Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Domestic Violence: My Second Cause

All of you who know me, know that I am dedicating my life to helping people like my brother Paul, who have severe mental illness.  I even started a cause on Facebook called Paul's Legacy Foundation to help raise awareness on the issues facing the sickest of the sick, those who should be in long-term care but are on the streets or in jail.  However, if the sky were to part and all were made right within the brain, curing mental illness, I wouldn't just retire.  Domestic Violence is another issue that hits close to home with me.

The first boyfriend I had after moving away from home was very controlling, to the point where he didn't want me to go to college for fear I'd meet someone else.  While that didn't stop me, going out on my own with my new college friends ignited arguments about who I'd be with and accusations of infidelity.  I shared an apartment with my sister, but practically lived with him in his tiny campus apartment (he was a grad student). He refused my one request to stay with me the first night my sister and I moved into our new rental house.  That was the night someone broke into my room and tried to rape me.

Why I didn't leave him right then and there, I'll never know.  Conflict avoidance had always been an issue with me, until recently, if you can believe that (I know I put on a big front, don't I?).  My sister Grace and a friend of hers finally took me out to lunch and lifted the veil of confusion I had between love and control.  He didn't love me, he loved to control me.  When he couldn't control me, he punished me with verbal abuse, fists at the ready. He came very close to hitting me once, punching the wall instead. I helped him repair the hole he made. The night I was attacked he punished me by his absence, which proved to be more injurious that any slap in the face or punch in the stomach ever could.

The day I finally told him that I was breaking up with him he reared his fist back, but I planted my feet and looked him straight in the eyes; his fist hit the wall next to my face.  He told me that no one would love me like he did.  I was very thankful for that bit of wisdom, because I didn't want to go through that again.  When that door closed behind me, I had the biggest smile on my face and I walked down the street with a spring in my step. I have never let anyone else, man or woman, have that kind of hold on me again. 

My problems with that boyfriend pale in comparison to some of the horror stories I have heard, and supported by the bruised faces of the women I've met.  I was associated with a shelter for victims of domestic violence (who helped men too) for over 10 years when I lived in Wisconsin, first as an Administrative Assistant and then as a volunteer.  I picked up women who had their belongings in garbage bags, or nothing but the clothes on her back.  I took women to their house, with a sheriff in tow, to get their things and brought them back to the shelter until they found their own place.  I picked up donations from rich women who still didn't think that domestic violence could happen to them, but it does. 

Domestic abuse has no socio-economic boundaries. It affects all walks of life, but money can be a factor. This morning I read an article about how, in these economic times, incidents of domestic violence are on a sharp rise.  The stresses the economy is putting on relationships brings out the worst in some people, unfortunately, or makes it difficult for women and men to leave their abusers.  Please do what you can to support the crisis centers and shelters in your area.

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