Sunday, November 21, 2010

You are not alone

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 21 November 2010)

One of the most distressing aspects about domestic violence is how isolated victims can feel from the rest of the world. Even if there are family and friends who love and care about the victim, she may still feel there is no one on earth who understands what she is going through, especially if no one steps up to intervene on her behalf.

For example, after I recently wrote about my own experience of domestic violence at the hands of my mother, I received an email from a reader saying, “I have just read your column…and it has opened up old wounds. I am currently in tears because I lived my own hell that I never thought any other child experienced at the hand of a mother.”

Living in an abusive relationship is a lonely life. There are threats of more violence if the abuse is spoken about to others, yet even when the silence is not broken, the violence continues. It is a lose/lose situation and the silence only allows the violence to continue.

When someone says that domestic violence is a “private matter,” they are completely and utterly wrong. This reckless statement is intended to absolve the speaker of responsibility to help the person being abused and to hold the abuser accountable. Moreover, dismissing domestic abuse as a “private matter” keeps the victim in her prison of silence. No leader should EVER say domestic violence is a “private matter.”
If there is one reason above all others that I am a part of the “Break the Silence, Say No to Violence” event this Thursday at the Georgetown Cricket Club Ground, Bourda, it is because I know what it is like to suffer in silence. I know what it is like to feel isolated from the rest of the world in my own little hell and to believe there is no one else who can or will raise a finger to help me.

How many women suffer in silent torment today in Guyana? Hundreds? Thousands? Even if it is just one (though we know it is far more), that is one too many. Life is too short to spend even one day being subjected to blows, covering up the bruises, listening to the venomous words or being beaten down emotionally by psychological abuse.

We never know how many more days we have left to spend on this earth, let us not waste even one precious day in the arms of an abuser.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, come to the “Break the Silence, Say No to Violence” event on Thursday and see that you are not alone. There will be others to stand with you. I will be there to stand with you. If you are a survivor of domestic abuse, come and find support and healing. If you know someone who is being abused, offer to bring that person to this event as a way of taking a stand against the evil of domestic violence.

If you are neither a victim nor a survivor, nor do you know anyone who is a victim or survivor, it is important that you come to this event, too. The only way to initiate real change – the only way to stop seeing headlines of women murdered – is for every single person of excellent heart to take a stand against domestic violence.
I have already had many people give verbal commitments to be in attendance. I appreciate this since I have not asked these friends to come; they are coming to support this cause because they know just how important it is to stop the maiming and killing.

I have been writing about domestic violence since the start of my column in 2005 and yet today the situation is worse than ever. Multiple times a week there are headlines with women who die horrible deaths. This past week a 62-year-old woman was hammered to death by her own son. The time for idle talk is long past. It is time for action now.

This Thursday, the day of the big event, is the Thanksgiving Holiday in the US, a day where families gather, feast and spend the day together in thankfulness for all they have.

I have spent every single year of my life with family on Thanksgiving, but this year, I chose to spend it in here in Guyana so I can do my part to find a way to curb the violence.

Thursday is also International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In other words, when Guyana stands together at the “Break the Silence, Say No to Violence” event – we are not alone – there will be others around the world standing in solidarity with us.

We will join our voices with brothers and sisters around the world to vehemently reject violence against women.

We cannot bring back the ones we have lost to domestic violence over the years, but we can take a stand together this week to stop the onslaught against women. Please make your commitment to come to “Break the Silence, Say No to Violence” on Thursday. Bring your best friend – bring all of your friends. Bring your family members. Bring everyone – and let us do this together.

It is time to do more than just say, “We have to stop the killing.” It is time to put our words into actions. Come stand with the victims and survivors this Thursday. Look them in the eyes and tell them, “You are not alone.”

Columnist’s Note: If you have a mother, daughter, sister or someone you know who has been killed this year by domestic violence, we would like to honour her at the rally on Thursday. Send me an email so we can include her.

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