For the month of March, the wonderful ladies (http://www.myfriendamysblog.com/, http://wordlily.com/ and http://blog.mawbooks.com/) behind the Social Justice Challenge have chosen to highlight domestic violence and child abuse. No amount of coverage can do this issue justice, in my opinion, and it deserves all the attention it can get in the hopes that it saves at least one child or woman from an abusive situation.
First, some questions to get us all thinking about this serious topic:
- What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of domestic violence and child abuse?
There is a lot that comes to mind when I think about domestic violence and child abuse. I cannot fathom what it takes for someone to abuse a child, especially a child s/he helped create. I cannot understand why some feel the need to control others; I cannot understand it, but I realize that it occurs way too often. Domestic violence and child abuse are all too common and often unreported. This is due in large part to the overriding fear instilled in the victim on the part of the abuser – fear that something worse will happen if they tell, fear that they are inadvertantly the cause of the violence, fear that they deserve it.
Domestic violence is not just physical; it is the mental and emotional torment that may or may not accompany physical abuse. To me, it is the most dangerous type of abuse because how can you fight a mental onslaught? What weapons can you use on behavior that does not appear dangerous on the surface? Words can hurt, and someone who has been in this situation knows this fact all too well.
Given the prevalence of literature, both fiction and non-fiction, regarding this topic, one would think there is a greater awareness on the part of victims and protectors. Unfortunately, this is not the case. As a society, we need to ensure that these victims receive the help they so desperately need and deserve, that they have a voice to champion their cause. Knowledge is power, and we need to use that knowledge to instruct children how to form healthy relationships. We have to start somewhere, and if we can save one child or one young woman from being harmed either mentally, physically, or both, then we have taken a step in the right direction.
- What does domestic violence and child abuse mean to you personally?
Neglect is a form of child abuse, and I have unfortunately been witness to a situation of neglect. A dear friend of mine had to recently undergo the expense and injustice of a custody battle in which his ex-wife was using his daughter as a pawn in her power struggle over him. This ex-wife would send the daughter outside for hours on end while she entertained her latest boyfriend. She would frequently use the money set aside for groceries to buy a case of beer a day plus her cigarettes. The child would be stuck foraging for food in the kitchen, eating anything that she could find – most of it unhealthy, overly-processed foods. This mother laughed while a new boyfriend wrapped duct tape around her 11-year-old daughter’s breasts, and when the daughter cried, she claimed that the daughter did not understand that the boyfriend was just tickling and joking around with her. The mother would steal the daughter’s gifts from her father and grandparents, including shoes and clothes. And, whenever the mother felt the need, she would dump off her daughter with her grandparents so that she was not bothered with having to take care of a child.
All this happened, and yet the father had to prove in a court that he was a more fit parent than the mother. The unjustice of the situation weighed heavily on him while he was in this battle. He had document upon document showing the ex-wife’s lack of maternal instinct and downright abuse, and yet, he had to prove that he was a better choice of guardian for his daughter. Our court system has to change to prevent situations like this from happening. Just because someone gave birth to a child does not mean that she is the better parent, and yet, our court system automatically gives more concessions, more rights to a mother than to the father. The burden of proof always lies with the father in custody battles, and that is just wrong. Men are not the only abusers in this world, and my friend’s situation is proof of that. If we ever hope to eradicate child abuse, or at least curtail it, we have to make it easier for the child to get help. In this case, it means that it should not have taken my friend 11 years to generate enough evidence to be able to start fighting his ex-wife for custody. He should have been able to raise flags at the first sign of problems.
- What is your current knowledge of domestic violence and child abuse?
According to some recent statistics I was told, approximately one in four teenage girls will be abused by the age of eighteen. One out of three children in homes where domestic abuse occurs is also abused. Those are sobering statistics for our children.
- Are you aware of the resources available for men, women and children who find themselves in domestic violence and child abuse situations?
I have had the pleasure of donating time to a battered women’s shelter in Minneapolis, one that provides safe haven and legal help for anyone in a domestic violence/ child abuse situation. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
- Have you chosen a book or resource to read for this month?
I indavertantly chose a book. I used Random.org to select the next choice for my Random Reads Challenge. The Nora Roberts book that was chosen ended up discussing domestic violence by giving a realistic portayal of how women can get trapped into those situations. This proves that domestic violence is so prevalent, one of the most prolific romance thriller authors of all time feels the need to discuss it in her works.
- Take some time and think about what potential action steps you could take.
Having donated an entire day working in the battered women’s shelter, you realize quickly what people need. Often, these women (and men) leave their homes with nothing but the clothes on their back. They arrive at the shelters needing cell phones, clothes, toiletries, shoes, jackets, bedding, towels – everything we take for granted because we have them in abundance. They need money and help to undue the damange caused by the abuse. They need jobs or job training to help get them back on their feet and self-sufficient.
Often, the shelters need volunteers setting up rooms for visitors, storing donated items, cleaning main areas. They need money to help keep their doors open, to pay for the counseling, both legal and medical, they provide their visitors. Cell phone drives, fundraisers, clothing and personal care supplies drives will help these shelters feed and care for the victims who had the courage to walk away. Volunteers, child advocates, and the donation of time will help the shelters reach out and possibly save a life.
This is a topic we cannot afford to sweep under a rug. It is time to discuss our own situations, get them out there so others can understand that domestic violence and child abuse are serious issues our society faces. If knowledge is power, then sharing our stories increases that knowledge. Maybe, if we all start talking about it, we can curtail the statistics.
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