After being sufficiently chastised, Congress finally acted and passed the refined Violence Against Women Act. You would think that passing an act against violence would be as close to a no brainer as possible, but when describing Congress these days, “brainy” is not an oft-used term. The hold up had been adding clauses to protect LGBT and Native American victims, to give them recourse against violent attackers. I think the shaming of Congress finally got the Speaker of the House to act and enough GOP votes when added to the Democratic minority votes got it passed. This is at least three votes where the majority party did not support something, but enough more reasonable GOP heads helped a needed law prevail. This is a story in and of itself.
Yet, now that the VAWA has passed, I want to reiterate messages from earlier posts, that we have to have a seriousness of purpose to stopping domestic violence. It is a severe crime perpetuated on family members or close friends. The studies show at its heart, the perpetrator is exhibiting power or control over his victims. It is done over time through word and deed and in a way that makes the victims somehow think it is their fault. To this point, one of the most disturbing stories I have heard is when an African-American female friend told me she went to her minister for counseling because her husband was beating her. She reluctantly agreed to a joint counseling session with her husband and minister. Her minister told her if she would be a better wife, this would not be happening. I put this in bold and italics for emphasis. No, no, no. This man was beating her and committing a vicious crime, reverend. It is not her fault. It is not your fault, if this is happening to you.
If you are in a situation where you are being beaten by your husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, father, etc., find a way to get out. He (or she) will not change. It is not your fault. It is his. No matter what you do, you cannot please the person, so get out. If you know of someone who is in this situation help them get out. Many times, you don’t know, as the victim is often so humiliated that they do not want others to know. If you suspect something, do something before it is too late. Get her away from this criminal.
I have mentioned before that I volunteer with an agency that helps homeless families. The average view of these families are a female head of household, with two or three kids. Some of these families come from a domestic violence situation and need to escape from the father or significant other. I mention the families, as kids are victims, as well. Usually, if action is taken, it is because the kids are being beaten. But, the harm goes deeper than the physical and immediate mental trauma. Studies show that boys who witness domestic violence, even on themselves, have a higher propensity than others to commit domestic violence as an adult. You would think the opposite would be true, but they see this as normative behavior and will act out on it.
The girls also are impacted, as the same study shows the girls have a higher propensity than others to enter a relationship and accept domestic violence. Again, you would think it is the opposite. I don’t know if it is a crushed self-esteem or if it is being attracted to the same kind of person who exhibits the traits of the perpetrator who may be her father. Often, the future abusers, dress up nicely during courting their future mate or girlfriend. Yet, if you see anything in your new beau that gives you pause, talk with a friend. As this may be the glimpse of the future you need to avoid.
I have heard many terrible stories. but let me close with one that is telling. A business colleague who now is Board Chair of a group that helps domestic violence and rape victims, told me this about his sister. His sister had many siblings coming from a big Catholic family. She was married with two kids. All of the siblings had no idea that her husband and their brother-in-law was beating her and the kids. She hid it from them, by missing an occasional family outing or explaining away an obvious injury. They did not know until her husband beat her to death. They also found out later from the boys, now teenagers, that their father used to lift them up and beat their heads into the ceiling.
Ladies and girls, it is not your fault. This is not right. If you in a controlling relationship and sense something is wrong, talk with someone – a trusted friend, a parent, a counselor. If the violence has started, get out now. Leave. He will not change. He will tell you he will change and he may believe it, but he won’t. Get out now. It is not your fault. It is his.