Why I Will Not Remain Silent
― Martin Luther King Jr.
Today a friend remarked that he didn't understand how I could continue writing about my story without going crazy. How could I keep reliving my abuse?
So I question, "Why AM I still writing? Should I stop?"
I have blogged for five months sharing my journey of survival and healing after domestic violence. In the beginning, I blogged anonymously. Eventually, I shared my blog with trusted friends who would not judge me. Then I slowly revealed myself sharing my story on my personal Facebook page and telling certain coworkers and additional friends about my blog.
In sharing my journey I have connected with beautiful, strong women from across the United States as well as from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India and other countries. I have discovered friends, coworkers and neighbors who are also survivors. This web of interconnections has helped me heal and become stronger and more confident.
However, I must confess there are occasions when I question my reasons for blogging and wonder if I should continue. Why am I doing this? To feel validated? To gain attention or sympathy? Am I blogging for the right reasons? Sometimes I'm tired and want to move on and live a normal life again. Sometimes I wonder if my blogging makes an impact. Maybe people are tired of hearing me drone on and on about surviving and healing. Blah, blah, blah. "Yeah, whatever, Donna. Get over it!"
Maybe I should.
But the one hurdle that I cannot get over and does not allow me to remain silent is my awareness of the pervasive attitude that only "dumbass redneck" men commit acts of domestic violence. And then I read of yet another woman has been murdered by her intimate partner. Stacked on top of this woman's senseless death is watching our lawmakers pass laws limiting women's access to health care, equal pay and domestic violence support which only drives home the fact that women continue to be second-class citizens in this country. Every day in the U.S., "more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends."
And this is why I will NOT remain silent.
As long as our culture perpetuates the perception that domestic violence is only committed by "dumbass rednecks" and women are treated like second class citizens, I will not remain silent. Unfortunately, the issue of domestic violence will not become a priority until our society stops treating women as"less than" men and is awakened to the fact that domestic violence occurs to the rich, poor, black and white.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, "Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels."
Guess what? Domestic violence is occurring next door in your suburban, affluent, gated community. Domestic violence is occurring to your coworker whether you work at Wal-Mart, IBM, McDonald's or Bank of America. You just don't know which coworker, because she hides her bruises on her arms and wrists by wearing long sleeves. Domestic violence is happening to your child's teacher. She's too ashamed to tell anyone, so she holds back her tears and courageously puts a smile on her face. Domestic violence is happening to your friend. She is too scared and embarrassed to confide in you. She's afraid you won't believe her.
Don't you get it? I'm embarrassed to say I didn't until it happened to me. Whether we would like to believe it or not, domestic violence is happening next door every day of every week. Abuse is waging it's war against your best friend, your neighbor, your co-worker, your hairdresser, or your child's teacher. Maybe you'd like to think it is not happening in YOUR neighborhood. Sadly, it is. You aren't aware, because your friends and neighbors are embarrassed and ashamed, and you want to believe it's not possible and turn away.
According to psychotherpist, Susan Weitzman, Ph.D in her book "Not to People Like Us": Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages, the women she interviewed "stated their silence was due to the fear that others would doubt their stories because 'marital abuse doesn't happen...to people like us...with education...in this neighborhood." There is a common thread of fear of being disbelieved, embarrassment and shame, and rejection by friends and relatives.
This fear doesn't only occur within upscale marriages. This same shame and embarrassment can be found in middle and upper-middle class marriages as well. I possessed this fear, shame, guilt and embarrassment. Domestic violence isn't supposed to occur to women like me, college educated as an engineer, business savvy, and working in a man's world. I thought I was confident enough, feisty enough, intelligent enough that I would never place myself in the position of being abused. But I wasn't. And if it can happen to this feisty, college-educated woman, abuse can happen to anyone.
Domestic violence affects the rich, the affluent, the middle class, and the poor. Domestic violence happens to the lawyer, the executive, the teacher, the nurse, and the maid. Domestic violence is perpetrated against the woman on welfare and the woman in the corner office. Domestic violence is a virus. There are no exceptions, and there is no vaccine.
This secret and shameful abuse will persist behind closed doors until our society realizes that domestic violence affects everyone. The controlling, intimidation, and withholding of money will continue against your coworker. The yelling, name-calling, and put-downs will continue against your friend. The pushing, shoving, kicking, and punching will continue to be endured by your neighbor until we as a society stop turning our heads and finally realize that violence, whether it's experienced by the single low-income mother of five or the married attorney with the six-figure salary, is unacceptable.
As long as our culture, our lawmakers, husbands, fathers, brothers, and most important, we, ourselves--treat women as second-class citizens, domestic violence will continue to be endured. Gloria Steinem has said, "Don't think about making women fit the world - think about making the world fit women."
The time is now to face the facts that domestic violence is not something that happens to "other" people. The time is now to stop turning our heads and looking the other way.
And the time is now, as victims, survivors, friends, and women, to stand up. Share your story. Support your friend. Stop being embarrassed. Stop being ashamed. Ask your neighbor if she's okay. Let your voice be heard.
Shout it out with the full force of your womanly lungs, "ENOUGH!" And only then will this world be fit for women and domestic violence be eliminated for all.
~ Donna, 'Elf Lady' of Elf Lady's Chronicles