Domestic violence needs public awareness, dialogue
Friday , August 02, 2013 - 4:17 PM
As a survivor of domestic violence, I’d like to comment on the recent article about DV trends in Utah (July 31, “Domestic violence trend disturbing”). I believe the article speaks to both the problems as well as the solutions we face in effectively addressing domestic violence.
A significant barrier is the degree of tolerance society has towards violence. By describing an attack as “just slapping or hitting” implies acceptance of this kind of behavior. My abuser once slapped me on the cheek so hard I got a black eye. I was regularly choked, sometimes not hard but once I passed out. Where do we draw the line? When is it “just” a little violent?
Another barrier is believing domestic violence is simply about behavior ‘control’ or anger ‘management’. My abuser controlled and managed his behavior impeccably—he never attacked anyone his size or strength, only women and children. Domestic violence is not simple. Abusers as well as the abused need support and therapy. I learned that I was self-abusing by allowing my abuser to be in my life, and the lives of my children. I required outside intervention (policy in California requires the police to press charges) but once I got distance and felt safe, I was able to move away from violence and towards self-love and non-violence.
Important to effectively addressing domestic violence is greater public awareness and open dialog. Reversing feelings of shame in abusers and the abused and greater awareness of the many forms of domestic violence will emerge. After speaking to a group of college students, I found healing and some heard themselves in my talk, and began their own path towards healing.
Physical violence is typically accompanied by psychological violence; awareness will come from hearing stories of survival.
As a voice to and for the public, the Standard-Examiner can do these things towards ending domestic violence: use a language of zero-tolerance; create opportunities for survivors to tell their stories—these give hope, create understanding and reduce shame; provide information about shelters and support; educate the public—families of all backgrounds live with violence, there is no single ‘profile’; save lives through awareness.