Listening From Home...
The state of South Carolina is finally out of the top 10 for deaths by domestic abuse, the gag is we only made it to number 11 with 42 individuals being killed by a domestic partner in 2019. Sharing Memes, and laughing at the idea of being in unhealthy relationships on social media may seem like it’s not a big deal until you witness someone close to you going through a toxic cycle and you find yourself constantly asking them if they are okay, or confused as to why they don’t just leave. How about scrolling through your timeline and suddenly feeling stick to your stomach to see that another love story has gone terribly wrong?
Effects of minimizing Domestic Abuse
When we minimize the seriousness of these situations, we subconsciously put ourselves at risk of becoming abusers ourselves, simply by normalizing abusive behaviors. It is no longer okay for us to ride the fence, either we are going to joke about it or understand how it contributes to the culture of violence. Domestic abuse does not usually begin with a bold slap across the face. It is more likely to begin with a subtle change in behavior that results in the abuser minimizing the abuse and or shifting the blame to the victim. This lack of accountability allows the abuser to gradually change the victim’s way of thinking. Once they establish their “unconditional and genuine love” in the bonding phase or honeymoon phase, they begin to employ emotional and verbal abuse to wear down the victim’s self-esteem thus making them more susceptible to gaslighting and manipulation. They sometimes begin to question their own thoughts and sanity. Ever saw a friend or loved one suddenly change their entire behavior in front of their partner or appear to be “minimizing” who they are just to keep the peace? In abusive relationships, the victim almost entirely disappears as their own separate person and fades away into the background. They put their needs to the side in effort to maintain peace, and the abuser regularly tells the victim they are not being treated as poorly as they claim. It is all a part of a toxic cycle of abuse rooted by power and control.
Ways we can fight to end Domestic Violence
As hard as it was to get the world to listen to survivor’s pre-pandemic, it is harder now that we must “listen from home”. The COVID-19 Pandemic has personally done a lot for me. It has widened my eyes to the realities that many are still facing behind closed doors. Social-distancing, quarantining, restricted travel, and closures of key community institutions are likely to dramatically increase the risk for domestic violence around the globe. Domestic violence has always been a public health crisis many believe we will have to deal with. Well it is 2020 and I am here to say that this is NOT the reality we have to choose! As subtly as abuse can begin, there are many subtle things we can do to ensure it comes to an end in all forms. We can start by listening to survivors when they share their stories and recognize that all individual stories and progress are equally valid and worthy of being acknowledged. Comparing the severity of abuse reduces a person’s unique emotional responses and experiences. Not everyone has endured abuse in the same manner meaning our path to rebuilding our lives and the timetable in which it occurs are unique to each of us. We are quick to tell college students they should not put a timeline on finishing their degree so why should we ever expect someone to put a clock on healing their trauma? If you are not sure how to best support a friend or loved one in a domestic situation, start by asking them what it is they need at this time. It is important they feel empowered to make their own choices. Next, we need all genders to become allies and speak up against all forms of violence. Men play a vital role in the fight as normalizing healthy masculinity is the key in modeling healthy, non-violent coping styles.
Lastly, checking ourselves and taking accountability for our own unhealthy behaviors. It is not always easy to admit especially when it can be potentially harmful to others, and that is not our intent. We cannot fault ourselves for things we do not know, however once we know better, we can challenge ourselves to try something different for the greater good. Accountability can be a gateway to learning healthy coping styles when angry. Having toxic tendencies should not be a trend, nor a joke when it can lead to tragic endings such as death or suicide. Many organizations like our own have resources such as safety plans and other tools that can be useful in tough times.
In the meantime, we can continue to educate ourselves on the effects of domestic abuse, as well as share hashtags, and messages on social media to spread awareness. I personally have been rocking purple, as it is the official color for domestic violence awareness and posting with the following tags:
#SCDVAM #SCSaysNoMore #DVAM2020 #DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth #listeningfromhome