A few years ago the trending domestic violence hashtag was #whyIstayed or #whyIleft in defense of domestic violence victims after the media released footage of a NFL wife violently punched yet she stayed in the relationship.
What kind of woman stays in an abusive relationship?
It takes courage to stay. It is not easy to stay alive in a den of lions. And you’ll be play if you run while the lion is watching.
It takes courage – and help- to leave an abusive relationship.
WARNING: I know from experience, the risk of harm goes up the closer we get to safety.
The good news is there is a better life on the other side.
But it is difficult and not safe to do it alone.
This year an old hashtag #MeToo went viral after another powerful serial predator was exposed by a group of courageous women.
Even when we are safe, it is even scarier to share our story on social media.
What kind of person invites the world, including their professional relationships, in to open those wounds and watch them be abused, raped and humiliated?
#MeToo was created over a decade ago by a brave young activist Tarana Burke as a silent support group to help young women of color who survive sexual abuse, assault and exploitation.
It is difficult to remain silent when you are scared, hurt, in pain and staring in the face of your captor.
It is difficult to face your neighbor’s demons before you find the key to unleash your own.
What kind of person remains silent?
#MeToo and #WhyIStayed or #WhyILeft are groups no one wants to belong to, no one celebrates the initiation of new members but all are thankful to be validated in numbers. There is power in numbers.
Yet there still remains a breeding ground for these beasts that nurtures and feeds these monsters by normalizing their behaviors and blaming their prey.
The culture is so prevalent that it has the very organizations designed to protect the vulnerable and abused under its spell.
These organizations maintain the status quo by placing responsibility on the victim to avoid, escape and seek safety.
Specifically their websites include well-meaning lists and posts about
- steps targets can take to prevent an assault such as alcohol safety, or
- ways parents can protect their children, and
- where to get help after an attack.
They sound informative and helpful until those lists are used against victims and their families.
Rape culture masked as “personal safety”.
Personal safety lists imply guilt to the foolish girl who went to a party un-escorted at night.
If she stayed home, she would not have been raped. It was her fault because women should not go out at night. NOT TRUE!
Personal safety advises girls not to accept an open drink even from someone they think they can trust.
If a foolish girl accepts and drinks an open drink, the rape is her fault. Not true!
What is the perpetrator’s responsibility?
Personal safety tips claim to help the victim outsmart the perpetrator. Stay one step ahead and you’ll be safe.
What if his legs are longer than yours?
How can culture change if the focus and responsibility remains on the victim?
Let’s be brave. #HowIwillChange
The sweetest words to comfort a victim are, “It was NOT your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong!” Even if she protests.
Women should be safe to walk outside at night, go to parties and be free to do what they want or need to do without being raped.
Beasts shouldn’t put rape drugs in drinks.
Men and women are capable of self-control.
The men who came to the rescue of the Stanford victim saw the same naked women as the perpetrator but they had a different response.
Men and women let’s be courageous and stop asking what the victim is wearing.
A completely naked incapacitated woman isn’t an invitation, it is a call for help.
Bystanders speak up, distract and help.
Perhaps every parent should be brave and sit down with their children young and old to outline a new culture of decency and respect.
Let us not assume puberty makes boys forget the social skills they learned in kindergarten. Specifically:
- keep your hands to yourself (boundaries)
- say please and thank you (consent)
- accept no for an answer (consent)
- call for help if someone is hurt (empathy) and
- if you make a mistake, take responsibility and apologize (accountability).
Stop calling some girls good and others not.
All women deserve respect including women of color and transwomen.
I peek my head out and wonder.
Has the world changed? Is #MeToo having an impact?
I had an abusive childhood.
Thirty years ago I was raped. #MeToo
Twenty-six years ago I married an abusive man. #WhyIstayed
Twenty-five years ago I escaped. #whyIleft
Fifteen years ago I finally ran for safety to give my children a happily ever after.
I didn’t want to survive but I did.
What will 2018 October Domestic Violence awareness be like?
Will the world be a safer place? I hope so.
Growl 4 Justice Let’s be brave!