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Monday, October 13, 2014
October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month. A month dedicated to bringing awareness to relationship abuse. To putting the topics of domestic family and intimate partner abuse out in the open, on the table, and hopefully spark discussions on what otherwise are normally actions and behaviors hidden behind closed doors.

Domestic abuse takes many forms.  From psychological abuse, such as verbal abuse and manipulation, to physical such as assaults and forced sexual acts. But the abuse all has a common factor. Control. The establishment of control of one partner or family member, over another.

Often this topic and the associated pains produced go unheard. It's a taboo topic of discussion in our normal everyday office water-cooler bantering. Those abusing rarely gloat how they managed to keep their significant other submissive and under their control, while those hurt rarely show or... "allow" to be shown, any signs of their abuse.

For victims there may be shame, embarrassment, and fear in discussing their abuse. For abusers there may be the threat of legal consequences if they do talk about and thus admit to their own behaviors.

As with anything, there are certainly varying degrees of abuse. One action to one person may be considered abuse while to another it's considered acceptable. Such as child spanking. However, such discussions aren't typically had in our day to day lives, and we begin to loose focus on what we as a society agree is acceptable, and what we do not.

Do we as a society agree one partner has the right to dictate and force sex with another when they're married? Or that one partner has the right to "punish" the other partner because they are in a legally bound relationship?

Or how about couples who aren't married? For those who are dating, as a society how do we react to an individual who had consented to sex, but then during which says no and the other partner refuses to stop? While we may agree no means no. The justice system may not always see it that way. And we as a society may react even harsher on that partner who changed their mind and sought legal recourse by ridiculing them for having done so. "She wasn't raped, she consented."

How about when alcohol or drugs have entered the picture? Is getting your partner drunk, or high just to "put them in the mood"... especially when they're not "putting out" acceptable?

Domestic violence can occur in any home, in any relationship. It's not isolated to the poor, or an affliction of the rich. It's not in every drug using or alcohol consuming home, nor isolated to educated or uneducated homes. It transcends every demographic there is, and can occur in any family or intimate relationship that exists.

It was in my relationship.

For 16 years I kept my own abuse hidden. For 16 years I kept it from my family. For 16 years I hid it from my friends... what few friends I had left. For 16 years I got skilled at applying cover-up over left abrasions, bruises, scars, and marks. For 16 years I sweat out my summers in long sleeves and pants just to hide the reality of my situation from public inquiry. And for 13 years no more than a couple people ever knew of my reality.

There's a myriad of things I've personally been told by others over the years while dealing with abuse. Some have made lasting impressions on me and have effected how I go about handling my situation. Both positively and negatively. Equally fortunate as well as unfortunate, these things said and even the associated mentally that goes with it, aren't isolated to just one person, officer, court, advocate, law enforcement department, or any one of a number of people I've met as a result of my own situation...

Some of those things I've been told:

"Forced sex, even if you're married, is still rape. If you don't want it, and it's forced anyways, it's rape."  Being told that, - something I knew but had to hear from someone else just to grasp the reality of my situation - was the pinnacle point in my decision to escape the abuse.

"There's no mark on his head, he looks happy, look he's playing around. NYS allows corporal punishment." ...  "Kids can get on your nerves, mine do, sometimes I want to just slam mine through a wall."  When I was told that, I clammed up and didn't have the guts to tell that officer my husband would strip me, tie me up, choke me unconscious, force sex, beat me, and then leave me for days that way. That officer never knew what was under the surface of that seemingly benign call regarding a little boy who was whacked with a remote on the head by his father. That night I was assaulted, choked unconscious and later woke up tied up while my then husband was beating me.

"What's his number? Let me call him and see what he has to say." When I got hit in the back of my head and punched in the face by my husband,  I lost consciousness. When I was finally coherent enough to file a report, the officer called my then separated husband on the phone and asked if he had punched me or assaulted me. "He said he didn't punch you and no assault took place." That's as far as that report ever got in the legal system.

When I called for help on my abuser violating an order of protection, I was told by the responding officer I was "abusing the system."

"Don't expect us to do this every time you have a kid switch..." When I called the police for a "stand by"* at my own house while running late, and finding my abusive X husband already there waiting outside for me in the dark. (* An officer "stands by" for safety.)

"If you had clearly said no when you were sober, and you then had several drinks and he coerced you into having sex while you were under the influence, then he took advantage of you. Coercing anyone into having sex while they're under the influence of anything is wrong."

"You're right. I did get you drunk and take advantage of you. Because I knew I was going to fall in love with you"

"Think about your kids. You grew up with your parents always fighting. You know what that's like. You were miserable."

"Tell anyone and what I did to the dog, I'll do to the kids." (He strangled the dog to death.)

"Tell anyone, and what happened to those little baby bunnies you let die, I'll do to you." (He blew them up with a shotgun)

"I'll never let you get divorced from me. I'll kill you before I ever let that happen."

"I'll make sure you never see your kids again."

"She's crazy and cut herself." After he had attacked me with a knife and told people I was suicidal.

"Do you have any evidence? There's no police reports on file of any abuse."

"No one will ever believe you."

Through my experiences and various communuty activities I've gained the unique opportunity of seeing Domestic Violence from more than just my own personal perspective. To those who've never experienced Domestic Violence, the number one question remains "Well... why are you with that person?"  With similar logical questions of "Why did you stay?"  "Why did you go back?"  "How can you love them?"  "Why do you allow this to happen to yourself?"  Frankly, I've wondered those questions myself when hearing about and dealing with other's situations and had I not experienced such psychological and physical abuse first hand.... I don't think I'd ever have understood the answers to some of those questions myself.

Those in the actual abusive relationships do hold accountability though. Those abusing, as do those being abused. Unfortunately way too often those being abused who want to take that accountability and responsibility don't know where to seek help, and when they do, they're often failed by first contacts who were never aware they were actually a first attempted contact in someone seeking help.

When we hear about some of the more negative responses to Domestic Violence (DV) cases we're quick to judge law enforcement, the legal system, courts, judges, lawyers, district attorneys and those who handle DV cases, with handling it the wrong way. But more of the real issue here is that DV is such a taboo topic in our society, most people just simply don't understand DV. Professionals are often uneducated in DV or underexposed in how to handle DV cases, haven't been versed in the uniqueness of this segment of violence, or haven't been exposed to or have had limited exposure to appropriate training. Unless you've been through it,  you may just never understand it.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Throughout the month of October I and others will contribute pieces to ENP with a focus on DV. In collaboration with ENP we'll cover stats, figures, and various topics in hopes of bringing Domestic Violence out from behind closed doors and into the open for discussion. While we may never feel comfortable as a society discussing such things around the old office water cooler, perhaps these forthcoming articles will at least enter your homes, be viewed on your iPads, laptops, and phones and get people more comfortable with approaching this topic in discussions with loved ones and close friends.

— Anonymous

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