It was a looooooong semester!!
On Saturday, April 7, I spoke at the “Dress for What’s Next” event at the University at Buffalo School of Law. This free, all day event for survivors of domestic violence was put on by an all-volunteer team of UB Law School students. Daycare and lunch were provided for women and their children and there was even a therapy dog on site 🖤 Meditation and self-defense classes were offered, support and referral information was provided and there was even an opportunity for the ladies to do a little “gently used” clothes shopping👗👠👜 Impressive from beginning to end and I was absolutely honored to be asked to be a part of it!
Intimate Terrorism is violence deployed in the service of (gaining) general control over one’s partner.
Violent Resistance is when a victim of Intimate Terrorism fights back physically.
Situational Couple Violence is when one or both partners are violent but neither is using violence in an attempt to exert general control over the other. Unlike Intimate Terrorism, violence is not usually a central part of the couple’s relationship.
(Excerpted from: A Typology of Domestic Violence, Michael P. Johnson; globalrightsforwomen.org)
Punching, slapping, hitting, kicking, grabbing/pushing, biting, poking, hair pulling, pinching, shaking, cutting, burning, restraint, strangulation or any physical injury caused by an object or weapon.
If you knew that a male friend or family member had stalked, harassed or abused his former partners (either because you witnessed the behavior or because he confided the information to you) would you feel morally obligated to tell his current partner? Are you a busy-body if you get involved? Do you only tell if she asks? Do you assume that he will be honest and tell her eventually? If you stay silent and he injures his current partner, would you feel partially responsible because you were aware that there was a potential for danger and said nothing? Are we responsible for other people’s safety?
Dear Victim of Domestic Violence,
You are the strongest person you know. In fact, you might be the strongest person you’ll ever know.
If you have lived through even one day when you were physically injured or emotionally battered by someone that claimed to love you, you are the strongest person you know. If you took the hit, physically or emotionally, and didn’t completely shut down on the spot from the hurt, shame, shock, grief, anger, humiliation, horror, disgust, and confusion that you felt, you are the strongest person you know. If you got up the next day and tried life again – took care of your kids, went to work, cooked and cleaned and saw friends, family and co-workers and went about daily life like your very soul hadn’t been dinged – you are the strongest person you know.
What’s ironic is that because of all of this, you probably think that you’re the weakest person you know. You think that it’s your fault or maybe some sort or failure on your part. You look at your kids and you worry because there’s a chance that they might have witnessed or heard the abuse that was wrought upon you. You don’t want friends or family to find out because maybe they would judge you. Worst of all is that you ‘blinked’; when your partner hurt you, you didn’t immediately rise up and end the relationship, like every *kick ’em to the curb* girl-anthem/pop song says that an independent, strong woman does. Maybe you fought back and maybe you didn’t but ultimately, you stayed. And you let him stay. You let things cool down. You told yourself that it would never happen again. You bet on the hope that deep down, he’s a better man than his actions say that he is.
That’s not a bet I’d be willing to take.
Domestic violence escalates quickly and can be fatal. You feel weak because your soul has been dinged, but believe me when I tell you that you’re the strongest person you know because if you managed to live through even one instance of battery and still got up the next day, put feet on the floor and tried life again, you possess a strength that can never be compromised. Not by your partner. Not by anyone.
If you leave, are things going to be weird for a while? Are you going to have to live somewhere unfamiliar? Will you have to change jobs, email addresses and your cell phone number? Will you have to stay away from social media? Will you have to trade in your car for a different model to ensure yourself a good amount of privacy and anonymity? Will your children be confused and scared and require extra patience while you work through keeping yourself safe? Will loved ones, lawyers, co-workers and others ask you prying, silly or uninformed questions like, Why did you stay for so long?, Why didn’t you call the police? or Why did you have another baby with him? All or some of these things might happen, but you will handle it all and you will handle it well, because you are the strongest person you know.
How can I be so sure? Because I know this: If you were strong enough to have lived through even one instance of physical and/or emotional battery with your partner, you’re damn sure strong enough to live without him.
Do you know a J-E-R-K?
“J” is for JUSTIFICATION. This person believes that everything they do, say, think and believe is right and beyond reproach. This person is literally never wrong. If you dare point out a flaw in their actions, words, thought process or belief system, you immediately become the enemy and are accused of trying to hurt them, tear them down psychologically or emotionally or (the most egregious of all sins) embarrass them.
“E” is for ENTITLEMENT. This person believes that it is their right to do with you whatever they like. Every part of you, from the most intimate pieces of yourself (your body, self-concept, self-esteem, value system, ideology) to those things that you cherish outside of yourself (relationships with family members, friends, pets; even your belongings) are theirs to criticize, manipulate, diminish or destroy.
“R” is for REALITY. This person believes that they, alone, are allowed define and judge the way in which you experience every situation. Your opinion doesn’t matter. How you feel doesn’t matter. They will tell you what you experienced and how you ought to feel about it and if you refuse to see things their way, you are deemed wrong, stupid, obtuse, phony, crazy, etc.
“K” is for KNOWLEDGE. At times, this person will try to convince you that they are so in love/angry/drunk/overwhelmed that they lose control of themselves. Other times they’ll want you to believe that the controlling, hurtful way that they treat you is for your own good or that you bring it upon yourself. This person tries to cut friends, family members, work mates and neighbors out of your life under the guise of “loyalty” to them or to the relationship, because they understand that knowledge is power. They don’t want you to know anyone else’s opinion of the relationship.
There’s another word that perfectly describes someone who’s a “J-E-R-K”. Seven letters, starts with an “A” and ends with an “E”. (No; not that word – but good guess and accurate description nonetheless!) The word I’m talking about is “A-B-U-S-I-V-E”. If your significant other fits even one of the descriptions above, it might be time to sit down and talk to someone. There are help centers available in every city as well as online (www.ncadv.org, www.nomore.org, www.safehorizonorg ). No one deserves to be treated the way that the J-E-R-K in your life is treating you. You deserve better than that. Please reach out for confidential help and please don’t wait. Life is too short to waste hanging out with a J-E-R-K.