I can remember when I worked with kids in the foster care system – you know those children who are taken away from their biological parents because the abuse or neglect they experience is considered to be so harmful that the child cannot be kept safe within the home so the State places them with a foster family. I trained, equipped and supervised child advocates who worked with foster children and I supervised their cases. When people asked me what I did for a living, I always hesitated to answer. After all, talking about child abuse is not exactly “cocktail party conversation,” if you will. In fact, most people were uncomfortable with the topic overall. They squirmed, averted their eyes, and quickly changed the subject because it was too intense. Facing the fact of abuse can be hard; many of us prefer not to face it as a reality in our world. For some, it’s too much to bear emotionally, especially when given the image of a child who is being abused by their parent. But at least with a child, most will agree that they are a guiltless victim; that it is not their fault. And although they might not want to talk about it in great detail, they usually support efforts to help those children in other ways.
But that’s not always true when it’s an adult victim of abuse. What happens then? Be honest with yourself. What is your initial response when someone says they have been abused? Or, when you hear that “so-and-so” couple broke up because one partner claimed the other was emotionally or physically abusive? Are there all kinds of thoughts swirling within a pocket of doubt? Do you roll your eyes? Is it impossible for you to comprehend that someone you hold in high esteem is capable of abuse? Does it break your heart, or is it too uncomfortable a topic to want to get involved in?
Here at The M3ND Project, we encounter various responses to the issue of domestic violence depending on a person’s viewpoint. Some are quick to doubt the truthfulness of a victim’s story every time, regardless how convincing it is. Others dismiss it outright, thinking abuse is an overused and over-assigned word. Some believe the victim is weak in character for not leaving sooner. Others think the victim should try harder to make the relationship work and a few jump right in, quick to believe and ready to respond. Still, most just can’t bear the intensity of the topic and would rather ignore it all together or would be too scared to get involved. Some of these responses make us move away from instead of towards a victim in their greatest time of need. Whatever response you find yourself identifying with, we want to assure you that if you close your eyes and wait for it to leave on its own, you will never see an end to domestic violence.
So what’s the solution? We cannot overcome the issue of domestic violence – which affects more than 50% of the population – without educating ourselves on the subject, equipping those impacted by it on how to respond, and restoring victims and their families. It’s important to remember that we will never solve a problem we don’t understand or choose to ignore.
Now is the time to put a stop to the rising trend in the incidence of domestic violence. We can make an incredible difference by choosing to learn more about what makes a healthy relationship and become confident in how we respond to abuse. We believe that we all have an opportunity to help a victim of abuse at some point in our lives. Will you be the one who walks away or will you lend a hand to lift them up?
Join us in our upcoming training cohort, M3ND: Responding to Abuse.