This month, there will be plenty of bloggers writing about breast cancer. With Halloween coming on, many will probably write about fear. I doubt many will be writing about the fact that it is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The thing I love about Kirtsy.com (formerly Sk*rt) is also, unfortunately, the thing I hate about it–it produces a torrential stream of wonderful stories every day. Too many good stories for me to keep up with, although I do subscribe to their “Popular” posts feed. But anyway, somehow yesterday I clicked through a headline and discovered Maggie’s awesome blog, OkayFineDammit. Just in time to read “The hidden quiet post about nothing and everything”.
One in four women will be abused in the U.S. sometime in their lifetime.
I knew this already.
I knew this because my first web copywriting assignment at my last job was developing the content for the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program website. It was an eye-opening assignment. In case you’re wondering, the bright blue ESCAPE button is in the header because, for a woman in an abusive relationship, getting caught looking at a website for a domestic violence program can be dangerous. My contact at the BDVP explained that we needed to provide an obvious way to get off the site instantly.
I still remember the look of shock on the designer’s face when I explained it to him. I don’t think he’d ever designed a website with an “escape hatch” before.
Think about four women or girls you know. Let the idea that one of them has been or will be abused sink in for a moment. It’s like an obscene perversion of a children’s game. Duck, duck, duck, goose.
We tend to think, in our arrogance, that if we don’t see it or hear about it, it doesn’t exist. We pretend that nothing happens in shadow and secret. We pretend that evil is always visible, or at least eventually exposed and dealt with. We think that if it were happening to a woman we know, a woman we care about, we would know.
We deceive ourselves.
Being reminded of all this (which is what “Awareness” is all about, really–having things brought up into our conscious, daily awareness) has also made me think about my relationships with other women around me.
I have two younger sisters, so one might think I’d be predisposed to close relationships with other women. For the majority of my life, I wasn’t. Instead, for most of my life, I fell headlong into the same trap that I think most women find themselves in. I held an impoverished worldview that saw fewer blessings than people, and mostly saw other women as competitors for those blessings.
My experiences with other women consisted largely of, at best, superficial friendships characterized more by cattiness and competition than genuine concern, and at worst, blatant attempts to invade and destroy my marriage.
I kept waiting for a champion to come and rescue me from these wicked witches.
It didn’t really work out that way, in the end.
In the end, it was a small group of steadfast, loyal and brave women who ended up saving me from a destructive cycle of looking to men to determine my worth.
It is a minor miracle, the beautiful, authentic, honest friendships with women that have bloomed from those particular ashes.
It’s a great tragedy that in learning to trust other women, the statistics of abuse bear out with painful accuracy. I don’t have to guess which of the women I hold dear have been victims of physical, verbal and emotional abuse. I’ve heard their stories–and these women are the fortunate ones. The survivors for whom the abuse is genuinely in the past.
Domestic violence programs are valuable and necessary, as are awareness campaigns. I just can’t help but think that it’s our willingness, as individuals, to be aware of the suffering around us that is where the real change starts.