Living with violence is oppressive; like living at the bottom of a dark, cold ocean.
I was down for so long, I forgot how to breathe.
I forgot who I was. I forgot about the light.
The constant weight immobilizes.
The darkness isolates.
The cold numbs.
If we take a minute to look at the people around us today, wherever we are—work, school, church, supermarket—we look into the faces of violence. Some are victims and some are abusers. One in four women and one in seven men in the United States are victims of domestic violence.
Intimate partner violence affects more than 12,000,000 people a year. In the United States an average of 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. So, in the time it has taken to read these few lines, about 50 people have suffered from some form of violence.
I believe wholeheartedly that violence against women is one of the greatest social problems that we face today. Without question, women are more frequently affected by domestic violence, but men are victims too.
However, I also know that violence is violence and all victims deserve our support and understanding. Violence, in all its repulsive guises, destroys lives. The statistics on male victims of domestic violence are questionable because most men are too embarrassed to speak. I am not.
I lived for many years, submersed in the murky, glacial waters of violence—emotional, psychological and at times physical.
It took everything I had to break free, swim to the top and breathe again. There were some people that helped me as I kicked and thrashed my way up from the bottom and others who stood by, shamefully silent. Men are not supposed to be victims of violence.
Men are supposed to dominate women. Men should be able to put women in their place. Not me. I absorbed, almost every day, screams, threats, accusations, attacks on body, mind and balance.
I am not embarrassed to talk about this because I abhor violence, in all its forms.
I know there are too many people out there, women, children and men, who are breathless, drowning today in the tyrannical waters of violence.
This is for all of them: it’s time to breathe again.
Violence is cyclical and abusers learn how to ride the rolling waves of aggression like expert surfers. The tension builds, explosion, reconciliation, fragile sense of calm, tension builds—over and over again.
It is never easy to stand up, confront the abuser and break free from violence. It will never be easy and it will never be safe.
Abusers are dangerous, unpredictable and must be confronted carefully.
First, we seek the support of friends, family and professionals, then we act. A good place to start is reaching out to the many world-wide public and private organizations, that provide support services for victims of violence. Attempting to confront an abuser without a support system can be far too precarious.
I have learned to feel compassion for abusers.
For the most part, they are frightened, insecure people who need to dominate in order to feel worthy. Often, they are victims of violence themselves, who never knew how to seek help. They never found peace within their own lives, so they are bent on preventing others from finding peace.
Violence is envy in its most horrific disguise.
Feeling hatred, resentment or craving revenge towards the abuser does absolutely no good for them, but it can poison our own souls.
Compassion is a way of healing our own wounds, starting with forgiveness, empathy and a sincere desire that the abuser may discover peace. I pray for my abuser every day.
There will be a period of mourning, which occurs when we realize how much has been lost and broken. Then comes the process of reconstruction. We pick up the shards and fragments, arranging them in new, reinforced designs, so that we will never again be broken. We have made it this far, there is no turning back now.
The most important thing I can share is the feeling of elation that comes with freedom.
When I reached the surface, opened my mouth and let the warm air slide down my throat, expanding my lungs, I knew I could remember how to breathe. I remembered the light that fell, with startling precision, on my face.
I remembered who I was.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline, http://www.thehotline.org/resources/statistics/
Viagianos, Alanna (2014) 30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics that Remind Us It’s an Epidemic, October 2014: The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/23/domestic-violence-statistics_n_5959776.html
Author: Peter Schaller
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock