I failed myself as a woman the past few years. I've been known for my anti-feminist jokes. They were misguided by extreme feminism – mostly the misogynists you picture when you hear the word "Feminism". Truthfully: I was naive. There are gender equality gaps in the workforce and the discrepancies are narrowing but the reality of women being mistreated still exists. This is my last summer before the career world and if I didn't begin substantial volunteering now, it would not gain traction later on down the road. We like to care about poverty, hunger, violence and injustice but many of us cannot empathize. I needed exposure. Yet, no matter where we live in the US, it’s easy to unravel our issues.
Going down the highway from downtown was a different kind of forever this time. There was no traffic. My insides swirled and I just got in my car and started crying. I guess I finally got it. I just had my first orientation at Genesis Women’s Shelter. A few weeks before graduation, it became evident to me that I needed to emotionally challenge myself in many ways. Genesis is a shelter for battered women and their children. Everyone has their trials but these aren't my trials, these are our trials. Domestic violence is one of our trials as humanity.
Here’s a correlation to remind us of what this household violence perpetuates: 85% of men in prison have been exposed to domestic violence while growing up.
Domestic violence has only crossed my path indirectly, maybe a friend’s friend or neighbors cousin. I did not know how to help them. Though emotional intelligence is a strength of mine, I doubt I would be able to detect these kind of disturbances in peoples relationships.
There are a few reasons domestic violence within a couple goes undetected. One main reason: women are afraid. They're afraid of upsetting their spouse, losing their family, and believe they are dependent. Fear alone will empower battered women with the ability to lead normal lives in front of others. If their friends find out they are abused - physically or psychologically, it will only arouse the abuser more. To these women, it is an important and painful cycle to avoid.
Getting inside the outreach facility for Genesis was justifiably complicated. The actual shelter is at an undisclosed location. I walked into a room where women (and some men) ranging from high school to retirement age sat sharing "Why?”. Why are you here? Why do you want to volunteer? At first, it was a few but then it was half the room that had experienced violence in their time. Now they wanted to give back.
“I’m here to give back.”
Give back what? The sole idea that they had made it safely out of their situation, maybe with some help, have led them to want to give back? Some didn't even have help but they’re there to give back. I sat floored with admiration.
“When I called the police, they told me I had to get out myself and I could not take my children.”
“My first husband found me in California. He sent a letter stating, “I know where you are”.
Except for the part where I introduced myself and my desire to volunteer, I was silent. I’m not usually quiet but what was I supposed to say? “Yeah, my life and people in them have been totally great; I'm here to emotionally enrich myself. Sorry about what happened.”
These women did not share their stories, they were there like me: wanting to help. The more I heard, the more I was appalled by my own naivety.
1 in 4 women experience violence in their lifetime. That means that the lady driving cruising 40 mph on the highway or the one carrying a whaling baby at the grocery line perhaps at a bad day. It’s overwhelming to even have these thoughts. I've only known great guys. But with my luck aside, there is a serious men’s issue within sour communities.
As outlined in a pretty spectacular TED Talk, there needs to be a paradigm shift. Domestic Violence is largely a men’s issue, a leadership issue. The burden to teach the youth should fall on adult men with power. They are leaders of this cause and should be held accountable for the crimes, the inaction, and the ignorance regarding the severity of this issue.
Men should interrupt each other and not stand for tactless jokes against women. There should be no blurred lines regarding violence in our peer culture. That way, men who perpetuate this hate, this abuse, lose their status in society As a result, we could see a radical drop in abuse. We could stop forgetting that it's happening.
Its not fair to our mothers and sisters to lack introspection regarding domestic violence. People like Chris Brown should not be allowed to perform anywhere or have influence among our youth. I don’t think as individuals we can be silent bystanders as these perpetrators continue their heinous antics.
Every city has their resources. In Dallas, one of them is Genesis. They have gone out of their way to be smarter than the abuser, to provide help to women discretely, and to help them start new lives methodically.
A 24 Hour Hotline, an emergency shelter, counseling, housing, daycare, recovery, child play therapy, an onsite school, case management, job readiness, and legal counseling – all free of charge.
We assume wonderful facilities like this exist and it allows us to sleep at night. But before I came here, I would not be able to properly redirect a friend in need if she came to me. That’s pretty disappointing. So, I want you to know.