I Can See You

by Lillian Mark, Community Building Division Operations Manager

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  What does that mean?
An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
Poverty, homelessness and domestic violence are intricately linked – 92% of homeless women have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse.
My role at GLIDE includes collecting, analyzing and leveraging program data for the Women’s Center to support its vision and programs and to support GLIDE’s mission.  Data and research are important; they are the foundation of academia and make possible theories and best practices to address critical social issues that impact all of us, including domestic violence.

Nearly one in every four women are beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood.
A woman is battered every 15 seconds in the United States.
Yet, over the past 4 years, my understanding of domestic violence and the measure of the Women’s Center’s impact have come from sitting in a room with women who feel safe enough, strong enough, and loved enough to tell their stories.  Data can form powerful statements, but they do not capture the authenticity of individual experiences.  Data does not hold hands, it cannot shed tears, and it will not look you in the eye.

A woman walks into the Women’s Center minutes after the morning group had settled in.  She gingerly takes seat in a chair closest to the door and remains uncomfortably seated at the edge.  She is clutching a thick manila envelope in one hand, and her cell phone in the other.  Her cell phone rings and she jumps up from her seat and runs outside.  She has a restraining order for her ex-partner (in the manila envelope), and is depending on school administrators to call her immediately if he attempts to contact her children at their school, so she jumps every time her phone rings… she jumps every time her phone rings.

The consequences of domestic violence can follow a woman and her family long after she breaks free.  She waits, at the edge of her seat, for healing and peace.  The Women’s Center says “it is OK; we will sit and wait together.  We will move when you are ready to move.”

A woman shares the times in her life when she had to carry bricks and rocks in her purse to defend herself against her abusive partner.  Another woman chimed in and shared that she had once carried a can of corn in her purse as self-defense.  Another woman commented on her life involving a can of black beans.  In hearing this, the women in the Women on the Move drop-in support group begin to laugh, and then they immediately begin to cry.

When there is abuse, there is always shame.  When it is done and over with, she is left with wounds and still fears.  When she knows she is not alone, she can still feel lonely.  The Women’s Center says “It’s OK.  Let it out.  It’s not your fault.  You’re doing good.  It’s OK.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  What does that mean to you?  To you who have a story to tell about hope and recovery, to you who knows someone who is affected, to you who care so deeply that change happens, the GLIDE Women’s Center says to you, “I can see you.  I am listening.  Go ahead, you’re doing good.  Let it out.  You’re doing good.  It’s going to be OK.”