It’s ninety six degrees out. Do you wear short sleeves knowing that your arms will be showing? Maybe- if you’ve been consistent in your trips to the gym. Probably not, if you’ve been someone’s punching bag. Black and blues that are often hidden under layers of clothing peep out during warm weather months daring the people who see them to say something. Just like that terrorist warning advertisement says- “If You See Something, Say Something.” I can’t help myself, I have to ask.
I once had a supervisor who asked me whether I was being physically abused when I came into work sporting big bruises on my arms. I actually wasn’t being intentionally harmed but I was involved in martial arts training. I eventually figured out there was something wrong with that picture for me. Coming to grips with both emotional and physical pain and abuse at the hands of people we love is an excruciatingly slow process for many of us.
Being let into the inner sanctum of knowledge that women I’ve known have been secretly battered by loved ones is complicated. The trusted and untrustworthy people who engage in these behaviors have not only been intimate “romantic” partners of varying types but can be also be their children. During the last couple of months of tank tops, sundresses and spaghetti strap heaven, a couple of women have admitted to me that all hasn’t been sunshine and cool ice teas. How do I help?
I’ve learned, after a few decades of providing health care, is to listen to the woman (or male in some cases) tell their stories. Really listen. Then I ask them what they want to do. Be patient. This is the hardest of all for me. Most women I’ve wanted to help have immediately withdrawn their quests for release from lives of punishing blows, emotional dissection and little to no self-esteem when I’ve offered information on possible assistance.
I provide information anyway. It may take only the planting of a seed to grow a bounteous crop. I tread gently. I honor the person who has found the courage to bring up a most humiliating and potentially fatal circumstance.
Below are some links, for you to check out, if you or someone you know has decided not to wear short sleeves today.
For statistics on Domestic Violence:
Safe Horizon Resources
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
The New York State Coalition against Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Sexual Assault Hotline
The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE