Saturday, October 4, 2014

Domestic Violence: The Dirty Little Secret

Most of my friends are aware that back in late July I started a new job as the receptionist at Wings of Hope Family Crisis Center, which is a counseling center and women's shelter focusing on the problem of domestic violence and sexual assault. I've been with WOH for nearly three months now, and it's no secret to anyone how much I love my job. I've finally found something where I feel like what I do makes a difference in people's lives. It feeds my soul.

October 1st marked the first day of the observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month when we at WOH will be involved in leading the community in all kinds of activities and events that bring attention to the problem of domestic violence and how it impacts our community. Thursday evening, October 3rd, I participated in our 7th annual Fashion Show to kick off the month's awareness campaign. It was a free event for the community and a way for us to get people thinking and talking about domestic violence. Several of our local retailers participated along with students and faculty from the Oklahoma State University Department of Design, Housing and Merchandising. 

We were told not to be surprised if someone came to us during the month and shared their story of how domestic violence impacted them. Today it happened to me; I received a private message from a friend from high school who was moved to tell me her story. She gave me permission to share it because she wants people to know that it doesn't have to destroy your life, that there is hope and healing. 

She told me of how her step dad would beat her, her mother, and her sisters on a regular basis and
that when her mother would call the police, she would be lectured on how not to provoke him (what is now known as "victim blaming"). She said that she would try to do everything "perfectly" so that her step dad wouldn't get mad at her and beat her. They never knew what would send him into a rage. One night he got so violent that her mother locked all of them in the bedroom and then helped her and her sisters escape out the window. She said that they all walked barefoot in the night down a gravel road into town. They were terrified if they heard a car driving on the gravel and they would jump into the brush on the side of the road to hide, thinking that it might be him coming after them. 

Her mother later divorced him after she and her sisters were adults. She told me that this experience damaged her, but that she refused to let it defeat her. She is a strong and determined woman who made a career for herself in the nursing field where she is a compassionate caretaker who helps sick people heal. She was also able to break the cycle of violence by choosing a kind and caring mate for herself, a man who loves, respects, and values her for the beautiful woman she is. All of this was going on in my friend's life while we were in school together and I never knew. It was her dirty little secret. 

I'm so grateful that my friend shared her story with me and that she gave me permission to tell it. These stories need to be told so that people will know that this problem is real and it's in their
neighborhood. The girl who sits next to you in English class, the woman who works in your department, the shy little boy you teach in Sunday School whose parents seem so nice - they're all victims and they need for you to speak out. 

It's time to out the dirty little secret so the healing can begin.