Why is it that when we hear the words domestic violence, people often look the other way or feel very uncomfortable? It’s as if we don’t really want to know that it exists and think if we talk in hushed tones, others won’t overhear what we are saying.
In the media and throughout the community it is not given enough airtime or is toned down considerably. In fact, it is now called ‘domestic violence,’ when in reality is it simply an extreme form of abuse.
The statistics for domestic violence in Australia are shocking to say the least and expose just what really goes on behind closed doors in our ‘lucky country.’ These statistics don’t include the many incidences that go unreported.
When one woman is killed in Australia every week by a current or former partner (1), it is not an exaggeration to say domestic violence is a serious issue that needs addressing. Even if ‘only’ one woman was killed per year, it should be enough to send alarm bells throughout the community and the media.
The more serious cases might be reported, but equally harming are the cases that are not reported and accepted as ‘normal’ or diminished in everyday society due to the woman feeling that they don’t have the strength to report such incidences from lack of self-worth or fears for their own life.
There are so many women who are living on eggshells, tip-toeing around their partner like prisoners in their own homes, feeling powerless and anxious about how to leave their situation without further abuse, and at times simply doing everything possible to survive.
Our governments and politicians work tirelessly to ensure that our borders and country remain safe and protected from any terrorist threat or attack. Yet that same focus and commitment does not secure the gates and picket fences of suburbia. The fact is, Australians are more at risk from domestic violence than they ever would be from a terrorist attack.
Sure, we need to do whatever it takes to keep our country safe from a terrorist attack or threat, but if we are considering the safety of our citizens, then we need to look at what is happening in our homes every day.
It seems we have ‘normalised’ this type of abuse to the point that it doesn’t affect us or we turn a blind eye. Some might suggest ignorance is bliss, but these households are anything but bliss for women and children. And this is not just about women and children – men also experience abuse at alarming rates as well. Our teens also need support with the abuse and bullying they are experiencing everyday via social media or at school. It is obvious that there is a real need for many to feel heard and supported to know how to cope with abuse, and in how to leave an abusive relationship.
To bring any true change, we could begin by speaking more freely about the subtle forms of abuse in our relationships with others and explore the abuse we are encountering in our own lives, no matter how small or large this may be.
What if looking at abuse at the smallest level and calling it out allows us to deal with the more harming forms of abuse? If we don’t look at the more subtle forms of abuse, we may never be willing to look at how we can heal and address the darker and deeper forms of it.
I know for myself, I wasn’t willing to look at the abuse I lived with in my own life. I was abusing myself with food, unhealthy behaviours, drama and those self-deprecating thoughts that I would continually beat myself up with. Is it little wonder I wasn’t more proactive when abuse entered my own relationship? It wasn’t until I began to address the abuse I lived with from myself and others that I realised the cycle of abuse I had come to think as me was in truth miles away from the loving and precious woman I am, and that it was time to really honour myself and treat myself with love and respect.
So the antidote for abuse in my life was this self-honouring – listening to what I was truly feeling and not dismissing myself or doubting myself in any way. The more honouring of myself I was, even in the simplest of ways, the more I felt an inner strength and deeper respect for myself. It was the simple things like eating more nurturing foods, having a walk, not allowing any self-deprecating thoughts, going to bed early, and surrounding myself with supportive and loving friends that made a significant difference to how I felt every day.
Then, over time, I became more willing to see the abuse I had accepted from myself and others without any judgment or self-bashing. From there, my commitment to not turning a blind eye to the abuse around me grew. I began to see all the areas of abuse, both large and small, that I had conveniently turned away from before.
I now know that when we stay silent or ‘keep the peace’ to avoid rocking the boat, we can end up staying in an arrangement that gives abuse a louder voice.
It is our silence that allows domestic violence to proliferate in society.
If we look abuse in the eyes instead of retreating as I once did, it becomes a powerful tool for change. It doesn’t need our aggression or retaliation, simply a willingness to stand up and speak out against even the smallest of abuses with each other and with ourselves.
And yes, it would be ideal to have governments, politicians and the appropriate authorities ensure that those who offend with this type of abuse, either in the community or online, are made more accountable for their damaging actions. But this must not take away from the fact of the responsibility we all hold, how powerful we are as individuals and as a collective, to stand up and say no to abuse in all its forms.
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” (Albert Einstein)
- Aic.gov.au. (2017). Homicide in Australia: 2010–11 to 2011–12: National Homicide Monitoring Program report. [online] Available at: http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/mr/21-40/mr23.html [Accessed 6 Dec. 2017].
By Anna Douglass, International Flight Attendant, Mother, dedicated student of the Ageless Wisdom, Australia