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Reflections on Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Posted Oct 08 2009 12:00am

October 3, 2009

Lying next to my peacefully sleeping husband early Sunday morning, I began my morning ritual of focused breathing and woke my slightly aching muscles up with some gentle stretching.  As my consciousness began to shift from the world of sleep to wakefulness, I decided to get up and take our dog, Yogi, for a walk.  Our walks usually take us through our quiet neighborhood, but this morning I felt an unmistakable pull to walk down a busier main road.  I tried to shake the feeling that it was important to take this alternative route to no avail, so at the end of my street, Yogi and I turned left rather than right and headed out for a long walk.  The road was quieter than usual, perhaps because it was Sunday morning, and folks were at church or luxuriating in bed or ensconced around the breakfast table eating wonderful breakfast goodies.  Having made a choice to leave my iPod at home, I was able to take in the sights, sounds and smells of an early fall Sunday morning.  A damp chill in the air nudged me to zip my jacket as my eyes were drawn to leaves beginning to turn bright orange and golden yellow.  Trees have a wonderful majesty to them and as I was pulling in the experience of an early fall morning, my eyes were drawn to a very old large tree.

October is a month that heralds a turning in towards oneself, a reminder that snow and ice are right around the corner and that introspection and reflection are good tools to utilize during long winter months, to help us emerge in the spring with more self-awareness.  October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month and as I took in the sight of this old tree, I thought about how this tree has become an important landmark in my life.

In the early morning hours of October 14, 2006, my daughter’s car hit this tree head on at a high rate of speed after she had been pursued by her ex-husband, who in his speeding van rammed her car multiple times until it hit the tree and rolled over.  He took off, leaving her for dead, not, I think, out of cowardice, but out of a desire for her to die.  Meanwhile, I was peacefully asleep in my bed at our lake house, unaware that my daughter’s life was in such perilous danger.  At 7 am the phone on the nightstand next to my bed rang, I picked up the receiver, put it next to my ear and heard my son’s voice relaying that my daughter was in the hospital.  The next few hours were surreal as my husband and I hurriedly packed and drove home.  Time seemed to slow even as my heart raced in my chest and I grappled with a sense of powerlessness too big to describe.

Miraculously, my daughter was going to be physically fine, but what would begin for her and her family (including us) was a two week ordeal of hiding, until the perpetrator was apprehended.  We moved from home, to hotels, to a small cottage, to an out of state location, to an in-state hotel.  Some of those days we were with my ex-husband, his wife, my daughter and her children, other days we were with just my daughter and her kids.  It was a frightening and confusing time. The six months after he was apprehended focused on the court proceedings, until he was ultimately sentenced to only two and one-half years in prison, with credit for six months served.  He will be released this October, to a half-way house, where he will have some education on Domestic Violence, which seems too little too late.

In October 2007, I made this sign and hung it on the tree.

Signontree550

This Sunday, as I Yogi and I came to this tree on our walk, I stopped and looked at it.  The large amount of bark that my daughter’s car peeled off of the tree is covered over with some black stuff, that I suppose is some sort of healing salve for the tree, yet it remains a stark reminder of what happened and what could have been.  Previously, the tree seemed to be a part of the danger, a large immovable object that could very well have killed my daughter on impact.  This year, I saw the wonderful old tree differently; she protected my daughter from further harm.  She stopped a horrific scene, forcing the car to stop, which allowed my daughter to crawl out the car window.  This morning, with Yogi’s leash in my hand, I stopped and gave thanks to the big old tree for being there.  I felt awash in gratitude for the steadfastness of this gnarly old thing that caught my daughter and gave her a new lease on life.

It’s ironic that this act of domestic violence took place in October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and that he will leave prison in the same month.  There may be some larger meaning to all of this, but right now it seems like some weird joke from the universe.

One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). An estimated 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year; 73% of violence victims are female.  There are 16,800 homicides and 2.2 million (medically treated) injuries due to intimate partner violence annually, which costs $37 billion.  One out of fourteen men has been physically assaulted by a cohabitating partner or spouse during their lifetime, with an estimated 835,000 men physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually. 

Domestic abuse is a national epidemic shrouded in silence for many complicated reasons; shame, fear of retribution, fear of blame. In fact, I had to push my way through all of these in order to write this piece. But silence only allows this problem to grow.  Let’s break the silence on this national epidemic of domestic violence; let’s call for prevention, promote safety of all people, demand offender sentences that fit the crime and offer rehabilitation when appropriate. 

 Here are some things you can do:

  • Educate your self about domestic violence.
  • Speak out at home and at work about what you have learned.
  • Buy an empowerment necklace from Avon; proceeds go to domestic violence prevention.
  • Buy a pair of shoes at any Marshalls store between October 1 and 15, 2009 and be a part of their Shop ’til It Stops program.

Let’s create a lot of noise in October for Domestic Violence Awareness!

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