Domestic violence has become one of the leading crimes in America. The victims of this unforgivable crime, both men and women, often suffer at the hands of their abuser in silence. And tragically the victims are also often silenced forever as a result of this horrific crime. Such was the case of “Dania D.”.
Dania D. was a married young mother with two small children, a beautiful little girl and boy. Loving, caring, and family oriented, she worked hard to provide a modest life for the family that meant the world to her. Dania was a beautiful spirit who found herself lost and trapped in a life filled with unexpected abuse. But Dania didn’t allow that part of her life to define who she was to her children, family, and friends. She held on to her sense of self. Optimistic and upbeat, she maintained a rigid facade of normalcy despite her circumstances.
Dania D. met and married her teenage sweetheart. He had he promised to love, honor, and cherish her “until death do us part”. He was supposed to be the keeper of her heart, her protector. But it was at the hands of the love of her life that she met her untimely and tragic death.
She deserved better, she deserved more from the relationship that finally claimed her young life. She didn’t deserve to have her life taken away so suddenly and so brutally. Dania became an unwilling participant in a murder-suicide. Even in her final moments her abuser couldn’t relinquish his unnatural need to dominate and control her. He had to have the final word over her life when he decided to end her life and then his own.
She left behind a life filled with hope and promise. A life half-dreamed, half-lived, but not yet realized or fulfilled.
Dania D. was called away from this life in the wee hours of the morning on May 15, 2009. Her earthly journey had ended at the hands of someone who loved her. She was finally free of her abuser. She was now beyond his reach. He couldn’t hurt her anymore. In an instant, she was ripped from the lives of the people who truly loved and cared for her. The transition from daughter, sister, wife, mother, and friend into one of God’s angels came much too soon for Dania. We weren’t prepared to let her go away from our presence, from our lives and hearts. We didn’t have the opportunity to tell her how much she was loved and needed here. There was no time for pleasant good-byes but in the aftermath of this tragedy there was time for many, many tears. She was taken away, no, stolen from life by an abusive and violent husband.
Dania D., like millions of men and women in the United States, had been a long time victim of an abusive relationship. The violence in her daily life gradually escalated and eventually culminated in her death through an act of unimaginable violence. Why she stayed in such a volatile and precarious position we’ll never know. A question mark remains in her place.
Countless men and women around the world are either potential or current victims of this growing atrocity against humanity. Domestic violence occurs approximately every 9 seconds in the United States alone. Every day more than 3 women are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands. One in four women has experienced some form of domestic violence in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. 85% of domestic violence victims are women. The other 15% are men and their numbers are rising.
More and more men are becoming the silent victims of domestic abuse and violence. One in every 7 men, in their lifetime, has experience severe violence or abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. Unfortunately, the violence against men isn’t reported or publicized nearly as often as it should be. Why? The answer may simply be this, it’s incomprehensible for our society to believe or accept the reported abuse of a man. Therefore we tend to dismiss their claims of abuse against them. But the fact is that domestic abuse or violence can and does happen to men within our society. However society seems to be too narrow-minded and conditioned to believe that members of the “stronger sex” are being subjected to the incommunicable acts of abuse and violence at the hands of their intimate partners. In our society men are commonly touted as the “stronger sex” but domestic violence levels the playing field. Men are not immune to violence at the hands of their partners. No one is invulnerable to acts of aggression visited by violence or abuse.
Men abuse women, women abuse men, women abuse women, and men abuse men. Men however are not finding the same structured, formal support of an organization or advocacy groups that are more readily available to women. Men also need support and assistance to help them cope with the trauma of their immediate abusive life situations. Why aren’t more concerted efforts made to address their problems? Who can they talk or reach out to regarding methods of extrication from an unsafe, unhealthy relationship? Where can they go to find counseling and support to help them through the process of escaping their circumstances? These abused men also need to know that they matter. No one deserves to be ignored when they’re reaching out for help.
Same sex domestic violence situations are another very real issue. The parity in the rate of domestic violence in same-gender relationships is roughly the same as domestic violence against heterosexual women. Yet again, reports of same-sex abuse situations are met with intolerance and disbelief.
I can’t fathom why it’s so hard for society to believe that anyone, anywhere, at any time could be or has been a victim of domestic violence.
Domestic violence and abuse levels the playing field. Regardless of your age, race, gender, sexual preference, or intimate partnership status, no one deserves to be abused or mistreated by another individual. Especially by someone who professes to love them. Hiding behind the guise of love is just another tactic that the abuser uses to undermine the will of his victim and retain control. Love is not meant to hurt or kill. Violence and abuse are not components of a loving relationship. There is never any rational or justifiable reason to remain in or tolerate a situation that threatens your safety, sanity, or physical well-being. No relationship is worth risking your life for.
The perpetrators of domestic violence will use various tactics to hold you and your life hostage. The tactics of an abuser are designed to “beat” their victims into submission. There are several types of abuse: emotional, psychological, economic, sexual, isolation, stalking, and physical. The abuser wants to negate and control the will of their victims by any means necessary. Domestic abuse and violence is centered on exerting power and control over another individual. In my opinion, what the victims fail to believe or realize is that they’re the only ones who have the power and control needed to step out of their abusive situation, to take their lives back, and change their destiny.
Domestic violence and abuse is a subject that speaks to me and about me. I’m a survivor with a purpose. But to think that so many of my brothers and sisters are still living in a life situation that’s an uncertain and unhealthy. Not knowing the whether the next second, minute, or hour will be their last. Relinquishing absolute control over their lives to someone who loves and batters them greatly disturbs me.
In my lifetime, I’ve known several women who have been victims of abuse and violence. As a teenager I witnessed one of my neighbors chasing his long time girlfriend, Lucy, through the streets in our neighborhood. He was screaming at the top of his lungs that he was going to kill her. She obviously believed him because she was running for her life. No one on the streets attempted to stop him as he ran behind her. I think I was the first female that she noticed in her flight for life. She ran directly towards me and into our front yard screaming and begging for help. Her attacker was just a few steps behind her and there was no doubt in my mind that he would have killed her had he caught up to her. She was bleeding profusely from a head wound. Her attacker had bashed in the side of her head with a bottle.
It just so happened that my stepmother was at home that day and upon hearing the commotion she came running to my side because she thought something had happened to me. Upon seeing the actual source of the commotion, the blood, and the woman near collapse my stepmother reacted without hesitation. The attacker, whom we both knew quite well, stopped dead in his tracks just at the gate of our property. My stepmother had vehemently warned him not to take another step onto the property. She gave the woman a white towel to staunch her bleeding and advised her to “be still” until the police and ambulance could arrive. I still have a very vivid recollection of how quickly that white towel became saturated with her blood. The sight and smell of the blood that covered our front yard that day is something I’ll never forget. At that moment I thought to myself that would never be me.
The ironic thing is that once the woman started to calm down as we waited for the police and ambulance she abruptly decided to leave our home with her attacker. She didn’t want to get him into trouble because they were having a misunderstanding. And he ended up taking her to the hospital for treatment! I can only imagine the explanation they gave to the ER doctors concerning her head injury. Her abuse continued and she eventually married him.
Abusers carefully pick and choose their victims. The chief goal of the abuser is to gain and retain total control over the relationship and the victim. They make a conscious choice to violate and abuse another individual. These abusive men and women are tacticians and they don’t know how to play fair. They will target and divest you of everything that prevents them from penetrating your established defenses. They use strategic tactics to bend the minds and wills of their victims. They will resort to using fear, intimidation, threats, guilt, and shame in an effort to wear you down and control you. They want to render you helpless, hopeless, and passive. They want to rid you of your sense of self-worth and independence. They will treat you like an inanimate object, a possession. They resort to yelling, screaming, and blaming as a means to keep you off-balance and tear down your defenses. They will attempt to convince you that you can’t exist without them. Their loving and apologetic gestures in between battering occurrences will delude you into believing everything’s going to be okay. Wrong. It’s never okay when you’re being made to feel devalued and demoralized. And you’re never going to be okay as long as you remain in an abusive relationship.
In order to take your life back you have to realize and acknowledge the reality of your abusive situation. You have to love yourself enough to want to leave and get help. Victims of abuse and violence deserve to be safe and respected.
I recently went through the pain and sorrows of watching my daughter, Tiffany, go through a very violent and abusive relationship. She didn’t leave her situation until it was almost too late. It took a life and death struggle at the business end of a 12-inch butcher knife to make her see her reality. Up until that point no amount of talking could persuade her to leave her dangerous and potentially lethal situation. It was only when she was literally backed against a wall, physically fighting for her life, and facing her own mortality did she recognize and accept the gravity of her situation. It was only then did she choose to fight for the lives and safety of herself and her children. Now at this time she’s removed herself from that situation, relocated to a safer environment, and rebuilding her life.
What motivates us do the things that we do? What rationale lies behind the choices that we make? Domestic violence and abuse is a behavior that should never be tolerated or accepted by anyone, at any cost. At what price do we open our hearts and lives to find or experience love? Remember her name was Dania D.
American Bar Association, Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/domestic_violence/resources/statistics.html
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV): http://www.ncadv.org/
The Academy on Violence and Abuse (AVA): http://www.avahealth.org/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/intimatepartnerviolence/index.html