Saturday, April 26, 2014

Domestic Violence

The Victims

  • One in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.
  • Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults.
  • Every year, 1 in 3 women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner.

The Families

  • Every year, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes.
  • Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at high rates (30% to 60%).
  • A 2005 Michigan study found that children exposed to domestic violence at home are more likely to have health problems, including becoming sick more often, having frequent headaches or stomachaches, and being more tired and lethargic.

The Consequences

  • According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families.
  • Survivors of domestic violence face high rates of depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks, and other emotional distress.
  • Domestic violence contributes to poor health for many survivors.  For example, chronic conditions like heart disease or gastrointestinal disorders can become more serious due to domestic violence. 
  • Among women brought to emergency rooms due to domestic violence, most were socially isolated and had fewer social and financial resources than other women not injured because of domestic violence.
  • Without help, girls who witness domestic violence are more vulnerable to abuse as teens and adults.
  • Without help, boys who witness domestic violence are far more likely to become abusers of their partners and/or children as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence in the next generation.
  • Domestic violence costs more than $37 billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical and mental health treatment, and lost productivity at companies.

The above statistics were copied from the Safe Horizon website. Today I had the opportunity to make a small contribution to help a local mother who is a current victim of domestic violence. I learned of her crisis situation a few weeks ago through an online forum. I contacted her privately to determine how I could assist her. We arranged to meet at a grocery store where I would keep her company and buy a few weeks worth of groceries for her and her four children

It was quite an eye-opening experience waiting at the store entrance watching every woman that passed by. Since I had never met her I had no clue what she looked like.  I analyzed each woman, trying to determine if it was the person I had messaged. What was I looking for? Poor posture? Sad expression? Eyes cast down? Young? Unkempt?  What race? Would her children be with her?  Would her husband find out? Would I be in danger?  Was her whole story a scam?

I waited an entire hour, but she never showed up. I grew irritated. Here I was trying to help and she had wasted my time. 

The next day, I learned that she was back in the hospital after her abuser had been bailed out of jail by a third party.  

After a series of contacts throughout the week, we arranged to meet again at the same grocery store today. Her story is not mine to tell, but I can say that any assumptions and stereotypes I had of victims of domestic violence were erased.  We talked and shopped for two hours. She is personable, smart, and attractive. I found myself laughing with her and relating to many of her experiences.  She was a college educated, well-traveled, highly paid, career-woman who chose to give up her job to stay home with her children. Over the years as a stay-at-home mom her relationships, income, and family dynamics changed significantly.  
. . .

Yesterday I had been anxious about meeting up with this stranger...again.  Jesse and I ordered Chinese take-out last night. My fortune read:

When I read this last night, I felt like it was validation that meeting this mother was the right thing to do. I could be a blessing to her by providing financial support and helping meet her family's most basic needs. Today I discovered that this experience was just as much for me as it was for her.  I suspect it had a greater impact on me. The brief experience changed my perceptions and reminded me that you never know what someone else is enduring. 

Indeed, small acts do go a long way.

1 comment:

  1. I am very proud of you....indeed you never know....