I’ve never been a victim of domestic violence, but I have literally heard the cries of victims for help. Before joining the staff of UBA in 2005, I was the Volunteer Coordinator for The Bridge Over Troubled Waters. It's an organization that offers support and shelter to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault while also offering education to the larger community about how to prevent abuse. Like every person at The Bridge, part of my employee orientation was to listen to 30 minutes of 911 calls from people in the midst of domestic disturbances who were crying for help—some who were uttering their last words on Earth.
The experience had a profound effect on me, and I wasn’t a victim. While certainly not all victims of domestic violence are women, all the voices I heard on the calls were female. One caller has stuck with me almost 15 years later: a woman whispering that she was hiding in her closet with her small child while her abusive husband was yelling in the other room. It was not her first time calling 911. I could hear the husband’s threats on the call.
START WITH GOOD QUESTIONS
For those who have never stopped to consider the issue of domestic violence, known a victim, or been educated, several questions might come to mind:
Why does she stay in such a terrible situation?
Why doesn’t she just leave and take her children with her?
Doesn’t she have enough self-respect to stand up for herself?
But these questions are just the tip of the iceberg. Aside from blaming the victim, which is never helpful, these questions belie a fundamental misunderstanding of how complicated domestic violence is. Domestic violence is different than any other type of violence, because it is usually committed by someone the victim considers an intimate partner. Consider those words again: intimate partner.
What does it look and feel like when an intimate partner of yours threatens your life?
GET ANSWERS FROM EXPERTS
On September 20th, 9-12pm at Ecclesia Houston, UBA is hosting a free seminar called "Breaking the Cycle” to teach pastors, church leaders, and everyone in our communities more about domestic violence—what it is, how to respond, and how the break the cycle we see both inside and outside the church. It will be in both English and Spanish.
This seminar is going to be a challenging time for everyone and will feature two incredible and experienced speakers—Debbie Moseley and Adam Mason. With decades of experience and their deep passion for those they serve, Breaking the Cycle is bound to be an impactful event.
QUESTION YOUR ASSUMPTIONS
You might be thinking, “This will never be an issue for me.” That may be true, but 1 in 3 Texans will experience domestic violence in some form over the course of their life. According to a report in 2011, almost 20% of respondents indicated that they were living in an abusive relationship at the time. That may not seem like a large number, but that equates to more than 1 million people or almost half the population inside Houston city limits.
You may also be thinking, “If I was in that circumstance, I would ask for help.” An older report showed that 75% of Texans indicated on a survey that they would call the police if they were to experience domestic violence, and yet only 20% of victims indicate they actually involve the police.
Now for the heartbreaking reality: more than 57% of Texans know someone who has been in an abusive relationship. But would you know who?
WHEN IT HITS HOME
Imagine this scenario: You're friends with a couple, Bob and Kathy, and from all outward appearances, they have a loving, tender, Christ-centered marriage. They have three children ranging in ages from four to twelve. They have been married for 18 years, and you have known them for most of that time.
Then one day, Kathy pulls up in your driveway during the middle of the day with all of the kids in the backseat. Right away, you know something is wrong. The kids should be in school. Kathy should be at her job. They come to the door like they have a thousand times before except the kids won’t say anything or look at you. And then you look at Kathy and you see her tear-soaked eyes—with a black and blue bruise darkening the space between her right eye socket and cheekbone.
The kids get settled into another room, and you hand Kathy a cup of coffee, not sure of what else to do. “Who did this to you?” you reluctantly ask, hoping desperately it’s not the answer you fear.
“Bob,” she says, staring blankly at the cup of coffee in her hands.
You start to stammer, but she continues. “I always thought it would get better. This is the first time that anyone would ever be able to see something. Sometimes the kids would get disciplined too hard, and maybe he would push me every once in a while. But he was always so broken afterward, always so apologetic. And then there would be great months, even years after…” she trails off.
“Kathy,” you say with a whispering hesitance, “I’ve known both of you for years. How long has this been going on?”
“The entire time,” is all she can get out between sobs.
Did you know that there is a cycle of violence that includes a calm stage, which feeds a victim’s desire to stay in their relationship?
Did you know that once a victim resolves to leave, their chances of being seriously abused go up exponentially?
Did you know that victims have a variety of reasons for staying in abusive relationships such as fear, shame, guilt, economic dependence, and even theology?
I hope that you will join us on Thursday, September 20 to learn about Breaking the Cycle. Please register for this free seminar below so that we know you are coming. It is time for us to be equipped. It is time for our pastors, church leaders, and everyone in our communities to know more about domestic violence—what it is, how to respond, and how the break the cycle we see both inside and outside the church. Together we can make a difference. We are better together.
The Houston Police Department’s family violence unit will connect you with a counselor: (713) 308-1100
Bridge over Troubled Waters’ 24-hr domestic violence hotline: (713) 473-2801
Houston Area Women’s Center’s 24-hr sexual abuse hotline: (713) 528-RAPE (7273)
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)