“I would never be with someone who hit me.” I exclaimed loudly in the youthful voice of someone who strongly believed she had all the answers. In my teenage mind, it was black and white. Open and shut. If someone loved me, they would not want to hurt me. It was simple.
And of course, there was much more to it than that. After Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were killed by a former spouse I learned that domestic violence does not care about one’s socio-economic status, one’s level of attractiveness or one’s celebrity. I saw that domestic violence is a result of the toxic combination of low self-esteem and a controlling, manipulative and angry partner. I say the combination because in my opinion, someone with a high level of self-esteem knows their worth, and knows they do not deserve this abusive behaviour. But, I also know that domestic violence occurs because of one thing – the abuser. No one asks to be or deserves to be abused. The abuser is the cause of the violence and abuse is about power and control.
There is usually a lead up to the violence. It can start out with put downs and name calling – the abuser can tell the victim she is an idiot, or she is stupid or fat or lazy or ugly. The abuser can become controlling and manipulative, telling the victim what she or he can wear or people they can see or what they can or cannot do. The abuse can culminate with physical, mental, financial, emotional or sexual abuse. So when someone says they love someone and then abuses them, this is not love. This is not caring or loving or kind or passionate or anything positive. It is cruel, controlling, manipulative, cowardly and the complete opposite of love.
It does not matter if the partnership is straight or gay, or if the abuse comes from a man or a woman. Domestic violence can occur in a marriage, common-law or dating situation. Violence is violence and should not be tolerated in our society. I learned through my life that violent people are often abusive to animals. So when you see a person treating a pet poorly, kicking it or otherwise abusing it, there is a good chance that this person can do the same thing to another person. And quite honestly, probably is doing the same thing – or worse.
In the Ottawa area we can be proud of an initiative at Longfields-Davidson Secondary School. ManUp! is a group of student leaders who are working towards social change in regards to the treatment of women in our community.
Their motto: We are not asking anyone to be perfect, but expecting everyone to be better.
These young men and their teachers are shining a light on a culture that seems to accept or even encourage violence against women. Expressions like “I totally raped that exam” or words like “bitch” and “ho” are common in today’s schools and language. Personally I find these completely offensive. People question the term “rape culture.” I suggest they listen to the words that people are using in songs, videos and even video games. The guys in ManUp are doing what they can to MANifest change; within themselves and each other.
I did some research on domestic violence. I learned that an abused partner is in the most danger when she or he tries to leave. I found a website that terrified me. On the right hand part of the screen is a long red rectangle with these instructions –
To immediately leave our site, click the red vertical column at the right side of the page. Doing so will redirect you to a non-suspicious site. To familiarize yourself with this function, and to make sure it works properly, please test it now.”
Knowing that some people are living in this kind of terror absolutely horrified me. On an intellectual level I know this happens. As a member of our society I would be absolutely oblivious to think domestic violence is not a terrible problem. On an emotional level, it tears me apart. Abuse – physical, sexual, emotional, financial, against a partner, child or animal should not happen. Period.
Because it does, I wanted to post some important resources – if someone reading this post is experiencing abuse or knows of someone experiencing abuse – there is help. These are mostly Ottawa based resources:
Studies show that many people don’t leave their abusive relationships because they are scared of what could happen to their pets. Many women have to make the most difficult choice – do they leave their pet behind, knowing it would be in danger or do they leave the situation (if possible). It is a sickening choice, and one that no one should ever have to make. SafePetOttawa is a resource to help these women and their beloved pets.
The bottom line is that we need to change our attitude towards domestic violence. It should not happen. As Lynne Miles says love does’t hurt.