictures of proof or just plain attention. The abused are not allowed to be alone. Someone is always around and many times it’s the children.

The abused person has small injuries…often. They brush it off as being clumsy. They fall into walls, run into cabinets or doors, trip going down the stairs. They are good at covering up with make-up or clothing. You will rarely see them uncovered. Just study their arms over a period of time. The arms tell so many stories. The stories are always well thought out and rehearsed before you ever hear them. They are often logical though a bit far-fetched and yet the witnesses all confirm the same facts: it was an accident.

The abuser makes all the decisions. The abused must always check with their intimate partner or ask to use money. Oftentimes invitations are declined for no reason other than they don’t want to have a discussion with their abuser about what they are spending money on, why they are hanging out with a certain person or exactly what they are doing in their free time.

Every minute is accounted for, always. An abused person will rush out from work to ensure they are not late getting home. If they cannot leave immediately they are on the phone with a pre-emptive explanation for the delay. They are trying to prevent a blow up from happening when they return home.

An abused person may cancel plans or call out of work often. Their excuses always sound legitimate but the reason is always the same: they got into a fight with their abuser and the abuser won. Maybe winning left a physical mark, maybe not. Sometimes winning is simply the act of forcing someone to do something you told them to do. The control is satisfying…for the time being.

There is always a witness. Somewhere, somehow, SOMEBODY saw SOMETHING. More often than not it is the children in the household. They may not understand what they have witnessed. It could have been a heated argument; it could have been physical intimidation or injury. The children will always fight for both of their parents and defend them. After all, they have also been given parts to play. They may be told what to do and say. “Don’t tell family secrets” is a common warning. But upon questioning things can be uncovered. Children know the truth. They know right from wrong just by gut instinct. If something feels scary, it is wrong. And they will tell if they feel safe.

What can you do?
There are many ways to prevent domestic violence without being directly involved.

Report. If you SEE something, SAY something. Teachers, counselors, police officers, youth services workers, doctors and nurses are all mandated reporters. You can report anonymously. You can also call your state’s reporting hotline. Give all of the information you know. Overshare if you must. Give the reporter as much information as possible so they can make a determination on whether or not an investigation should happen.

Donate your items. Your local women’s shelter is always in need of everyday items…clothing, food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, bedding…the list is endless. Cash donations also suffice in keeping people employed to run the shelter.

Donate your time. People who have just left an abusive relationship need others. They need normality. Sometimes they want to talk about what happened. Sometime they want to talk about the weather. Or the football game. Or their kids. They just need someone. Contact your local shelter to find out how to sign up. There are never enough volunteers.
Or maybe the person who needs your time has not yet gone to a shelter but they are considering it. Be an ear. Don’t be judgmental. It is not your job to fix the situation. It is not your job to advise. It is your job to listen. Sometimes all someone needs is the ability to freely say, out loud, “What is happening to me is wrong” and to feel validated.


Remember: ABUSE IS YOUR BUSINESS. You are giving a voice to the silenced.

*Statistical Reference (2014): 30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics that Remind us It's an Epidemic

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