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I realized a few days ago that I have been working with Gender Violence for about 7 years.
It seems so unreal to me that it has been so long. I love this work so much that it always feels new.
There is so much to learn about the psychology of why a woman stays in an abusive home that I always feel like a novice.
I hope that I always will be a novice at heart, if not head.
Here are some of the irrefutable facts that I have personally learned over these many years:
1. We cannot FORCE a woman to leave an abusive situation.
She may leave for a few days or even weeks but IF the decision was not hers, as soon as the abuser calls and makes the slightest caring overture, she will go back. She will convince herself that she made him angry.
She will put the children in harms’ way again.
She will make these decisions because she believes that even THAT man is a better father figure than NO father figure at all!
She feels that she is making the right decisions for her children.
2. We cannot continue to make the victim feel like a failure and place the whole burden of leaving on her head. We MUST try to make it family centric and involve the abuser in the healing process of his family.
If substance abuse is involved we must try to educate the woman about the devastating effects the substances has had in the brain of the abuser and that she cannot really get through because he is not in charge of his thinking … his addictions are in charge.
One of my dear friends Chelsea Berler has just written a book called “The Curious One” and in the book Chelsea’s mother makes a gut wrenching decision to leave the father of her children and love of her life, because of alcohol related issues.
That Mom chose the health of the children and that was brave and honorable.
3. We MUST begin to educate girls and boys about the horrors of domestic violence.
We must ask them to share their stories of personal experience with abuse and teach them how NOT to perpetuate the abuse when they have families.
This is how my journey began. I remember being 12 years old and just having had a “proper beating” and crying softly to myself (because loud crying would be met with another beating.)
I promised myself that if I ever had kids I would NEVER hurt them.
I tried every minute of every day when my kids were in my care to keep that promise. Sometime I failed and I resorted to the yelling and name calling that I experienced.
I tried as quickly as possible to make amends when that happened and I live with the horror of those memories.
There are many more facts I have picked up along the way but none more IMPORTANT than this…
4. Abusers need to be helped to stop abusing.
In the book The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, author Gary Haugen says that the people of Rwanda “did not need someone to bring them a sermon, or food, or a doctor, or a teacher, or a micro-loan. They needed someone to restrain the hand with the machete—and nothing else would do.”
We need to help the abuser to refocus the anger and outrage and to NOT lash out at the partner or the children.
We need to help the abuser to understand their own emotions.
Women need to be helped to use their voices and have a ZERO tolerance policy for any disrespect.
I would like to see ads on TV asking brides if it’s ok for her husband to hit her.
I would like to see the wedding industry invest some money in providing conflict resolution classes in their bridal boutiques.
I fear this will never happen… But I can still dream.
So I will dream about a world without gender violence and I will continue the work at Indranis Light Foundation and do what I can.
What will you do to end violence in your home?
Love and light,