Each year in October the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence holds their annual two-day conference.Officially formed in 1980 and dedicated to ending the devastating conditions that surround abusive relationships. Women and men from all over Indiana gather to learn more about how they can assist victims of domestic violence. It has been my honor to have been a member of the coalition since 2000 as well as a presenter in more than one conference. In 2014 I was honored as the recipient of their award for “Batterers Intervention Professional of the year".
In prior years intervention was the focus sharing experience and creating policies that would eventually form the coalition to its current status. In the beginning, the goal was focused on intervention and assistance to women and children needing to leave and had no idea where to go or what to do to protect themselves from the person who was supposed to love them the most. Eventually, monies became available through federal grants to build shelters and provide a structured and cohesive response to the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The focus has now shifted to prevention work and how to change the cultural acceptance of violence in our families, homes, schools, and neighborhoods throughout our state which leads me to the here and now.
Giving all the work set forth by so many I find it appalling the (Indiana) Governor (now running as the possible next VP of the nation) can in good conscience support and condone the behavior of his running mate, whose actions are the very definition of intimidation and threats to achieve his goal of control over another person, a woman. This behavior has been witnessed by anyone who has a television or internet connection. There seems to be no escaping it. Mike Pence said he didn’t understand why Michelle Obama had so passionately condemned his running mate. This same governor will tell you he doesn't condone the behavior then offer excuses for it stating “the man apologized for his poor choice of words, but they were just words so let’s move on''. Moving on means dismissing the countless number of domestic violence and sexual assault victims everywhere. Moving on says we accept this behavior. Moving on says we are not protecting our future generations. Moving on says we still have much to learn and understand about men and women and the acceptable behavior between them.
As a teenager many years ago, I saw my cousin after her boyfriend beat her, leaving her bleeding and broken in a heap on her front porch. The neighbors called the police who came and told her there was nothing they could do, maybe she needed to stay clear of him for a few days and let him cool down. They hadn’t seen the beating and therefore couldn’t arrest him. I was around thirteen at the time and I can remember thinking, “when I get a boyfriend I won’t choose one that would hit me.” Why had she been in a relationship like this? So three years later when my boyfriend hit me, I told no one and hid my secret and carried the shame that I too had made such a bad choice in choosing a boyfriend. I must have done something wrong, what did I do to make him so made? These are the same questions victims ask themselves on a daily basis. Too many times believing if they change some aspect of themselves his behavior will therefore change.
Typical to all domestic violence victims, we blame ourselves hoping that we can just correct that one word that one action that made him act this way. Somehow if we could do just that it will all change, it will somehow magically go away. I know if I just love him more, not interrupt him, be sure all his needs are met, I know if I can do this it will be different. But it isn’t different it is the same over and over again. Eventually we become broken and defeated and too tired to fight any longer. People ask “why do you stay with someone who treats you so badly?” It seems like such a simple question however it has a very complex answer. No one wants to be in a relationship like this but feels trapped by either him or a society that doesn’t get it or both. I can’t begin to count the number of times I have heard women say, “If a man ever hit me that it would be the last time”. “No one is going to treat me that way and get away with it.”
The ugly truth of it is once we reach the level of being hit, other abusive tactics have beaten us down, weakened our spirit and left us feeling exposed and domed to live this horrible nightmare forever.
Now we have someone running for the highest office in our country and he is displaying the same type of behavior. There are men who run our government siding with him, excusing his actions. Clergy are stepping up to explain away his behavior, he is just using” locker room-man talk and isn’t out of line, but rather a women trying to be better, higher than a man in service is the problem. I heard a preacher speak these words, “man was not made to be directed by a woman, it is an assault to the law of nature and God’s commandments. There are those who would take away our rights as women to have a say in our own lives, to vote, to make our own decisions about our bodies.
We must be a united front against such atrocities. We must stand shoulder to shoulder and scream it to the highest mountain and the farthest shore, I am a woman, I have rights, and I am an individual with feelings, needs and power of my own. We shall not go backwards it would be akin to a slap in the face to those who came before us. We owe this to our children both girls and boys. Teach of children to reason, to have opinion without being abusive when sharing that opinion. To think beyond today and to reach for the stars for they are theirs to have.
I will close with this request, after reading this you will make a pledge to yourself and all the children of the world, you will not stand ideally by and do or say nothing about the violence and treatment of women and children. We owe them better than that.
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