This past week, one of the news items that was depressing to read was the one about a woman in her 40s who lives in Australia who, according to the evidence mentioned in the article, was a victim of incest from the time she was 11. Her father fathered her four children, three of whom still live. In that article, the woman who encouraged the victim to come forward deduced the situation and spoke up. In another article, a third woman criticized the one who encouraged the victim as a “busybody” who was always putting her nose in other people’s business.
Well praise God for busybodies.
The victim was too terrified of her father’s violence to speak out, even when she lived away from his house. It took her three years from the time she first reported it to get up the courage to file a restraining order.
Closer to home, domestic abuse is on the rise. According to some statistics, every 15 seconds, a woman is assaulted in her own home.
Did you read that? Every. 15. Seconds.
Do you know what that translates into? Roughly 5.3 MILLION women, every year. EVERY YEAR.
Three to ten million children will witness violence in their home.
Some people, though, think, wow, that’s bad, but it’s not affecting me, and I don’t know anyone affected.
Well, think again.
You know someone who has suffered from abuse. They just haven’t told you. They may still be suffering from it.
From The American Institute on Domestic Violence:
- The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking, and homicide by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year.
- Of this total, nearly $4.1 billion is for victims requiring direct medical and mental health care services.
- Lost productivity and earnings due to intimate partner violence accounts for almost $1.8 billion each year.
- Intimate partner violence victims lose nearly 8.0 million days of paid work each year – the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity.
You know what’s going to make it worse? Tremendous amounts of people are out of work and their unemployment has run out, or will run out soon. They’re looking at extreme financial difficulties coming up on a winter, where heat and food are going to be luxuries. Heat and food. There are victims out there in fire areas, storm areas, who’ve lost what little they had that held them together. This does not even count the people who are already locked in a vicious cycle of welfare and abuse, where they feel like they have no other choices but to live in the hell they’re in.
Anecdotally, the cops I’ve spoken to tell me that domestic abuse cases seem to be on a serious rise. People are at their wits’ end, tempers are all over the place. Those who were prone to violence before become violent again. Some people who’d never been violent will snap.
Now, I know a lot of people want to help. A lot of people try. [Side note: my pet peeve, the one that drives me absolute batshit? Cynicism. To me, cynicism is the five dollar word that means lazy, but with a hipster dress code. If someone can read those statistics and not feel a compulsion to do something, then I don’t want to live in the pretty world they live in, because that world is going to hell and they’re asleep at the toll booth.]
If you’ve read this far, I doubt very much that you’re cynical. You may know more about it and can help illuminate this problem even more. You may have already donated/volunteered and if so, if you’ve got suggestions for ways to help, see below — we want to hear from you. But maybe you don’t know what to do about it because the problem is so large, and you’re just one person. That, I understand.
Here are some ideas:
Food Banks are always desperate for donations. There is generally a big surge around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but people have to eat between now and then. You’re bound to have something in the pantry you can donate. I’ll bet your neighbors do, too. You could do something small (yourself), or join up with neighbors. Going to gather around a TV with friends over football? Get ‘em to bring donations.
Women’s Shelters – again, always desperate for donations. You probably have a shelter somewhere in your town. Call them, see what they take as donations, see what they need. Some have stores where they re-sell donated items to raise money; others use the items donated for the women. Some of these shelters are desperate for clothing—especially for women who had to leave their violent home without their belongings and now need to job hunt. Many of these women have children and children have this stunning habit of growing out of their previous year’s clothes – particularly coats and gloves and shoes.
I will be willing to bet you that you have stuff at your house or apartment you are not using that someone else could use. Most shelters will give you a tax receipt that you can use if you itemize. We went through every closet, our attic, and garage and found a ton of items we weren’t using, and this was after my kids had had a garage sale. We donated what was useful, and recycled the rest and I was astonished at the value of what we ended up donating. Stuff that was completely going to waste here, not to mention cluttering our house.
Don’t have time to clear out a whole house or apartment? I didn’t either. I did it one small area at a time over a few months. Piled everything in a “donate” corner and then every once-in-a-while, we’d run it over to the shelter. If you have kids, get them involved. Ask your neighbors to consider donating. If you have a vehicle and they’re willing to donate, maybe you can offer to drop the stuff off. Most people have good intentions, but don’t get around to doing it because it’s not on their way. Maybe you can be the one who changes that.
Do you Twitter? I put money in a jar every time I Twitter. At the end of the month, that goes to a shelter. I may not make a big difference with that amount, but combined with others’, every little bit helps. I’d love to start a Twitter drive. Suggestions?
What habit do you have that’s totally frivolous? Or maybe your kids? Could you sponsor a group? A marathon? Maybe have a contest between writing groups or book clubs.
Book Clubs – maybe you can bring used books to the shelters. Or donate toward a literacy program. The problem of literacy is pervasive and creates despair, which can compound violence in the home.
Will you be attending a conference? Whether it’s a formal conference-wide sponsorship or just a group of friends, how about putting one drink’s cost in a jar for a donation to a shelter in that city? One drink. Or one snack. Particularly for crime writer conferences, this could make a big supportive statement in the community. We write about crime, which means we write about victims of crimes. Let’s give back.
You don’t have any money or excess items to give, but you’re interested in making a difference? There are literacy programs. Or if that’s too long of a commitment or not do-able on your schedule, maybe you could volunteer once a month to help out with the food banks or the shelters or teach a class how to write a business letter or a résumé.
You don’t have to start a program. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are already a ton of programs out there who need volunteers. You don’t even have to do a whole lot. Just do ONE THING. One. Pick something that means something to you, and do it. I don’t care how crappy your week has been, if you’re sitting here, capable of reading with internet connection on a computer somewhere, odds are that there are people around you who are suffering and that YOU could make a difference.
I don’t care what you do, do something.
Tell me some more ideas in the comments, folks. Or tell me something you’ve been inspired (not necessarily by this blog, obviously) to do in your community.
IF YOU ARE IN AN ABUSIVE SITUATION, there is help. THERE IS A WAY OUT. If you don’t feel like you can confide in someone close to you, PLEASE please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224.
Or, if you feel safe enough to use your computer (that it is not being monitored by the abuser), their website is:
Thank you for this compelling information. I want to share with you what my organization does here in the U.S.A. Enchanted Makeovers is a internationally recognized non-profit organization that transforms shelters for women and children into peace and possibilities not just where basic needs are met. I think it’s EXTREMELY important that society wakes up and realizes that how in hell do you expect women to leave an abusive situation and go into a shelter that is depressing, scarey and so in need of repair. This is exactly how the victim ALREADY FEELS. Please visit my website to learn more about my organization and PLEASE SPREAD MY LINK TO YOUR FOLLOWERS. I hope this will inspire people to take action. Lets stop the torch of abuse and addictions to the children.
What, Toni, are you psychic?
First of all, did you see Dusty’s blog (or mine) about how in eight States plus DC, domestic violence is considered a "pre-existing condition" so insurance companies can and have denied claims resulting from said violence? Utterly appalling.
Then too, while we’re here on vacation, I got to talking to a friend I haven’t seen in a while. She’s been single for a very long time, but last February she met someone. She loves him. But, she says, "Sometimes he roughs me up a little." I want to go rip him into pieces.
Because I’ve been there. I know exactly where she’s at and I know that I can help her to find her way back. However, going back home now takes me physically out of the picture, and that pisses me off, because I want to be HERE for her.
Anyway, thank you for a timely topic and thank you for some wonderful practical suggestions on how to help. You’re a blessing.
Excellent post, Toni.
And if you’re one of the people who’s hesitating about getting help, think about this: your kids learn from you what’s normal. If your daughter sees you getting knocked around and you just put up with it, she’ll learn that that’s what a relationship is. Ditto for your son.
One of the things that truly breaks my heart is, after twenty years of practicing law, I’m seeing the "grown-up" children of former defendants in domestic assault cases coming back for the same thing. And, as in the past, the victim decides to drop the charges.Then it happens again, over and over. And they act as if that’s perfectly normal relationship: Get drunk, beat spouse, get charged, spend a night or a weekend in jail, make up "for the sake of the children", drop charges, repeat.
Bravo, Toni!!! It’s so great for someone not just commenting on the terrible news all around us but taking a stand to do something about it, being willing to get involved!
A few other suggestions–
–violence at home starts with what kids learn in childhood (just like JD said). Take a minute to talk to the kids around you (family or not), let them know there’s an adult who cares, who they can come to if they need help
–knowledge is power–I love that you’re advocating literacy as a way to combat violence. The simple act of reading a story to a child can change his world. Writers on tour can get books into the hands of kids and grownups by joining in with David Baldacci’s Wish You Well Foundation, http://www.wishyouwellfoundation.org/involved/
–for writers who are too busy to do any of what you suggested, we all still do research–why not gain some insight into the minds of criminals, law enforcement, victims, and the legal system by becoming a victim’s advocate or a court appointed child advocate? You’ll not only learn tons of great things to use in your novels, you’ll be giving something back
Thanks Toni for bringing this up!!! So many don’t want to face reality–especially in the context of our fiction being entertaining.
I’m in college right now, with almost literally only the bare necessities. Half my clothing either has a hole sewn-up or is fraying somewhere from overuse. I have- literally- no extra clothing, only things that don’t get used in one season but do in another.
Last year, I supported an ‘angel’- took an angel with a child’s Christmas wish off a tree and got it for him. I don’t even know if I’ll have the money to do that this year.
The annual cancer walk is in a couple weeks. I’ve got three sponsors. But, without a car, I can’t go help out with your cause. When I outgrew my clothes instead of destroying them with overuse, I donated. I will once I’m out of college and can do more again. And I can only hope others will also do what they can with what they have.
Brava, Toni. Like Fran and J.D.mentioned, my most recent outrage about domestic abuse is the fact that eight states consider it a viable reason to deny health care coverage to the woman.
Here in the Bay Area, domestic abuse organizations are particularly asking for cell phones to help the women get by as they move out from group housing to try it on their own. If you’ve upgraded to a new phone, please consider giving your old phone to these organizations.
New Mexico has a horrid domestic violence problem due to lack of education, cultural traditions, and another tradition of "looking the other way." We’ve always been a poor state, so I’m not sure if DV is on the rise here since we’re not as affected by the economic downturn, but it’s still a huge issue.
A year ago, we gave one of our vehicles — it was still in good shape — to a women’s shelter. We give clothes and toys to them too. Computers. Books. It’s all important.
One thing to remember is that women in these awful situations often have children who need help too; so everything you can donate can probably be put to use.
There are also programs for mothers getting out of jail — at least we have one in NM — where they give the women training in job interviewing and proper dress and job retention. I’ve donated nice, professional clothes to this org (can’t remember the name right now) as well.
Thanks for using this forum, Toni, for such an important issue.
Our local women’s shelter accepts old cell phones with their chargers. This way women can call 911.
As a family, we volunteer at a Sunday evening free meal, where there is a clothes closet, food shelf, and social services information.
My Mom works with an adult literacy program.
There are so many ways to help. If you have no money to spare, try to give a little time. Every little bit helps.
I LOVE the idea of collecting donations at conferences to donate to a local shelter. BCon is coming up.
Terry, what an awesome service you do. I know that has to make a phenomenal difference in the lives of the women in those shelters. I will help spread the word.
Fran & Dusty & Louise, I am gobsmacked. I mean, seriously, I did not know that about the DV being "preexisting condition" for some health companies. That’s obscene. And while I realize that health care is part of our free enterprise system, it’s still obscene. Do we know the names of those 8 companies?
CJ, Pari & Fiona – great suggestions. (In fact, great suggestions from everyone, thank you.)
Eika, obviously your heart is in the right place. Take care of yourself. One of the things that I have told young people in your position is that you’ve got to get yourself to the point where you are able to pursue your career. Your heart won’t change–you’ll help later just as you’ve helped in the past. But you can’t help others if you don’t work toward your own future, so there has to be a balance in life. I am certain that you’re the kind of person who helps those around you anyway, just by listening.
I think the phone suggestions are great–how many people updated to an iPhone? Man, if all of their old phones went to shelters, imagine the help that could create.
Dusty, that breaks my heart.
Alex, thanks — I won’t be at Bcon — I hope someone will take up the torch there. I think the crime writing community is in such a singularly important position to bring attention and help to this issue. Thank you.
Superb post on a very sobering topic. And very timely, too. We are de-cluttering at the moment, prior to (hopefully) moving house. I’ve been taking a lot of stuff to the local cancer charity shop, but I shall now sort into two piles and find my nearest shelter.
Incidentally, my first Charlie Fox book, KILLER INSTINCT, was partially set in a women’s refuge and involved Charlie teaching self-defence to the occupants there, so it’s a subject dear to my heart.
Yet another inspiring post ;-]
Amen, sister. Amen.
Toni, a wonderful and inspiring post. Thank you. Only the other day a friend of mine gave me a phone number for a local women’s charity that accept donations of "business" clothes. This organisation help women write resumes, study and prepare themselves for job interviews – including giving them donated business attire. I am in the process of moving countries and will be halving my wardrobe – I was planning to give my business clothes to this charity and was going to donate the rest to one of the other charities, but as a result of your post, Toni, I will seek out a women’s shelter to donate my clothing and also toys my kids don’t play with anymore.
Toni, here’s the article as I read it on the Huffington Post.
I read the article again, and there have been updates, so North Carolina has been clarified. It’s still got loopholes, but they’re watching it. The others are South Carolina, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Mississippi, Idaho, and Oklahoma. And DC, of course.
The insurance companies complicit in this are Nationwide, Allstate, State Farm, Aetna, Metropolitan Life, The Equitable Companies, First Colony Life, The Prudential and the Principal Financial Group had all either canceled or denied coverage to women who’d been beaten. State Farm says it has fixed it’s policy.
I moved back to the town where I went to college at. I had gotten married and one of our neighbors was helping with the 25th anniversary of APOC(Abused Persons Outreach Center) she knew I made dreamcatchers so she asked if I would help with their banquet, if I would donate dreamcatchers as decorations and door prizes….so I did.
One of the things that I learned of that night was THE CLOTHESLINE PROJECT….it was a traveling testimony of abuse in our area and around the state….I will put up a website that explains it better…I dare anyone to see this and walk away cynical.
as for having no money, or nothing to donate..one of the most needed things to any project is YOURSELF…or your time. Alot of programs run on grant funding and your donation of time can be considered *in-kind*.
The first step, tho’ is to GET EDUCATED….since I found out where it came from I have stopped using the phrase "rule of thumb", there’s much more to it than that…but I feel all women should take a self-defense course, learn about domestic violence and the cycles and be aware of the signs.
APOC, when they first started, had an uphill battle with how serious domestic violence really was…we live in a state, where it was live and let live..you didn’t air your dirty laundry in public.
It took a couple of murder-suicides to reach our police and judges to see…and start getting educated on the subject themselves. Now, they work together to get the message out, and present programs to the public.
Good post, Toni….my husband, I, and my daughter were out at the lake near here, when this couple and young girl came off the lake with a rented boat….my hubby was fishing , my daughter was in the water at the beach. THe couple was arguing, and their daughter asked if she could go swimming…they said she could…it didn’t take long to see the father was drunk, and he was being verbally abusive to the wife…I was sitting there and they started talking to me(in-between fighting)
They were gonna leave and called their daughter…to this day, I don’t know what made me say it to the mom….but as they were leaving …..her husband was a bit ahead….I grabbed her hand and said "APOC…call them….they WILL believe you and can help…" at the time I felt like a spy passing off info.. that was 7 yrs, restraining orders, and one divorce ago. Wound up in court as part of a support system for her.
God Toni, it’s always so good to see people focused on good works for others. Thank you so much for this post. We usually give the food bank at church, but I LOVE the idea of bringing something when you come to the Superbowl party. We’re gonna have to try that. I love this post. And while I recognize that the rest of my response won’t necessarily be popular when we’re talking about people suffering because they’ve been hit hard by this economy, it still holds truth.
A lot of families are having to make the gutwrenching decision of choosing who eats: the fam or the family pet. Adoption shelters are turning people away or advising euthanasia for families who love their dogs and cats, but can’t keep buying pet food when people food is tough for them to come by. I feel so bad for those people. I feel even worse knowing some people are told they have to put a perfectly healthy member of their family to sleep because some jackass wants a $300-$1000 specific breed with champion bloodlines and papers.
I know, I know, some people will say, "Jesus Jake, human beings are struggling and you’re worried about dogs?"
Because like a child, pets have no voice of their own. And if some douchebag can afford Four Bills or more for a beagle for their kids, then they can find one who will love those kids unconditionally till time ceases to exist for less than a hundred at a shelter, and keep one more family from having to kill their best friend rather than turning him out to fend for himself and starve.
Great post and one I’ve got to admit stirred some pretty intense emotions in me. I won’t go into detail but let’s just say I’ve got first hand experience as part of an abusive relationship and I"ve got a different outlook on being a victim. I applaud you for taking a stand and encouraging others to help. Your post reminded me that everyone can’t stand up for themselves and sometimes, they just need someone to say, I care. Let me help.
Wow, this post really hit home. Thank you.
Slightly belated in my comment, but I wanted to add a chorus of "hear, hear" to your post, Toni! I’ve been a volunteer rape crisis advocate for going on 8 years now, and I’ve worked with a great many rape survivors who are also victims of domestic violence. For so many women (and men), victimization breeds victimization, and violence breeds violence. And now, as a paralegal working in the foster care system, I see too many stories of inter-generational abuse and violence.
This is a problem that happens behind closed doors in every community. Rich, poor, black, white, Christian or Jewish, domestic violence touches everyone. So, I echo Toni’s call to action: If you care about your community and the people in it, stand up against domestic violence. Send the message, with your words and your actions, that violence in your community will not be tolerated.
I almost didn’t mention this, but statistics are thrown around so loosely nowadays, even for the most worthy causes, I had to.
An assault every 15 seconds comes to 2,103,840 for the year. (60 seconds/minutes * 60 minutes/hour * 24 hours/day * 365.25 days/year comes to 31,557, 600 seconds in an average year. Divided by 15 seconds, the total is 2,103,840.) Plus, these are not all different women, The actual number of women assaulted in their homes, assuming it is accurate to say there’s an assault every 15 seconds, is probably substantially less than that.
That’s still a couple of million too many. I have a18-year-old daughter, an I don;t anyone to lay an unfriendly hand on her ever, under any circumstances. I’m just afraid there are those who don’t want to take any action (and we know they’re out there, though their reasons defy logic), who will look for an inaccurate statistic torefute an otherwise valid argument. We can’t afford to give them that opportunity.
Good point, Dana. I didn’t do the math–just pulled that off the websites. (the 5.3 million was on another site linked to elsewhere in the blog) Lesson learned!
This post really struck a chord with me. I was in an abusive relationship in college for 3 years and thank GOD he dumped me for someone else before I married him. I was so far gone for him that I thought, "If I’m all these things he says I am and still he loves me, then I’d better stick with him b/c no one else would put up with me, let alone love me." Even now, nearly 20 years later, I want to cry for the 20-year-old who thought she was ugly and stupid and fat. My parents were thousands of miles away so never saw the worst of it–only got my crying phone calls every few days. My roommates were too busy w/their own lives (understandably… I don’t blame them) to realize what was going on with me. I count myself incredibly blessed to have a husband that praises me, loves me, and would cut off his arm before raising a hand to me.
I’m inviting a speaker from a women’s shelter to come speak with the youth at our church (the girls) about what abuse really is. I think young women are more susceptible than ever to abuse today, and if they put up with it when they’re 15 or 16, they have no reason not to when they’re in their 20s and 30s and older.
So that’s what I’m doing. If I’d had someone give it to me straight when I was younger, I might have had the courage to tell him to go to hell before the first date was over.
Oh… and I’m making damn sure my sons know what it means to love someone. And I’m teaching my daughter to love herself first, before she even thinks about loving someone else.
Thank you for this post.
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Great Post. I have Great emotions towards this post. I also Face same Problem Thus I am Victim Of it.I am sorry to say You But It Has wrong with you. I am really graceful to you. I think so in today’s world Special care should be taken of victim. By disgracing them they are much feared .
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The circle of life shows that it’s natural for some animals to be at the top of the food chain and others at the bottom. There’s nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is that we humans are no longer at equilibrium with our environment.