Every day at River City Domestic Violence Center is about reaching out to victims of domestic violence and taking strides to make homes in our community safer; as a community we all play a role in this critical endeavor. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Have you ever considered how you might respond if you witnessed an act of domestic violence upon a stranger or if someone you love is being abused?
At some point in our lives, we have all been in that uncertain position where we see or hear something scary—our gut tells us it’s not right and something bad is happening. As humans, often, in these situations it’s easier to walk away, not ask questions, and not get involved in something that is “none of our business”. But isn’t it “our business” to take care of others in a day, to be a voice for those who do not have a voice, to reach out a warm embrace in another’s darkest hour… aren’t these actions necessary to maintain good and hope in all of our lives?
Every day, I encounter a new victim of domestic violence in our community. Every day I hear stories of heart ache and pain… brutal assaults of the heart and body. Buried in all these stories is loneliness- a victim who feels she/he has been abandoned by those she/he loves and abandoned by the world because she/he “allows” this cycle of abuse to continue to occur(in the eyes of others). As a society, we find ourselves abandoning things we cannot always understand.
There are many factors why we don’t get involved when we see someone, anyone, struggling with domestic violence- maybe we just assume someone else will help, we don’t know what to do or say, we are fearful there may be consequences. We weigh out every possibly question of what may happen if we get involved. A more important question is “what may happen if we don’t get involved?”. By getting involved you may be saving a precious life.
I was out in this community we all call our home, one day, shopping and trying on clothes. As I entered the fitting room of a local business, I encountered another woman. She was on her cell phone frantically telling what sounded like an angry male on the other end that she had to go and she promised him she would be home by 8pm that evening. She hung up the phone and walked to her fitting room. She not once made eye contact and was very visibly shaken. I asked her “How are you?” As she looked up at me… she had a very visible black eye that she had tried to conceal by looking at the ground during our interactions. In that moment, I could have done many of different things… but I reach out and touch her arm and asked her 3 very important words… “Are you ok”? She started to cry… and said “Yes, I’m fine”. She then walked away. As I left the fitting rooms, I approached her again and explained to her that I can see that she is visibly frightened. I explained to her that I only wanted her to know if she ever feels alone, scared for her safety or needs someone to talk to there is help. I told her if she ever reached a moment that she was ready to talk about her struggles there are advocates at River City Domestic Violence Center that can help- they can be her pillar of strength, they can just listen, they can lend support and hold her hand in her darkest hour without judgement. She didn’t say a word… just looked at the ground and walked away.
A few weeks later, I received a call on the crisis line from a woman who said she had a brief encounter with a woman who promised her our agency would help. I invited her to come to the Center so we could talk. As I opened the door, I immediately recognized the woman from the fitting room at the local business. She instantly started to cry and said “you are the woman from the store!” She and I worked together over the years. She is now a survivor of domestic abuse.
When I encountered this broken woman in the store-was I terrified, for a million reasons to approach her? Absolutely! Although I was scared, I realized in that moment that we were both scared but for very different reasons. She was scared for her LIFE. We, at River City, encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, be bold, be safe… but reach out to those in need. You may be saving a life. We have a very strong philosophy within the walls of our agency , that being :“Be the change you want to see in the world”- Mother Teresa. Help us let victims of domestic violence know they are not alone.
How can you help: