Newspaper article

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: On Connections, Hope and Healing

Newspaper article

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: On Connections, Hope and Healing

Article excerpt

Fact: One in three U.S. women has been or will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime.

Fact: a current or former spouse or significant other assaulted 1½ percent of Minnesotans in 2016, making intimate partner violence the second most common form of person offense victimization in Minnesota. Of those who reported having suffered domestic violence, 97 percent said it happened more than once.

This month, the nation once again observes Domestic Violence Awareness Month as a way to mourn those who have died, celebrate those who have survived, and build connections among those who work to end violence.

For those of us who have never experienced domestic violence, it can be easy to slip into assumptions. It is tempting to assume that the people who fall victim to this form of violence are different from you — that they’re poorer or sicker, or their skin color is different, or they’ve made more questionable choices than you have. This “othering” is something we humans do to create distance and help ourselves feel safer. But those who have been working in this field for a long time know that in this work there is no such thing as an “other.” Domestic violence crosses all lines of class, education, race, national origin, age, gender, and sexual orientation. The people who seek refuge at Women’s Advocates and other domestic violence shelters could just as easily be – and perhaps are – our daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts and neighbors.

We write this as two people who are passionate about advocating for domestic violence victims and doing what we can to help break the cycle of violence. One of us is a newcomer to the movement, the other an old hand. As the newcomer has begun to immerse herself in the work, she’s seeing how far we’ve come and at the same time, how much work remains to be done. The old hand brings the perspective of having been at this for a long time, readily giving credit to the many advocates all around the world who have worked together to build this movement. While acknowledging the pervasiveness of domestic violence, he’s also quick to move the discussion toward healing.

Five stages of healing

The two of us had a chance to talk recently about our work and what it means to us. Here are some excerpts:

Oliver Williams: Some of the most enlightening work I’ve done with others over the years focuses on the process of healing from domestic violence. We’ve found that for most survivors, there are five stages to the healing journey. Survivors rarely pass through these stages in linear fashion. But having a sense of the process most survivors go through can be helpful and normalizing, both for survivors and for those of us who seek to support them. The stages look something like this:

* Realizing you do not have to live with abuse. Once someone realizes they are not the cause of the violence, that they’re not responsible, a life without violence seems possible.

* Exiting the relationship. This stage is about seeking safety. Some people move several times after leaving an abusive relationship, while they’re on the way to finding a place where they feel secure and comfortable. …

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