October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month, a time for us to speak openly and courageously about the prevalence and effects of domestic violence, in an effort to increase awareness to make our homes, community, and country, a safer place to reside.
Some think Domestic Violence only happens to someone else, but in reality it can touch any of us. It may surface among our friends, family and neighbors; and any one of our families can fall prey. For this reason, it is vitally important to arm and educate ourselves to be prepared to intervene on behalf of our loved ones, neighbors, friends and colleagues.
It was 18 years ago when my family was impacted by the effects of domestic violence. My daughter was 20 years old at the time. She was dating a young man who presented as quite charming at first; but unbeknownst to us, had a history of violent outbursts and dating violence that we only discovered when it began to surface in our family. It was over a 2 year period of my daughter dating this young man that the signs of domestic violence began to surface and became increasingly more concerning over time.
I trust that by sharing my experience, it will give others the courage to speak out and step up.
As I look back on the series of events that occurred during that time, it was somewhat surreal. It began with me observing control issues and questioning my daughter about the quality of the relationship. However, she like many victims, denied the presence of violence, which made it difficult for us to intervene; a common theme among victims.
Over time, concerns that domestic violence might be occurring became increasingly more evident. The first incident we became aware of occurred one day when my daughter was babysitting. Her sister called me crying, stating that her sister’s boyfriend was at the house and was breaking things. While law enforcement was called, no formal action was taken, which actually made intervention more challenging. The second more serious event occurred when my daughters were out shopping and unbeknownst to me, picked up the boyfriend who had become violent in the car in their presence. The final event occurred when my daughter borrowed my car and when she returned it, the windshield was cracked with what appeared to be the result of a fist mark that shattered the glass. Yet, when questioned she continued to deny any violence was occurring. Later we discovered that the control and threats of disclosure caused great fear, resulting in her maintaining silence.
Eventually she decided to end the relationship, which led to him stalking her. He would leave notes on her car, arrive unannounced to her workplace, and follow her. As parents, we felt powerless and fearful as we had offered several opportunities for our daughter to open up so we could help her, but she was not ready, willing, or able. Out of desperation to ensure her safety, one day I decided the risks were too high, so I asked her to meet me for lunch where I shared a dating violence questionnaire with her. At the time, she was dismissive and minimized the situation, but after reviewing it on her own, she realized she was in a domestic violence relationship that had a clearly defined cycle she was well acquainted with. Later that evening, she finally opened up about the gravity of the situation and the reason she denied what was happening. She explained how after each incident, he would show remorse and they would experience a honeymoon phase with signs of change that would quickly dissipate. She shared how she felt ashamed and believed there had to be something she could do to change him. She was in turmoil because she loved him and had to come to the realization he was not going to change and it could cost her, her life.
That evening, we arranged for her to be relocated out of state with a family member where she remained for 5 years as she rebuilt her life. It wasn’t until years later that she was able to speak openly about the situation and acknowledge that had in fact she remained in the relationship; it likely may have cost her, her life. Thankfully our story doesn’t end there; today my daughter is happily married and raising a family.
The sad truth is my experience is not unique, as a woman in the U.S. is assaulted every 9 seconds according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men are abused by intimate partners every minute, equating to more than 10 million people being abused every year. [i]
Below is the Cycle of Violence graph that illustrates the vicious circle victims find themselves in and part of the reason why they find it is so hard to escape.
During Domestic Violence Awareness month, we are called to “Take a Stand.” This is a call to action to raise awareness throughout the year of the countless number of victims who are trapped in the cycle of abuse who need our support and intervention. Each year, approximately 136 children enter care in Brevard County due to an allegation of domestic violence. As a community, it is important that we all do our part to address signs of domestic violence among those in our sphere of influence. For me, it was using the dating violence questionnaire that caused my daughter to recognize she was not alone and the behaviors she experienced were predictable and dangerous.
For more information on DV or to seek assistance please find resources below:
Serene Harbor 321-726-8282
Salvation Army 321-631-2764
The Woman’s Center 321-607-6809
Florida Domestic Violence Hotline 1 -800 -500-1119