Last Sunday night I was driving north to pick up the kids from their dad’s and listening to Sirius. There was a commercial for another station having a “Town Hall” with Kerry Washington (Olivia Pope, Scandal) so, being a sort-of fan, I tuned in. Among other things, she mentioned her involvement in the Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse. I’d never heard of it, and I soon learned that each year a purple purse is designed and sold to raise money for the purpose of not only raising awareness but also to help financially empower victims of domestic violence.
I live under a rock most of the time, and so I didn’t realize that this month was an awareness month for domestic violence. I stumbled on this by way of a blog I follow by Ned Hickson, his post titled: Even If Abuse Doesn't Leave a Bruise It Still Leaves a Mark. Nevertheless, I was working on my own blog post about the issue addressed by Kerry Washington… of financial abuse. Haven’t heard of it? I never, ever thought of it. It was like being suddenly rear-ended, and it had a very real emotional impact on me.
There are many forms of abuse, not just the violent beatings that the general public associates with domestic violence. The United States Department of Justice defines abuse in many forms – not just physical but also sexual, emotional, economical, and psychological. The Purple Purse addresses the economical abuse, whereby financial dependence is created by control over access to money and restricting one’s ability to work. This is huge. Victims under these circumstances are crippled by this and it does, in turn, keep them right where they are. Imagine the fear and anxiety JUST in the “how am I going to support myself and my kids?” “How are we going to eat? Where are we going to live?”
I experienced a very controlling man who didn’t want me working outside the home, never let me go anywhere without the kids, and would question my request for $20. He didn’t like other men around me, and so alienated me from all of them. He made it very difficult for family to come over to visit – they always had to call first. He was verbally abusive – the list of names he called me (and in front of the children) was endless. I was always anxious about getting home when I knew he was there waiting.
And then the day came when he punched me in the mouth. I suppose it wasn’t too hard, since I know he could’ve knocked my teeth out and I “only” had a fat lip – but I was holding our 3-year-old daughter at the time and that was the beginning of the end for me. There were many times he’d say, “I wanna punch you in the mouth,” though the number of times he actually hit me I can count on one hand. Hitting wasn’t really his thing. He preferred to pinch me, or pinch my nose, dump a whole pot of freshly made soup onto the floor or smash a pie I’d made, throw things at me, dump out the contents of my dresser drawers, shred my journals, and call me a stupid bitch. The point is, I knew well enough that this was not going to get better, had the potential to get worse, and I needed to find a way to get out.
I don’t consider myself a victim of “anything.” I, myself – having always believed that domestic abuse was what The Burning Bed taught me – never considered that I might be a victim of anything like “that.” I just thought my ex was an asshole, and deep in my heart I knew I deserved better. By the time I decided enough was enough, I started planning how to pay my credit cards off and start socking money away. I, however, have something that maybe some victims don’t have (or don't realize they have) – I have the best, most supporting parents I could ever hope for. YET – I never once told them anything, never asked for anything – until I’d reached that point of no return. And guess what? They bent over backwards to give me a safe place to stay, and even a little bit of financial support when I couldn’t make ends meet on my own. I am eternally grateful for them, and I thank God every day.
And that points to another piece of the awareness puzzle. Even with the right support waiting in the wings, many victims still have a difficult time walking out, or even reaching out for help. And I’m not referring to those victims who feel like they’re in mortal danger if they do.
I feel I'd be remiss not to mention that I also had something else that most victims don’t have, I had someone – who loved me beyond measure, beyond the confines of time, who provided me with the necessary tools for independence during the months I waited on the divorce decree (and stupidly agreed to live under the same roof as soon-to-be-ex), the very same items my ex sought to control even as his control was slipping away – a cell phone, a car, an old laptop for taking my online course. I’m sure the so-called experts would have more than a fair share of criticism over this relationship I rekindled in the midst of a war, but I am UNAPOLOGETIC. I know how lucky I am, and that I am luckier than most. And, the love of my life and I are still standing strong today – our 5th year back together and we could not be happier. I don’t think this paragraph supports the awareness campaign; in fact, it may do quite the opposite. However, I am honest. And if I’m going to be honest, I have to clearly state that I am an extreme exception. Certainly not the rule. And certainly NOT in favor of finding someone to rescue you (which is not what I did, btw).
Domestic Violence Awareness is so important because even the victims don’t always know what defines abuse, and all of us need to understand how prevalent these forms of abuse are – especially those that don’t leave visible bruises. According to the Allstate Foundation, one in FOUR women has experienced some form of domestic violence. It does not discriminate, and can be found across all social classes, all races, all genders. The #1 thing that determines whether a victim will leave or stay, or go back to, an abusive relationship? Money. Financial independence.
You may already know someone who is affected by domestic abuse.
In other news…
October is also Rett Syndrome awareness month. This is a debilitating neurological disease and the leading cause of severe disability in girls, rendering them unable to speak, use their hands, or walk – though they do mentally function at a high level. It can affect mood and sensory sensations, and can also cause problems with breathing, chewing and swallowing, and digestion, as well as cardiac issues. Girls are born normal but begin to regress in acquired skills between the ages of 1 and 3. They are often initially misdiagnosed as autistic, or as having cerebral palsy, or some other developmental disability. Research is ongoing and showing promise, but there is currently no cure. To learn more, please visit Girl Power 2 Cure.
And, of course, today is Friday – or, as we call it in the T1 community - Blue Friday. We wear blue to raise awareness and share information about Type 1 and the desperate need for a Cure. I had planned to use this day on my blog to promote Blue Friday and educate… but obviously, today’s post seemed infinitely more important. Maybe tomorrow will be Blue Saturday. Just this once.
Thank you so much for reading today. I appreciate you all. And if you have the time, please check out the link to Purple Purse. The purse is out of my financial budget right now, but they do sell inexpensive charms to hang from your purse to support awareness. There is also an interactive part of the site that allows you to experience the questions, the dilemmas, and roadblocks faced by victims. It's very sobering.