Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October 1, 2014

You probably know, Poppets, that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Which makes for interesting timing given that last month the hashtag #whyIstayed became a thing after the video of football player Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancée-now-wife went public. Shortly thereafter, #whyIleft showed up, as a bookend. The national dialogue was vitally important. And it was too narrow.

The national dialogue was about women being abused by men. Now, as a former domestic violence counselor, I understand the necessity of shorthand. When giving trainings, and during speaking engagements, trust and believe that having to say “the victim” or “she, or he” every time gets tiring. More than that, you really can lose your audience. Part of public speaking and training is keeping up a flow that keeps your audience engaged. Even something that little can distract from the message.

But here’s the thing – as a domestic violence counselor, trainer, and educator, I started every single one of my sessions with this statement:

I’m going to be using the pronoun “she” for the victim and “he” for the abuser. This is not to say that women are always the victim and men are always the abuser. Men can be victims. Women can be abusers. And the victim and the abuser can be of the same gender and I am in no way minimizing that experience. Everything I’m going to say applies, regardless of the situation.

Is it long winded? Maybe a little. Even clunky. But it’s necessary. Because shorthand can too easily become the only words we use, the only way we think.

I also went into men’s organizations and did speaking engagements for male victims of female abusers – and LGBTQ centers and spoke with people who had been hurt by people of their own gender. Which I don’t tell you to pat myself on the back, but to point out the fact that my co-trainer and I were the only ones in the city who would. We were in high demand because, at the time, no other domestic violence educators who spoke to straight women would also speak to straight men and the LGBTQ community.

And this is exactly why we can’t always use shorthand. Because shorthand becomes the norm because invisibility becomes denial. Denial that domestic violence can occur in our community. Denial that men can be victims. Denial that women can be abusers. Because when a victim can find no one to believe them, to listen to them, perhaps even to say “you know…that’s not okay…” in the first place, it makes the abuse that much worse.

So if you, or someone you love, is in a domestic violence situation:
  • I believe you
  • It is not your fault
  • It is real

And there is help. The Northwest Network out of Seattle exists to address domestic violence within LGBTQ relationships and help victims move forward to health, peace, and happiness. You can find them here: and reach them Monday-Friday, 9-5, here: (206) 568-7777.

Skagit Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services is a resource and referral organization, and runs a 24-hour hotline. They are LGBTQ-friendly. Find them here: and here: 1 (888) 336-9591.

#whyIstayed doesn’t have to be because no one believed you. And it really can become #whyIleft.

Until next month, Poppets, take care of you – and each other.

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