Did you know it’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month? My story…
Law Student. Mommy. Victim? I would have never dreamed that last title is one I would have. The word “victim” seemed so degrading, like I was never really strong enough to NOT be one. To me, domestic violence was a thing of fantasy, only designated for Lifetime TV or movie thrillers.
However from 2008-2010, domestic violence was my reality. I had a serious boyfriend at the time. He was a full time engineering student, living with 3 other PhD students too! I had a full-time job being a mom and legal assistant. Oh and throw in my first year of law school for good measure! In the midst of all the wonderful things that were happening, you would never think that I had been literally fighting for my life with someone I “loved.”
The very first occasion I chalked it up to it being an “accident.” We were discussing something, he pulled away and hit me in the process. I cried, he was remorseful, we moved on. The reality for me was realizing there were no “accidents.” Over the next few months I was choked, punched, headbutted, and almost thrown over a balcony, for incidents like not making dinner or wanting to celebrate a birthday with a friend. After each occurrence, we would stop talking for a few days, and then be back together as if nothing had happened. So believe me when I say, I can understand the feelings of hopelessness and confusion.
My story ended with us successfully breaking up and the abuser moving away. I shared these experiences to say: Domestic violence is not discerning. You can be the most loving, intelligent individual; but, if you are with the wrong person those things can become irrelevant. Domestic Violence Awareness Month was established to draw attention to this “epidemic.”
Now, you are likely wondering how a law student and 3 other grad students could stand by and let abuse happen? Simply put, lack of awareness. As the victim, I didn’t want to believe a person I cared about was intentionally hurting me. The other roommates likely did not want to ruin a friendship. At the end of the day, we all could have been more aware of such a volatile situation. So in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, here are some things to do to wake up or help others who may be in a domestic violence situation:
- Understand that one occurrence, is one too many.
No one deserves to be hit. Admitting to yourself that someone you care for, harmed you is one part of the battle. The other part is standing up, and deciding that one is enough.
- Tell someone, anyone!
Whether it is a friend or sibling, let someone know you may be hurting. Even by letting them know you are having a difficult time with your companion can make a world of difference in getting the help you need.
- Detach safely and as soon as possible.
If you can leave the situation, please do! Thankfully, I had my own apartment and transportation such that I could easily retreat. However, I understand that everyone may not be as fortunate. That is why it is important to let someone know about your situation, and perhaps they can help you transition safely.
- Follow up once you’re made aware of an occurrence of domestic violence.
Be sure to ask questions. If you have a friend who confides to you about being abused, or you witness the situation firsthand, please follow up. Brushing things off as “not your problem,” can be damaging in more ways than one, so do your part.
Finally, you can find local contacts using the National Domestic Violence Hotline website. Assistance can vary from psychological support, housing, transportation, even scholarships! There are several resources to assist you in your journey to free yourself from domestic violence; and I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to use them.