This past week we celebrated Veteran’s Day, a day to remember and appreciate all of the veterans who have served the United States in any branch of the military. Even though there are over 20 million veterans currently living in the United States, for the most part the veterans are quietly going about living their daily lives. Periodically veterans will become the focus in the media as we remember the anniversary of an historic battle or as concerns are raised about the availability of quality healthcare for veterans.
In recent years there has also been more emphasis on veterans and the effects of PTSD. PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, can occur after experiencing a traumatic event. It is not hard to imagine that veterans would experience PTSD, especially those who had combat experience. As we gain more understanding about PTSD and its effects, hopefully more veterans will be able to receive the help they need and deserve.
One of the things we have learned in the domestic violence field is that survivors of domestic violence may also be diagnosed with PTSD. It is sad to think that women and children may be living in situations bad enough to cause PTSD, but perhaps we should not be surprised because survivors have compared the violence in a relationship to a “battlefield”. The ways in which domestic violence is carried out by one partner against another are horrific, demeaning and frightening, making a battlefield out of a home that could be safe and loving.
Like our veterans, we hope that domestic violence survivors will also have access to the help and support they need to understand and live with PTSD. And in this season of gratitude we give thanks for everyone working to make sure that veterans, domestic violence survivors and others have access to the support and services they need to not only live with PTSD, but to live lives that are rich and full.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This year we’ve been seeing and hearing a lot about domestic violence in the media because of what started with Ray Rice and the NFL. I think it’s good to get this issue out in the open so that we can talk about it, because as one survivor said, “Silence is a killer”. At the same time, these conversations should have been taking place long before now, and they have been, but on a much smaller scale. What we know is that domestic violence is a global issue that impacts people every day. “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States.” And “1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.” The National Coalition against Domestic Violence says that, “Domestic violence is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality.”
In light of these statistics and facts, I think we can agree that domestic violence is a communal issue that deserves our attention. And my experience is that businesses and churches and individuals are committed to supporting organizations such as Lydia’s House with their donations and financial support and even their time as they attend fundraising events or volunteer. These are all very important ways in which we can raise awareness of domestic violence and support the organizations that are helping individuals after they have experienced violence in their homes.
What we cannot forget is that even as we continue to support places such as Lydia’s House, even as we hear in the media the horrible truth of domestic violence, more women and children are being abused every day. These women and children are living in our neighborhoods, attending our schools and churches, shopping in the same grocery stores, and riding in the same Metrolink car. During any given day we may cross paths with women who are being abused without even knowing it. And so we will continue to raise awareness of domestic violence, supporting the survivors who have escaped the abuse, and spreading the message that no one deserves to be abused.
“Why doesn’t she just leave!?”
So many women have heard this question whispered from friends, co-workers and even family. The answer, much like the question, is not so simple. While scores of women leave abusive relationships every day, it can be harder for some than for others. Lydia’s House has helped women from many different walks of life, nationalities and religions. No two stories are exactly the same, but a common thread is heard in the answer to “why” some women don’t leave: it is sometimes harder to leave than to stay.
On average it takes a woman seven to nine times to leave before she leaves an abuser for good. Independence is a powerful, yet scary thing. Often times the reason for leaving is the same reason a woman has used to stay: children, safety, money. All reasons to stay but ultimately the best reasons to leave. Children who grow up in abusive homes often repeat that behavior as adults. Many women leave to keep their children from being abused and from growing up in horrible, frightening environments. Fear of being harmed if she tries to leave has kept many women in abusive relationships but that same fear has propelled women to leave as well. Oftentimes abusers control the finances to control their victims, but many women have used the desire to control their own money, and thereby gaining independence and power, as a strong motive to leave.
On this Fourth of July, we remember all of the women and children still living in abusive situations, and we celebrate the strength and courage of all of the women and children who have left an abuser and are now moving toward a life of independence and freedom.
Fathers, at times are our unsung heroes. A real, present, accountable father is an immeasurable blessing in a child’s life. Most of us have heard of the statistics of fatherless homes. Statistics like those from the U.S. Census Bureau that show children in fatherless homes are nearly four times more likely to be poor. Of course, a child doesn’t just need a father, but a good father, a good man. A good father provides a stability and example that children carry with them throughout their lives.
The most important job a man can have is that of a father. In that role he is one the first teacher who will help form who his children will become. Dad can be the first to teach his daughters about what a real man should be; how a good man treats a woman. It’s so important for men to understand how they can help change a culture of violence by first setting the example in front of their children. When girls witness violence in their home it is often repeated in their own relationships when they reach adulthood. However, the reverse is also true. Girls who grow up with a supportive father who they see handle conflict in a normal and healthy way tend to accept no less in their own romantic relationships.
Dad can also be the person who shows his sons an example of how to treat a woman, even in times of struggle. Boys look to their fathers for far more than how to catch a ball or swing a bat. They look to dad to set the tone for how a man interacts with a woman. A responsible father can show his sons that even though you have the might, you do not have the right to put your hands on a woman in anger. Fathers who are loving and supportive of their wives tend to produce sons who respect women as equals.
There are an abundance of amazing fathers who not only financially enrich their children but who inspire, teach and love their children every single day.
To those fathers, a priceless debt of gratitude is due.
Every year at this time we celebrate the magnificent honor it is to be a mother and the strength every one of Lydia’s House residents display in choosing a new path for themselves and their children. We acknowledge and thank mothers and mother figures for their unyielding loyalty and unmatched devotion to their children. We all know that motherhood is extremely challenging and can often present difficulties that we never imagined we’d face when we first looked at their little newborn faces. Motherhood is not always pretty and it is definitely messy at times. From dirty diapers to runny noses to the moody teen years and beyond.
Recognizing that not everyone has had the same past and an attentive mother who was able to teach the parenting skills needed, Lydia’s House offers parenting classes once each month that is lead by one of our Family Advocates, who is a License Clinical Social Worker. Parenting classes teach participants how to organize their time in their home-life, proper discipline for their children and providing healthy choices when it comes to nutrition for their family. These classes also teach how to set clear family rules, when it is an appropriate age to leave children home alone and to pay attention during playtime for safety (in the streets or surrounding areas). Emotional health and other resources are also discussed with their instructor and amongst the mothers.
We take on the task of bringing new life into the world and making that life one of meaning. From the minute our children are born, we are mothers. It doesn’t pay well and the hours are pretty long but it’s the best job in the world and we’re immeasurably blessed to be able to wear the title.
Happy Mother’s Day
Editor’s Note: This month of April, we are proud to present our blog written by Lydia’s House in-house Chaplain, Carolyn Held.