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.
- 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: