Silence, the unspoken form of domestic abuse. Our silence allows the violence to become bolder. No longer could I idly sit by and watch another suffer at the hands of an abuser or worse at the hands of friends who whispered, “Why does she stay?”, “I would leave him if he hit me”, or the worst one, “she must have deserved it”. When our loved ones turn their backs, belittle us verbally, physically and with severe neglect, what gives anyone the right to judge. Women who are physically abused, do not just suffer a black eye or bruises, most are victims of chronic emotional, financial or sexual abuse. They cautiously and silently seek refuge and strength from friends and family. When we carelessly, feel the need to empower ourselves with a false platitude like, “I’d just leave him” we send the message of shame on you. We send the message that the abused is weak, dumb and not worthy.
Today I read the written screams of a lifelong friend angry and hurt that her children watched as her husband, their father treated her with such violence and disrespect. They witnessed the abuse she thought she was hiding from them and yet they said nothing. How do you expect victims of abuse to be strong or just leave when so many loved ones sit silently and pretend a life of violence and infidelity are normal. Victims are often so filled with shame, that they try to hide, and cover for their abuser. It becomes a way of life. The cycle of violence continues right under all of our noses and we pretend. Actually, we embrace this warped normal, because we don’t want to get involved. We don’t want to recognize our own weakness that this could be us, because although so many profess false strength of “I’d never tolerate abuse”, we show our weakness by our silence. We don’t even have the strength to pull our loved one aside and let them know this is not alright and when they are ready we will be by their side.
Instead, we watch and in some cases, like my friend, we get the call, “I am sorry we watched the way dad treated you. Now it’s happening to me and I feel bad!” The cycle of abuse is not just perpetuated by abusers, silent bystanders, friends, and family facilitate the turning of the wheel of violence. Our silence teaches the next generation that this is how a victim shows love to the abuser. We protect them, after all, they have scars, they had a terrible childhood, if we just loved them more they would change Sadly, our silence teaches our children how to be abused. Our silence assigns rights and excuses to the abuser, and tragically, they somehow become the victims.
How is it we can watch abuse and normalize it until we ourselves are victims? Every 9 seconds a woman in the U.S. is a victim of domestic violence. 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic abuse. Three women are murdered every day by an intimate partner. In the United States, 4,774,000 women experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year. Each year, 2 million injuries and 1,300 injuries and 1,300 deaths are caused as a result of domestic violence. Three women are murdered every day by an intimate partner. Domestic violence is the 3rd leading cause of homelessness among families. So the next time you hear, “I’d just leave”, speak up, domestic violence thrives on our silence.
It is never too late to make a difference, with the simple phrase, “this is not your fault, I see what is happening and I am here when you are ready”. Get involved. If you see abuse, report it. If the ones who are merely watching the abuse are afraid, how do you expect the abused to have the greater strength? It is time to start being part of the solution and save a life. The life you save may be your own or someone you love dearly. Abusers target all types of women with varying social, economic and educational levels. Remember the next time you are at lunch with friends, at the store or wherever you may be, 1 in 4 women are victims. Do you have the strength to make a difference or will your silence continue to feed the violence?