*** WARNING: The content of this blog contains issues of domestic violence, including a personal account that may cause distress to the reader. Please do not continue to read if this topic causes you distress.
Seventy-eight is the number that has been consistently ascending to the absolute heartache and dismay of the Australian society.
Seventy-eight separate yet equally heart-wrenching tragedies have been reported by the media, penetrating into our personal world of safety.
Seventy-eight today, represents the number of women that have been killed violently by the hands of men this year.
With every tragedy, my heart hurts ~ it hurts for the victim, for their family and for society. With every death a thread of the woven fabric of our community is being pulled. We as a society are left with many dark thoughts ~ unfortunately many more questions than answers.
Last week was White Ribbon Day, a day to mark the work to eliminate violence against women. It is a cause much needed in our society.
Seventy-eight is a staggering number. It is undoubtedly seventy-eight too many, yet the problem is far deeper and of greater complexity because these seventy-eight victims do not represent the whole picture of the reality for many women living in circumstances of manipulative, isolating and terrifying domestic violence. I do not trivialize the absolute devastation of these victims – they are precisely why something greater needs to be done to help those living the reality before the number climbs further. These women represent the absolute reason for all victims’ greatest fears.
This epidemic is far greater in complexity than someone who has not experienced it can ever fathom, as I was told by a very dear friend who conveyed just that when I told of my desire to write about this topic because there seemed to be a pull in my heart and she couldn’t have been more right. The following is written by a friend who had escaped an abusive relationship that she had endured for over a decade who respectively wishes to remain anonymous:
These women who are victims are your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. The women you see every day can be the ones hiding from domestic violence.
These women feel alone and isolated and only because they’ve been conditioned that way though the violence they have endured. They have been groomed to feel that they can’t turn to anyone for help because it’s the fault of the victim for the abuse. They’re made to feel at fault, helpless and isolated. That is what their abuser does.
Domestic violence is about power. The aim of the abuser is to make the victim feel powerless – to rely only on the abuser and to be made to feel that no one would believe them. The abuser convinces the victim that it’s all the victims’ fault that the abuser is doing this to them. Even after a victim has been punched, kicked and strangled to the point where they think this is the end, the victim is reminded that it’s their fault it happened.
Afterwards there is the ‘I’m sorry’; ‘I love you’; and ‘I’ll never do it again’ – but there will always be a next time and another time after that.
Domestic violence is one of our hidden taboo subjects. It is clearly a subject that needs to be spoken about. Women are losing their lives to the men they thought they loved and thought would protect them – it is these women who need protecting against these violent men.
If a man hits you once it’s a guarantee he’ll do it again and again.
At the time of the actual, physical abuse, it is without doubt that every woman thinks ‘this is it…he’s going to kill me’.
The fear you feel never leaves you. Even on a good day you’re always on edge wondering when will it come; when is he going to get angry?
When it comes, you learn to prepare yourself from the blows that come to every part of your body. You become an expert at hiding your bruises, lie about how you got them because your too ashamed to let anyone know that you are your partner’s punching bag behind closed doors.
Every domestic violence victim is too many and every one has a similar story.
If we as women weren’t ashamed of our situation and spoke up knowing that we would be listened to and protected, perhaps more deaths could be avoided.
Every man is a son, brother, friend. People know of women in these situations but more often than not don’t want to interfere or don’t know how too.
All these women had a voice but weren’t able to use it.
People say ‘why didn’t you just leave?’ ~ It is not easy.
I was in a domestic violent home for twelve years. I thought and dreamed about leaving all that time but you can’t. You’re groomed by your abuser to feel it’s all your fault. You are groomed to believe you deserve everything that they are doing and groomed to believe that no one is going to believe you. When you’re repeatedly told this over and over again and when you’re isolated from your family and friends you start to believe it. You feel you have nowhere to turn.
You can’t just walk out the door whether you have children or not. Escaping from domestic violence needs to be planned. Every minute needs to be accounted for.
I tell people now who are in this situation to have a bag packed and hidden. Have all your important documents and some clothes. Tell someone you can trust what is happening. Call the hotline and they can organise a refuge for you. There are refuge’s that can hide you so you won’t be found because when you leave he will try to come after you. He won’t let you go that easily. The timing has to be right. You will know. When his asleep or when he has gone to work.
You get your bag and run. Don’t look back. Don’t wonder if I’m doing the right thing because you are.
Most of these women who have died have tried to break free. The abuser finds them and ends their life.
I was at high risk of being murdered. I was told to go underground, get a new name, new location far away but I was not allowed to tell anyone of my new identity, not even my family. I opted to go against the advice and take the risk. Stupid I know but I couldn’t live in fear anyone once I made the decision to leave because he still would be controlling me. I had to put in a lot of safety measures. Change routes to and from work everyday. I have a secret password to tell my family if I was in danger. I carried a weapon in my car in case I was followed. I had to tell security at work and they had to walk me to my car after work.
Till this day 12 years on I’m still fearful that my day will come because they never accept that you could walk away and leave because in their minds you belong to them and they will kill you for exposing them of their violence that you endured at their hands.
The reality is that seventy-eight does not account for the number of women who attend the emergency department of hospitals with severe injuries inflicted by the hand of their abuser and factious stories drafted in fear. These stories are not told to protect the abuser but to protect the victim from further violence.
Seventy-eight isn’t the number of women who call the police in fear and terror for help or the number of women who have desperately wanted to call but didn’t have a clear chance to safely call for help.
Seventy-eight doesn’t represent the number of women walking around with concealed bruises terrified and ashamed to let another know of their abuse, replaying the attacks in their mind and desperately fearing when the next attack will be.
And seventy-eight is not the number of women desperate to be free of a violent world that has been thrust upon them and a world they live in with the walls closing in every minute of every day.
The true number of victims that endure daily torment is far greater and I could not even attempt to guess. It is a problem that is deep and complex. There are many methods of abuse ~ it is not limited to physical.
With every tragedy I cry ~ I cry along with the world because it is a failing upon us as a society that these atrocities are happening around us, yet we are powerless to make a change when domestic violence remains cloaked in silence. These men are the sons, the brothers, the uncles, the fathers, the husbands, the nephews and boyfriends of our world and there must come a point where a hand is no longer raised toward another. No excuse uttered could ever fit or justify the barbarity or these violent acts.
Abuse and violence perpetrated against another can only be described as cowardly, shameful and disgraceful. These are labels to be attributed to the abuser – not the victim.
I do not have a solution. I do not know how to fix this terrifying epidemic that is casting a stain upon the fabric of our society, yet with every ounce of my being I swear an oath to stand up, speak out and act to prevent men’s violence against women.