Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It IS Your Business

This week local Canadian broadcasters of Breakfast Television across the country joined together for Morning for Change. The event was held to raise the awareness of violence against women and to raise money to support programs that assist. I don't get to watch television any morning of the week, let alone one that involves school buses and pay cheques. I do however get to check into the world beyond my door with a little help from my Tweeting friends. When I saw @KathyBuckworth tweet about #Morningforchange my world came crashing in for a minute.

I lost my friend to domestic violence. She was shot by her husband before he took his own life. It happened with a child in the house, a child left to deal with unspeakable tragedy and grief. My friend was very well educated, she had a very good career, we lived in a nice quiet neighbourhood, her child was well love and her home was well cared for, She was brilliant, attractive and kind. It happened to her anyway. That is not to say that someone of education and background is less likely to succumb to domestic violence, it is to say that no one, no one, escapes the possibility of it happening to them. I think sometimes that people have this misconception that violence against women is reserved for families struggling with financial challenges, living below the line and in less affluent neighbourhoods. Nothing could be further from the truth. People of all personalities weave through every level of society.

So you may think; my daughter is not exposed to violence in our home she would never allow herself to be in that kind of relationship. Here is the problem with that theory; you have no control, or idea for that matter, just what kind of home your daughter's love interest grew up in. Maybe in his home mom getting a punch in the face was as common as please pass the butter. Your daughter doesn't know that either because even people who behave badly understand that they are socially deviant, it doesn't come up in conversation. So when your daughter receives her first exposure to a violent outburst it is quite likely that she will already be 'in love.' The sting will hurt worse but the apology will be more powerful , it will come with an overwhelming desire to rationalize in the name of preserving 'love.' There is an entire psychology that accompanies the victim, the abuser, their relationship and the family at large and I am not even going to pretend to understand it but I can tell you what my friend taught me...

The time to teach, prevent and end violence is now, with your kids while they are little. Teach them that it is never okay for boys to hit girls (or for girls to hit boys, I have seen the first hand results that violence against men exists as well). Teach them that disrespectful language and put downs are a form of abuse. Teach them to not contend with anyone's disrespect. Teach them how to remove themselves from those friendships that make them uncomfortable. Really listen to them when they express concern Do not wait until they are teenagers, by then they are living too far socially out of your eye for you to know exactly what is going. Talk when they are little. Demonstrate respect in your own relationships so they have a model. Make sure they understand that there are people they know, go to school with and buy their bubble gum from who are not so lucky to live in a 'safe' environment. Make it real to them when the opportunity and questions present themselves; when they view a news report or an advertizement on the side of a bus. Make the topic as common as how to cross the street safely.

Most importantly build a trusting relationship with your kids so that they can come to you with anything, confident in knowing you will be there.

Even with all this teaching your child could end up in a violent relationship. Know the signs. My friend taught me that the embarrassment of landing in a situation you should have “known better” to avoid could cost you your life. because you might not reach out, you might let it go too far, you might decide and reach for help, but it might not be in time. Know the signs and do not be afraid to ask the question “Are you being abused?” There is a real stigma about minding your own business. If you suspect someone is being abused in anyway; It is your business. Say something, they will get mad, they will also get over it. If you are wrong they will understand and appreciate your concern, or not. If you are right and say nothing you will never forgive yourself for remaining silent.

I could very likely write forever, the topic wells up a deep hurt and fear in me, It saddens me that by the time my friend reached for my hand there was not enough time to change her fate.

So I beg you... when it comes to domestic violence “It IS your business”

If you are in a situation where you need help or need help to help