It’s time we #flipthescript on domestic violence
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a chance to intentionally raise awareness and focus on this epidemic that impacts one in four women nationwide. For Texas women, those numbers are even more staggering: one in three will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime according to a study done by the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
This is happening to our friends, our sisters, our daughters, our aunts, our mothers, and our grandmothers. This is happening to us.
Domestic violence comes in many forms
Domestic violence can include any of the following categories of abuse: verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. So often it is assumed that domestic violence is physical, such as hitting, slapping, punching, or strangling. While those behaviors may certainly be present, in reality, domestic violence is an intentional pattern of behavior by one partner over another, intended to obtain and maintain power and control in the relationship.
This can be accomplished through a myriad of behaviors and tactics, but often happens when one partner creates fear in the other, using that to control the victim to the degree that the victim is often “walking on eggshells” in order to keep the abuse from escalating. (Let’s refer to the person doing the abusing as “him” going forward, and the person being abused as “her;” it goes without saying that this does not mean that all men are abusive, but we do know that the majority of those ‘one in four women’ are being abused by men.)
The escalation of domestic violence is not a quick process and it typically is not an extremely overt one, either. Domestic violence is the systematic diminishment of women in their homes, and very often happens behind closed doors and in isolation from any support systems.
The abuser often hides behind status
It is not uncommon for the abuser to be someone with great standing in the community. He can be the president of his company, a Sunday school teacher, the coach of his child’s soccer team, or a member of the city council.
It is also not uncommon for a woman to be blamed for the abuse that she experiences, known as “victim blaming.” Bystanders, friends, or family often ask questions like: “If it’s really so bad, why doesn’t she just leave?” or “What did she do that made him get so angry? He’s such a nice guy. For him to do something like that, she must have really done something terrible.”
Because of the abuser’s all-too-often positive public standing, combined with the phenomenon of victim blaming, a woman living in an abusive relationship may do so for years before telling anyone. She may feel abandoned and alone when she does choose to speak out or leave that relationship. Neither of these are good options and neither are what she deserves.
We must help women feel believed, valued and strong
In Restoration Ministries, our goal is to empower women rather than blame them or shame them. We want women to feel believed, valued, and strong as they share their stories and experiences. Essentially, we want to “flip the script” on women’s experiences.
Speaking out about your experience with an abusive relationship takes an incredible amount of courage and strength because the abusive partner often tells you that no one will believe you, or makes threats about what will happen to you (or those you love), if you dare to break the silence around your abuse.
When women do come forward, a common tactic of the abusive partner is to attempt to discredit the victim in any way possible. Typically, this looks like calling her a host of names or making accusations.
“She’s crazy. You can’t believe anything she says.”
“Do you see what I’ve had to deal with all these years? We need to pray for her. She is really lost right now.”
“She would never submit to me the way the Bible teaches. I had to act that way because I’m supposed to be the leader of the home.”
“I’m so worried about her. This behavior from her is out of left field. I have no idea what she’s talking about.”
Because of the abuser’s good standing in the community, these statements often get disseminated as the truth about what is going on in this relationship.
What if we flip the script?
During October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, what if we choose to flip the script? What if we choose to believe her when she tells us that she is scared of her husband?
What if we did not express disbelief when she tells us that her partner, this man of good reputation, has been abusive to her? What if we instead ask how we can support her? Instead of crazy, she is terrified and needing someone to believe and support her. Instead of headstrong, she is a leader and determined. Instead of distracted and flaky, she is a survivor attempting to secure safety.
How can we choose to empower women rather than create more barriers and obstacles to seeking support and safety?
This October, let’s flip the script on how we talk about women. Let’s be a place where women are empowered rather than questioned, a place where women feel confident to come forward to seek support instead of continuing to suffer in silence. By this one simple step, you just might help save someone’s life.
One in three women will experience abuse in her lifetime. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, this October we are challenging you to examine whether your words and actions diminish women or help build them up. Use #flipthescript on your favorite social media platform to share your experience with harmful or hurtful words toward women, and how you plan to Flip The Script in your life to promote respect and equality.