By Jenny McKinney
Domestic Violence may have earned a prettier name and a month of its own, but our losses still outnumber our victories. As a nation, we are losing this war. There is no outrage in our communities when a woman speaks out, and resources are limited. We live in a world that chooses to not see, and see they do not.
'Wife beating' was illegal in every state by 1920. However, a full century later. women are still dying on that battlefield. Domestic violence casualties make up around 50% of all female homicides. This number doesn't include suicide. Approximately 25% of female suicides are directly linked to domestic violence. We can't even count our wounded. Less than 1% of victims actually report abuse. We do know that domestic violence hotlines receive upwards of twenty thousand calls a day. We know that over twelve million people fall victim to abusive partners, 72% of those victims are women.
Eight million, six hundred and forty thousand (8,640,000) women become prisoners of war each year...each year, just in this country. Why are these numbers so high? Why are women still victims a hundred years after the first law passed to protect them? They still don't feel safe asking for help, and they can't find the door that leads out alone. They don't leave, because no one believes them, and there is no real protection from our justice system. Even though only 1% of these crimes are reported, a staggering 85% are still dismissed by the prosecutor. No contact orders and personal protection orders seem to offer little protection.
In 2002, a study found that 41% of protective orders were violated, and that 21% led to increased violence. Not to mention that a protective order cannot go into effect until both parties are served, and the offending party is not always served. They stay because they don't know where to go; resources to help these women are lacking, at best. While there are great organizations filled with dedicated warriors, the funds are not there. Domestic violence shelters turned away over 225,000 people in 2017 alone. Victims of systematic abuse often experience trauma bonding, much like Stockholm syndrome. Trauma bonding can feel like love...if love was demented and deadly. We are losing this war because not enough people are paying attention.
It is a silent war with a tolerable name. Our wounded women hide their shame, and lower their voices. They clean up the truth of their abuse and cover their scars so that you are not offended. They are taught to move on with their lives. We as a nation have to listen; we have to bear witness to their pain. We have to learn from their too recent past. We have to encourage victims to tell their stories. The words will build bridges to others still living in battle. Silence only serves the guilty.
Everyone wants to pretend that everything is fine. There is no outrage in the community when a woman speaks out, only pitying faces and questions that cut. We live in a world that chooses to not see, and see they do not. We are the only ones who can change that, and change it we must. (There are exceptions to this, there are wonderful people who believe you without you saying a word and will help you to safety without asking for an explanation. And to those people, we are grateful for you) “I never saw a mark on you. Surely it wasn’t that bad. All relationships have problems. He’s so nice though. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He is just overwhelmed. Why did you stay if it was so bad? If he was hurting you why didn’t you call the police? Why do you want to ruin his reputation?”
You’ll hear phrases like these often, my warrior sisters. Don’t let it slow you down. Don’t let anyone make excuses for your abuser. Do not let anyone minimize your trauma. It doesn’t matter if you had marks, or witnesses, or police reports. You know your truth.
Find the words, and speak them boldly. Throw away all the words given to you by society, by teachers, by policemen, by doctors. Throw away the politically acceptable words you were taught. Throw away words like, ‘domestic abuse, domestic violence, anger issues, victim, survivor, intimate partner abuse, sexual coercion.” Those words mean nothing, they do no justice to your story, your pain, your battle scars. Find your own words, new words.
We have to paint a picture that they cannot look away from. The truth is raw, and ugly, and graphic. The picture should be too. Let your words be as deadly as your abuser. Let you truth stand before them as it is. Don’t clean it up first.
If your truth is bloody let the blood pool at their feet. If your truth is full of fear and shame, show them your shame in its entirety. If your truth is bathed in tears and cold sweats at 3 a.m., then do not wipe them from your face.
Make them see the horror that you lived. Make them see how “fear” can become FEAR, and slither through your heart like ice and fire. How FEAR can become a disease, chronic, and fatal. Find your own words sisters. Not just for you, but for our sisters still trapped in the nightmare.
The more we speak up, the more we educate others; The easier their path will be. One last thought: The words sexual coercion are a joke. A pretty way to say RAPE. And sisters, there is nothing pretty about rape.