It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month again.
People like Harvey Weinstein are bringing us high-profile reminders that every month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, not just October.
Earlier this year a Google engineer was fired for firing off a memo insinuating that women were biologically inferior engineers. In Time Magazine former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao said, “I don’t know how you build an inclusive culture around that.”
Lower profile reminders are popping up all over Facebook. This year, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month women who have been victims of harassment or worse are posting a simple, “Me too,” letting the world know that, they too have been abused or harassed, shedding light and solidarity on an issue that’s not always up front. The members of the “Me too” club are all over the place.
In the last year I have become more familiar with the domestic abuse scene in the valley. I trained to be an advocate with the Advocate Safehouse Project in Glenwood Springs and have answered the 24-hour help line.
I was worried that women would not want to talk to a guy on the help line but have discovered just the opposite. The women I’ve talked to are mostly looking for a sane person who will listen to their words with respect and empathy. It’s heartbreaking.
My first call was from a woman whose boyfriend had just hit her and dropped her off in a sleazy part of a nearby city. She and her three kids were cornered in a horrible hotel with drug deals, prostitution and other crimes happening right outside the door. She was brave and the kids were under control. She said she wanted out but it often takes several incidents like this before women in that situation take the kids and run for their lives.
If you find yourself wanting to talk to someone who will listen and is familiar with the law and your options, call the 24-hour help line number at Advocate Safehouse at (970) 945-4439.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
Response is another organization providing support for victims. Responsehelps.org provides advice for those thinking about stepping away from an abuser. There are many items that someone needs once they get away. They may not have thought of it all in the heat of the moment.
Response advises victims to call an advocate, keep a list of the abuse, tell a friend or family member, select a code word, plan an escape route and pack a bag. That bag should contain all forms of ID, as much money as the victim can gather, deeds and mortgage papers, insurance cards, car registration, keys, medication, photos of the abuser and other valuables.
The 24-hour English and Spanish Response helpline number is (970) 925-7233.
Abuse often starts off almost innocently but can build quickly. For example, “That was stupid,” could easily grow to, “You are stupid.”
It can start with an insult, then more insults, then isolation and control, intimidation and threats and worse. It often nudges outward, growing slow but sure as the abuser pushes the boundaries of what he can get away with.
The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence website (nrcdv.org) helps people determine if they are abusive or being abused. Action steps to break the pattern are also found through this resource.
Victims of abuse are often women and sometimes kids. According to the National Institute of Justice, an intimate partner commits almost half of all murders in Colorado. Most victims are women. Nationally, one in four women will experience abuse in their lifetime. I have heard stories of horrific passive aggressive behavior that implied imminent violence. Who could live under that?
Teen dating abuse is a big problem. The Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence says that girls and young women experience nearly triple the national average rate of intimate partner violence, and only 33 percent of incidents are reported. One quarter of high school girls have been victims of sexual abuse or violence. Think about the peer pressure to be cool, popular and attractive and couple that with boys who learn the tactics of abuse, isolation, coercion and more.
We owe it to our kids to make sure that abuse is not OK or normal, and that it’s not love, not cool and not acceptable.
Abusers have resources, too. Some guys have not had proper sensitivity training, but it’s never too late to get started. They can find empathy for someone looking to change and help doing it through Response and Advocate Safehouse.
“When we embrace anger and take good care of our anger, we obtain relief. We can look deeply into it and gain many insights. One of the first insights may be that the seed of anger in us has grown too big, and is the main cause of our misery. As we begin to see this reality, we realize that the other person, whom our anger is directed at, is only a secondary cause. The other person is not the real cause of our anger.” - Thich Nhat Hahn.
Steve Skinner is reminded that anger can destroy perfectly good people. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.