When I was four years old, my mother got married to my stepfather. She was in love, and he seemed like the perfect guy for her at the time.
He was smart, in the army, he never yelled at her, they never argued in front of us and they seemed good together. Two years into their marriage, the unthinkable happened. We were stationed in Germany, and they were arguing, which had become the new normal for them. And out of nowhere, he hit her. He hit her hard. She lied on the floor, crying, he walked out of the apartment, slammed the door and left her there. The next day, she wore sunglasses as she took our dogs, Lacy and Sam, to the dog park down the street; Her eye was swollen and bruised. This continued on for almost a decade.
Domestic violence is looked at as a non-issue. The victim is blamed 90 percent of the time. Over the years, I have heard all of the questions: Why didn't she leave sooner? Why did she put you and your brothers through so much pain? Why did she not get in trouble for keeping you in such an unsafe environment?
The answer is simple: He had brainwashed her to believe she couldn't survive without him. He had engrained in her, that she was worthless, that nobody would love her like he did, and that without him, she wouldn't survive. Of course, none of it was true. However, he had brainwashed her to believe it were true.
The problem with society, is that if you've never been in a domestic abuse situation, you can't understand what the victims go through. It's so easy to say "Oh, it's easy. Just leave him." If it was that simple, more women would do it. Women are commonly threatened when they say they are going to leave. It is not as simple as packing up your things and leaving. It is not as simple as reaching for help, because unless there is bruising when you report it, there is nothing they can do. More people need to understand that domestic violence is a huge issue in America. It goes unreported a majority of the time, because women are shamed for it.
Why are the women shamed for it? Why are the women told to leave? Why isn't anyone telling the men they're wrong? Why aren't the men shamed for beating a woman? If we change the way we think about domestic violence, then the stigma will change. If women got taken more seriously when they come forward about being abused, more would report it. If the men were actually held accountable for their actions, more women would come forward and seek help. If women weren't shamed for staying in a domestic abuse relationship, more women would come forward. We, as people, need to change the stance on domestic violence. We need to advocate for the victims, reach out to them and let them know that we are here when they are ready to leave. Let them know, that if we report it, we can offer them protection and security. Finally, we need to let them know, that we do not judge them for what they did, because we can understand why they stayed. After all, if someone threatened your life and your children, what would you do?