PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS POST IS ABOUT ABUSE. THERE MAY BE TRIGGERS.
I was running at the gym the other day (yes, I run…well I jog anyway. I don’t LOOK like I jog or work out, but I do), and this song came on and it really got me to just thinking about the lyrics in the song. “Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me but everyone around me…Because of you I try my hardest just to forget everything. Because of you I don’t know how to let anyone else in. Because of you I’m ashamed of my life because it’s empty. Because of you I am afraid” (Clarkson, et. al. 2004). What powerful words and what a great month for this to be on my heart because October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and if you have ever seen the video that goes with this song (I just watched it the other day out of curiosity) you’ll know it has a powerful message. A message that ALL domestic violence victims and victims of abuse need to hear: your past does not define your future. YOU can change. YOU CAN break the cycle. You are worth SO MUCH MORE.
It isn’t a big secret that I grew up in abuse and I actually remember the first time I heard this song. I don’t listen to much secular music anymore, but sometimes songs like this just stands out and has the ability to touch so many lives in a positive way. I mean, in the beginning you hear how the author/singer will not be making those same mistakes and if you watch the video you will see that in the end, the victim overcomes. It is a story of empowerment for abuse victims, but that is rarely the case. In fact, in Oklahoma according to a local law enforcement officer I spoke with “Charges are often dismissed without victim cooperation. It’s easier to prosecute a kicked Chihuahua case or [prosecute] if the victim is dead. It’s very sad”.
Do you guys understand this? It is easier to prosecute someone for kicking a dog than it is to prosecute a person beating their spouse. It is easier to prosecute if the victim is DEAD. As in, cannot defend themselves and cannot choose to NOT press charges. As in, the abuser has now become a murderer…how does this make sense?
For just a bit of perspective, the fine for possession of a controlled dangerous substance (first offense) in my state is [up to] $1000 fine and a year in jail (Hunsucker Legal Group, 2017). You know what the fine is for an abuser? Assault is a $500 fine and 30 days in jail, assault and battery is $1000 fine and 90 days in jail (Women’slaw.org, 2017). SO, a person can have a recreational drug in their possession and receive a harsher punishment and fine than someone who literally beats someone to a pulp. Now, don’t take this example as me agreeing with someone using drugs, I am just making a point. But seriously, having a gram of pot is more punishable than the literal abuse and bodily harm of another human being? Again, I ask, how does this make any sense at all?
It’s no wonder domestic abuse victims feel hopeless. How can you feel hope when it seems as though there is none? How can you try to find a way out when it is so easy for the predator to find their way back to you? How can you break the cycle when it’s so hard to leave the circumstance? I could just scream at these statistics right now! Let me share a few: between 3 and 4 MILLION children witness domestic violence and/or the aftermath of it each year in our nation. Ninety five percent of abuse victims are women with male partners. Children who witness this grow up with a view of intimate relationships that involves one person being an intimidator and one being a victim and have a higher risk of using violence to solve problems AND are more likely to become abusers (boys) or victims of abuse (girls) (Sudbury, et.al. 2008). “On September 16, 2015 almost eighty THOUSAND domestic violence victims sought service. On that day alone over forty thousand victims sought refuge. Over thirty one thousand received services. In ONE DAY. In this same year, over 1200 direct service jobs were cut from domestic violence services across the nations. Almost 40% of the cases that were not able to have their needs met were denied service due to funding cuts” (NNEDV, 2015).
While any social services benefiting women, children and families seem to get cut every year, the government continues to spend frivolously. According to Senator James Lankford (R. OK), from 2011 to 2013 $3.1 BILLION dollars were paid to government workers placed on administrative leave, $775 million of that went to workers on leave for a month or longer. He believes misconduct is not handled efficiently (and I have to agree with numbers like that). You know where some more money went? We spent $283 million for the Department of Defense to watch birds in California (Federal Fumbles, 2015). True story. And yes, the birds are on the “critical” list, but why can we spend hundreds of millions on birds, billions on employees acting foolish, and millions for a failed CNG gas station in Afghanistan, but the funding to save the lives of abuse victims is cut every single year? Why are our leaders studying the history of tobacco use in Russia instead of the effects of domestic violence on women and children in our own back yard?
Why is it that in Oklahoma you can easily be fined and arrested for public intoxication just for being in a vehicle (like, your cab ride home from a wedding) easier than you can be put in jail and charged with domestic assault and battery? And you know what the punishment is for public intox in Oklahoma? GUESS!? It’s up to a thousand dollar fine and 30 days in jail. Do you remember the punishment for assault? Go back and read it real quick, I’ll wait…that’s right, friends, if you are in a cab that gets pulled over in my state and you have had a few drinks your punishment could be harsher than that of someone who has beaten a woman. Again, let that sink in.
NOW that we have all these statistics, what are you going to do about this problem? What are you going to do to bring real awareness and what are you REALLY going to do to help. I don’t mean show support with a FaceBook photo or frame around your profile picture; I mean REALLY HELP! What are you going to do for your community? What can you do for the laws in your state? One thing I really would love to see is some legislation granting a witness to an assault the ability to press charges. Think of the difference this would make when a neighbor witnesses assault but knows there isn’t much they can do because if they do call the police the woman won’t press charges and she will most likely be hurt even more when the police leave.
Legislation is a big step, though, there are things you can do right now. Go volunteer at a women’s shelter. If you are in ministry or have a counseling degree, offer services to abuse victims for free. If you do hair and/or makeup, go to a shelter and offer a class for women to learn how to do their makeup or go to the shelter one day a month and offer free haircuts. Do you have a closet overflowing with clothes? Like, nice clothes, not the ones we know are in deplorable condition but we donate them to make ourselves feel better…take a good look at your closet, pick a few nice outfits that a woman can wear on an interview or something that will just make her feel better about herself and donate it personally.
Nothing is too small when it comes to serving. Nothing is too frivolous. If you have spent years being beaten down physically, emotionally, and mentally, every little thing can make a difference. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Every little thing counts. One thing I will always remember from an overnight stay in a shelter on the way to Oklahoma from Arkansas is watching this TERRIBLE program about a purple people eater. I mean, I am SURE I thought it was great back then, but I highly doubt I could sit through it now. Do you know why we watched it, though? The lady in charge asked me my favorite color and I told her it was purple and she thought I would get a kick out of watching that movie. Guys, it’s the little things. Just being an open and understanding ear goes so far. Save your judgement. Until you have lived the life of abuse, you have no idea how it can and will affect you and you have no idea how difficult it can be to leave. The cycle is so hard to break, but the best way to help break it is to simply be present.
So, friend, how will you be present?
I am attaching links to some very helpful and informative websites. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence please click on these links for information on what you can do to help. If you want to chat with me personally, click the contact link to send an email and I will respond and help you find help. If you just need someone to talk to, click on the contact link and email me, Lord knows I’m a wordy girl, but I can listen too. There is help. There is hope.
You have all my love and prayers.
http://ocadvsa.org/ (For Oklahoma)
“For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence for precious is their blood in his sight” (Psalm 72:12-14 NIV).