Saturday, March 14, 2009

Domestic Violence 101

This morning I attended Regional Day of Service: Take a Stand Against Domestic Violence Symposium sponsored by the illustrious Prince George's County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.

This event was planned several months ago, long before the entire Chris Brown & Rihanna incident. You don't know how glad I am that situation came to light because it shows everyone that domestic violence doesn't just happen to certain people of a certain age or a certain race, or even a certain socioeconomic class, it happens to everyone. I'm not saying at all that I condone what happened to Rihanna, I'm just glad the incident gained so much attention because it provided valuable exposure especially to children and teenagers who look up to the two celebrities. It provides a name and a face of domestic violence.

The morning began with comments from the Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey who provided a lot of information about resources for victims/survivors of Domestic Violence as well as ways in which we can all make a difference. He suggested emailing or calling our representatives to ensure when new domestic violence legislation is up for vote, they vote the way we want them to vote. We can make a difference.

Following, there were several break out sessions. I attended one on Advocacy & Outreach brought to us by the Outreach Coordinator at the House of Ruth in MD (not affiliated with the DC one). The presentation began with a video that included sound from an actual incident that occurred between a husband and wife. It was so real and so scary. You could hear the woman begging her husband to stop, but he kept hitting and slapping her. He told her if she told anyone he'd kill her and the person she told. At the end of the video, the words came across the screen stating that 2 weeks after its taping he had killed her.

It was very hard to hear something like that but it makes domestic violence so real especially to someone like me who's never been in that type of situation. As far as I know of I have only one friend who was in an abusive relationship but she's always said it only took him only once to hit her and she got out of the relationship and I've always been proud of her for that.

Watching the video and hearing the stories, you always think to yourself why doesn't the woman (and in some cases man) leave? Why does she accept the beatings and the verbal abuse? How could she love someone whose sole purpose is to be in control of her? But unless you're in that particular situation, it's hard and unfair to be judgemental because you're just an outsider looking in.

Today made me realize that I shouldn't ask questions like those, but I should be supportive and do my part in trying to see that laws are put into effect so domestic violence is taken more seriously. It's still crazy to me that if a man were to walk up to a stranger on the street and punch him, he'd be charged with assault and likely get locked up. But if the same man were to hit his wife, girlfriend, or the Mother of his child, someone he supposedly loves, often times he gets let off with just a warning and continues the cycle of abuse.

I think that it's interesting people fight for cruelty against animals and animal rights but the same compassion isn't there for the rights of battered women. Organizations like PETA can spend millions of dollars to have a commercial during the Super Bowl while most domestic violence organizations have limited funding and lack space for women seeking solace from their abusers.

The presentation made me feel very empowered like I could do something to make a difference. We can all do some thing whether we donate money, donate our time as a counselor, email our representatives, or write blogs to get the word out.

Remember, 1 out of every 3 women will be a victim of domestic abuse, if that's not a scary statistic I don't know what is.

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