April 3, 2014

How We Can Help Survivors of Domestic Abuse.

woman abuse

I heard the screams through the thin, cheap apartment wall.

My neighbors were fighting again.

She agonized and pleaded, “Stop! No more.”

It ended in a muffled silence only when the bed began to rock a steady rhythm.

I had flashbacks. I hummed and held my terror until the final spring went silent. Ten minutes later, I could hear him snore and her soft sobs mixed with stinging tears.

I poured some scotch to numb my fears and feign a restful sleep. Only to wake the next day to face my job and counsel over a 150 defendants (including families) of domestic violence.

I was a probation officer.

In addition, I was completing an internship at the tail end of graduate school. I answered the hotline for a women’s shelter. I quickly discovered I wasn’t very effective and disassociated during the crisis calls. I found I was better suited connecting with the women and children once they arrived at the safe house.

With a cup of tea or coffee, listening was my best quality. I underscored the women’s courage, vulnerability and bravery. I commended their choices for letting go and breaking a vicious cycle of violence.

More often than not, it took several attempts to leave.

What brings me to revisit this volcanic vein I so naïvely thought dormant? A recent post from a friend. She gave me permission to share. Here’s a snippet: 

 “I came to Michigan on vacation in November. While here, my husband whose abuse of me had escalated over time threatened me once again with my life. I finally had the courage to report his unacceptable behavior to the police. He retaliated by telling me I could not go back home and he would use the situation to take my son from me…” ~ Meera.

In the US, domestic violence occurs every nine seconds. Around the world, at least one in every three women are beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a family member or friend. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. 

After reading her brave and courageous post, it stirred something deep within my heart. I wanted to be an advocate and I reached out.

How can I help?

I can’t fight her battles but I can support her.

I won’t shame her. Instead I will highlight her strengths.

We can have a virtual cup of tea or coffee and I will listen.

When she left her abuser, she turned from victim to heroine. She’s fierce, kind and a gentle warrior. Her flame has been ignited. 

All change comes for a reason.

Her story gets more complicated though and now by mandatory court order she has to return to Hawaii with the child she’s protecting.

She has nothing and yet she has more than most. She has a focus to protect herself and her child. Her spirit is resilient.

The court system is fraught with blanketed statements to ensure everyone is treated justly. Except I believe more are hurt than protected. Yes, she will likely receive assistance, guidance and even a court representative from the Domestic Violence Association in Maui. Still she has to persevere the system. Reapply for a protection order. See her abuser in court. Comfort and protect herself and child.

And this is why she’s reaching out. She recognizes the need for support; for her spirit and financially. It’s a sign of strength and determination. She’s side stepping victimhood and shame by sharing her story. Friends and strangers are hearing her message. It’s been a beautiful tapestry and it is uplifting. I believe strongly she will succeed and both her and her child will remain happy and safe.

Whenever physical violence, control, belittling and or psychological abuse becomes the common denominator in a relationship, it’s time to make a plan and leave.  

I will favor and support the heroine (or hero).


If you feel inspired to assist with her plight, please click here to read the rest of her story. Donations are graciously welcomed.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: b_lumenkraft at Flickr

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