This isn't an easy topic to write about objectively when you've experienced domestic violence first hand. Writing about domestic violence and intimate partner violence without vilifying the perpetrator is a lot harder than I expected. Especially when the aggressor has been someone I love. So, I'm not going to write terrible things about my Dad or even my ex-boyfriends. This is strictly about my experience and how if affected me and how I saw it affect others. It can be hard to separate the person from their actions and understand that perhaps violence was inflicted upon them too. Not to make excuses for anyone, but there may be a pattern of abuse in families, which can be seen throughout the generations.
My own experience being affected by DV begins long before I can remember. I don't have any recollection of my Mom and Dad fighting, but I understand not everyone may have been so lucky. I do believe the experiences that my Mom endured, affected me greatly and my ability to develop emotionally as a child. My Mom left my Dad when I was two years old due to domestic violence. She told me that she didn't want me growing up thinking it was okay for Daddy to hurt Mommy. I understood why my Mom did what she did. It was smart; for her safety and mine. But even with her good intentions, I still ended up in relationships (yes, more than one) where intimate partner violence occurred. My first experience with IPV was in high school. A boyfriend spat in my face during a fight and another boyfriend grabbed my breast and twisted my nipple hard during a fight at school. The last boyfriend that laid hands on me was when I was in college. It is not uncommon now to see dating violence happening to younger and younger teenagers. Nearly 1.5 million high schoolers experience physical abuse from their dating partner! Most parents, 81% of them to be exact, don't think dating violence is an issue or are unaware that it is an issue. (https://www.dvs-or.org/teen-dating-violence-statistics/)
Domestic violence is drastically underreported, in my opinion. Too many people are afraid to come forward and say anything. This goes for victims as well as concerned friends and family. I have close friends and family members who have lived with domestic violence in their home. (And honestly, at this point does anyone know anybody NOT impacted by DV?) I think about a friend from elementary school whose Dad used to whip my friend and her older sister with me sitting in the next room. I hated him so much for hurting my friends. In more recent times, I've offered my home to friends who were in domestic violence situations with their husbands. I've also had friends deal with abusive and toxic friendships right in front of me without even knowing it. The thing is, we (the survivors) get so good at covering up the abuse because we don't want to see someone we love and care about get in trouble. Maybe we are too empathetic to the abuser because we understand their pain. We know why they do what they do. We know their story. But it doesn't mean we should be someone else's verbal or physical punching bag. Love doesn't hurt that way.
I learned this all too well in my mid-20s at the end of a very toxic relationship. Although, there was abuse from the beginning of the relationship; it took an almost deadly situation for me to finally leave. I never reported the incident because I knew if I did, it would threaten his livelihood and I'd have to go to court. Things I really didn't want to do. I just wanted to get away and be done with him. Many women and men are not in the position to just get up and leave, especially when children and pets are involved (no, we can't forget about the animals!) Once a week, I teach yoga at a domestic violence and homeless shelter for women and children here in Las Vegas and I see the aftermath of what it looks like to leave an abusive situation. Some of the families are there for months and others are not there for long. I never know where they end up or if they go back. But I can imagine, there are some that go back into those violent homes for whatever reasons. I can't judge anyone who goes back, because I went back, too. It's hard to leave for so many reasons. For example, my Mom, it took years of abuse before she finally left my Dad.
All we can do as survivors and supporters of friends and family who are in domestic violence and intimate partner violence situations is to be there for them. Help them when they are ready to accept it. Be empathetic without judgment. For me, there was a lot of uncovering and digging to figure out why I accepted and allowed this kind of treatment from my boyfriends. Ultimately, it was because I did not respect or value myself. I thought I deserved the treatment; I was being punished for something and I thought that I had to take it. I learned so much from that experience. I'm grateful that I came out of it alive.
Not everyone is so lucky. From a simple online search, these are some statistics I pulled from https://domesticviolencestatistics.org/domestic-violence-statistics/
Every 9 seconds, a woman in the US is assaulted or beaten. Everyday in the US, more than 3 women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.
For anyone out there, I am always holding space for you. Even if you don't want help now. I am here and I will listen without judgment. But help will be offered.
Take good care of the ones you love.
Sending You Much Love,
Your Health and Wellness Coach