Though we have come a long way in making domestic violence and hate violence visible to the community, we are not done with the work that needs to be done.
Yesterday, a young woman was beaten to death in Mesa, Arizona. In public. Her name hasn’t been released yet, and neither has her assailant’s, but news reports say it looks like a domestic dispute.
People in the neighborhood tried to stop him.
Then they tried to save her.
They tried, but she died anyway; according to one of the men who tried to save her, the assailant stood there, watching and talking on the phone, saying that she did it; it was her fault.
Domestic violence is never the victim’s fault. I don’t care how stupid the perpetrator thinks the victim is, or how “bitchy” the victim might be, or whatever other excuses a perpetrator might give.
Violence is never the answer.
We all know that men can be victims of domestic violence at the hands of women. It happens between same sex couples, too. I know—I’ve seen it. I recognize the way a victim walks, the furtive looks at their abuser before speaking, the jumpiness when their abuser speaks to them.
The reality is that women are far more likely to be victims than are men. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 85 % of domestic violence victims are women—and almost one-third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner.
When I was living in terror of the man who declared his love for me and then systematically broke down my self-esteem before beginning an onslaught of physical violence, I didn’t know I was part of an epidemic—I didn’t realize that I had become a statistic.
I only knew that the person I had been was being erased. She was disappearing, and I didn’t know how to get her back.
I was fortunate, in the long run. I watched helplessly as a sister-in-law was beaten savagely with her husband’s studded belt.
My husband only used his fists, and his steel-toed boots.
When I finally devised a way to escape, I had no idea it would take years to regain myself, to remember my dreams, to have the strength to try to make those dreams come true.
Years. Not days. Not months. Years. And I still remember.
As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I want to remind us that though we have come a long way in making domestic violence and hate violence visible to the community, we are not done with the work that needs to be done.
We need to stand up for those who cower in the corner in terror because they can’t see a way out. We need to pick up the telephone and dial 911 when we see another in danger. We need to intervene whenever we can.
Those of us who have been in domestic violence—whether it is spousal or significant other abuse or child abuse—need to speak out. We need to tell our stories.
I once shared my story in front of a group of over a thousand people—it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, and one of the most gratifying.
After I told my story, women and men approached me to share theirs. Some had never been able to admit that they had been there. Some were still in their domestic violence situation, and found inspiration in the words I shared with them.
I have since told my story at a conference about domestic violence for church leaders.
I tell my story in poetry and prose. My first “performance” poetry piece, which I recorded on video, was about my story. It is the story of a girl who sought love and found horror. Being the first poem I ever spoke without a piece of paper in my hand, it’s not the best performance.
But it is true, honest and raw. It inspires.
Speak out against domestic violence.
Speak out against rape.
Speak out against hate.
Speak out against violence of any kind.
Then act. Reach out. Help those who have been hurt. Assist those who work against violence.
If we don’t speak and act on behalf of those who cannot, who will?
Suzanne (Suzy) Jacobson Cherry has been writing since she was able to hold a crayon. Much of Suzy’s writing reflects her practices in “Transreligious Spirituality,” challenging and crossing the boundaries between Progressive Christianity and Wicca/Neo-Paganism. She will graduate with a Master of Divinity degree from Claremont School of Theology this May. She has held an ordination from Universal Life Church since 1991, and now that she has some training and vision, she hopes to utilize that ordination as a tool to help individuals move toward a more enlightened state. Suzy’s newest book, Phoenix from the Ashes, is a unique memoir of her experiences in domestic violence and the years of renewal afterward. Phoenix may be purchased in paperback or Kindle editions online on Amazon. You can find other writings by Suzy at one of her blogs.
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Assistant Ed: Josie Huang/Ed: Bryonie Wise