1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical intimate partner violence, often called domestic violence. When in my early 20s, my life had been perfectly privileged. That was before meeting, dating and then getting married to an older man who in my own analysis, was growing old and I was growing up. Prior to this relationship, I graduated high school early, entered college at 17, active and competed in both high school and college choral orchestra, earned ‘who’s who in american music’ fame, national honor society inductee, an only child dressed in designer clothes….a relatively privileged upbringing. Pursuing an undergraduate degree, teaching day care, a pretty active social network, singing, modeling and a debutante, I was called by a college friend-a BAP[Black American Princess] because I guess I was.
What I didn’t know was that I would eventually become a mother of three and a subject of extremely horrific domestic abuse. The first time that I was physically assaulted by my spouse, the injuries landed me in the hospital unable to walk. My oldest child was only 13 months old, and I was a graduate school student. As most men do, my husband came to the hospital and took me home. I missed my child more than anything else. So, the secret was kept and I went back home with him.
That first episode, I remember screaming and yelling out for hrelp, in hopes that the blows and kicking would cease. No one showed at my front door. It was devastating. In a relatively nice neighborhood of fellow homeowners, one would think that a concerned citizen would intervene and save my life. We were the picture of perfection in suburbia, and living the American dream, outside of the age difference. The abuses would continue for years, and the apologies, too. Black eyes, bruises and scrapes were the only physical proof of violence in my home. He was a career man, an Air Force veteran, and I was college educated, and still was not immune to violence in my own home. Shielding my young children from the episodes, I managed to wrap a wall of love around them, focus on their development, and I do believe that was my motivation for helping them to excel academically as I did. They were reading at 3 years old, and through all the turmoil, they thrived and grew to become their best selves. For that I am proud.
How could this have happened to me? Me! That answer is complex but not the targeted message. This conversation is all about the injustices that occur in the home, out in the street, at the mall and everywhere. Nothing is ever 100% private. We have all seen a couple arguing in public, and somehow it didn’t quite sit right deep inside of us. Knowing that something unhealthy is going on in that relationship, it should propel us to be guided by that feeling. Not only women, but men are also victims of the rages of their significant other. I have heard talk of this type of violence with a matter- of – fact attitude.
“He beats the sh.t out of her!”
And that’s the extent of the level of concern?
If you see something, say something. Without placing yourself directly in harm’s way, there are ways that we can throw someone a lifeline, even if just for that moment, an hour, a day, or a lifetime. After crimes have been committed, there is always someonewho heard or saw something . The souls of our communities are only as strong as the people within that community demonstrate their investment in the well-being of every member. That means that we do not stand by and hope that someone else will do something. Try empathy! Bring the idea of ‘neighbor’ back into neighborhoods. So much violence, truancy, and crimes can be prevented when we abandon that “I don’t want to get involved” attitude.
What about the children? Of late, the news headlines are filled with stories of child abuse that are just unbelievable that children suffer in such ways…at the hands of caregivers. Someone must have seen or heard something before the abuses escalated to fatal injuries. Despite outward and public appearances, there are always signs and symptoms, indicative of abuse. Never should we believe that no one knew that someone was in danger in a home. If you see something, say something!
I know! “Snitches get stitches!” But, on the other hand, that is bulls..t, plain and simply said. People, when will we get the message that when someone, a child, an adult, a spouse-male or female- is in distress and you hear any ‘strange’ loud noises, hear yelling, and if you hear a cry for help…that is your call to action. As human beings, we are blessed with the innate capacity for empathy, compassion or positive regard for one another. Kitty Genovese should not be a phenomenon in social psychology. She was a person in distress and people just stood by and did nothing. Uncertain whether the bystander effect is legitimate when they say that no one acts because each is waiting for the other or someone else to reach out.
The other person doesn’t have to be family or friend. You may not even like the person who is in distress, but there has to be a moment when that becomes trivial and irrelevant. Someone is hurting. Whether it is a mugging on the street or intimate partner violence, and God forbid, it is a child in distress. Say Something…..immediately. Living in a quiet suburb or in the midst of an often chaotiuc urban environment, Say Something. In the midday, or at midnight, screaming, yelling, cursing and cries are audible somewhere, by someone.
If you are the one, do not hesitate to dial those 3 universal numbers. We all know them well. When calls are made to emergency hotlines, the concerned citizen, the authentic human being, can remain anonymous. Nobody, not even the victim or perpetrator, has to know who sent a lifeline into their situation.
If you hear gunshots or there is daily gun violence in your community, that is a call to action. Who cares how you feel about the police and your local law enforcement agency. That is what they are there for. In spite of philosophical differences, call them anyway. We may be saving a life.
The theme here is that we should not allow the fear and loathing in America to overtake our own sense of right and wrong. We must never feel so defeated that we turn against one another, and lose sight of our humanity, empathy or compassion. Remain steadfast in the knowledge and belief that every man, woman and child deserves an abuse-free life; absence of harmful misuses of power . Should someone appear to be robbing someone else of their ‘life force’, always Say Something!
I wished that someone would have stepped up, over twenty years ago, when it was me being physically assaulted by my now deceased ex-husband, as I cried out for help. It was the 1980s and not one neighbor on my quiet and diversely populated block called 911. Think of it this way: One day, it could be you, or could have been you, someone in your family, your child-anyone’s child. What would you do? What would you want someone else to do? Anyone, everyone? Dare we say, “There but for the grace of God go I!”
I am so blessed to be here as a survivor of domestic abuse, and though no one came to my rescue or dialed 911 the numerous times of crisis, it is my personal commitment to intervene when someone looks or sounds as though there is a crisis or there is imminent danger.
If and when you see something, SAY SOMETHING!