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Domestic violence – a privately-public problem

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And, unfortunately, the number of reported cases is actually on the rise.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And, unfortunately, the number of reported cases is actually on the rise. As of Sept. 30, 2011, Memphis had a reported 18 domestic violence homicides, 636 domestic violence arrests and 30 forcible rapes. While these numbers are quite disturbing, I’d like to focus more on one word in particular, ‘reported.’

As a community, domestic violence and sexual assault are viewed more as “private matters.” How many times has it been said that, “What goes on in this house, stays in this house?”

A few common myths are: it’s none of my business; she must like it or she would’ve left by now; a man couldn’t ever be abused by a woman because he’s bigger and stronger; what God has put together, let no man put asunder. Attitudes and responses such as these don’t bode well for positive change.

The more we view this epidemic as a private issue, the more public it seems to become. It’s made public in the thousands of dollars spent monthly in court costs, medical expenses, public assistance and time off work. It’s made public in a child’s behavioral problems or lack of school attendance.

It is time for us, as a community, to work twice as hard, and work together, to speak up and speak out, and acknowledge that what we don’t say could actually make the difference between life and death, literally and figuratively.

Transition can be difficult, and the journey to self-sufficiency is not an easy. Making the decision to leave an abusive situation is often times emotionally challenging. It is only the beginning. The mental, physical, spiritual, financial and educational barriers can prove to be overwhelming without the proper support and guidance. Helplessness, fear, shame, anxiety and uncertainty are common feelings. Compounded with potentially limited education and understanding and a lack of substantial resources, the transition can be quite daunting. And, when you’re a male victim, there’s the added stigma of being perceived as “weak.”

Speaking from experience regarding some of the myths, I offer this thought: “What we put in eventually comes out.” If you continue to keep negative people in your home, dwell in negative places and hold on to negative things, you cannot expect to have positive outcomes. Further, for those who believe in a higher spiritual power, one should truly consider whether “God” actually “put together” that particular relationship.

Additionally, men make up approximately 17 percent of reported cases where acts of violence were committed against them. Men are told from an early age not to cry, not to shout, not to show emotion, never show fear or any form of weakness. “Man Up” we tell our young boys. However, how often are they actually instructed on what they should do?

We have to provide alternatives on how to channel feelings. We have to offer alternatives when it comes to leaving violent situations. We must be the change we want to see.

Be willing to get involved, make it your business, be a listening ear, educate yourself on domestic violence and sexual assault, consult with professionals about how to get help or assist someone else. And remember that counseling doesn’t make you crazy.

I’m a survivor. I took a series of bad personal and professional relationships and turned them into something positive and beneficial for myself and others. I started “Walking Into A New Life” to allow others to see and hear someone they can relate to on a grassroots level, knowing that I am no longer ashamed nor afraid.

It is my goal to be viewed as a positive example of what it means to not only survive, but also, to thrive. I want to establish hope and belief in the system, and in others, but most of all, belief in yourself. Let’s expose domestic violence for the hideous problem that it is. For when a problem is exposed, we are then made aware and accountable for what we elect to do (or not) to solve it.

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