“What does your organization do?” the lady inquired as she picked up our flyer.
“Domestic violence prevention. We focus on…”
“Oh, do you know where that shelter went? Are you them? I thought they were gone,” she stated while still reading the flyer.
“No, we do not provide shelter. We are focused on stopping domestic violence before it starts.”
“But, you know that shelter, right? I had some clothes to donate, but they are not there anymore. Do you know where they went?”
My heart sank just a little bit, but then I realized, this is exactly why we are here. This is why Forget Me Not Advocacy Group exists; to educate the public and to start these conversations. But even more importantly than that, I want the world to know that life is beautiful and we all should experience that.
You see, when I share my story, I’m not doing it so you feel bad for me. I’m not seeking sympathy or a kind word. Hugs and sad eyes are not required. I would be remiss if I left out that I find your heartfelt responses thoughtful, but that is not why I tell you the excruciating details of my life before happiness.
I tell you because I want you to know that life is beautiful. You don’t have to live with abuse, accept abuse, or remain a victim to the abuse that has occurred in your life. But, in order to have these conversations, I use the words victim, survivor, bitterness, divorce, lost love, physical abuse, and gaslighting. And, all of these are “negative” words.
There are two reactions I see when I mention domestic violence: a quick retreat with discomfort, or eyes that light up, telling me through expression, “Thank you! I’m so glad you are talking about this!” Sadly, the discomfort is what I see most.
Our society sees domestic violence in a negative light. Not so much the “that really shouldn’t be happening so often” light, but the “I really am not comfortable speaking about this because it doesn’t make me feel good” light.
And while everyone is busy being uncomfortable, teens are hooking up with abusive partners and thinking it’s love, those who are abused are ashamed to seek help because it’s common knowledge that they are “insecure and weak,” and those who have found a way out of an abusive relationship struggle for years because society tells them to move on.
Our discomfort in talking about a very real issue is doing nothing but feeding the issue, allowing it to grow and gobble up so many victims along the way. Abuse thrives in the shadows and in the silence. So, we must talk about it. But how does one do that when those who need to hear about it have an aversion to hearing it? How do you explain a mission focused on love, growth, and a love of life when our society cannot see past a bloodied face and black eye when they hear the words domestic violence.
Perhaps, we need to change what they see.
What if we were to approach it all from a different perspective? What if our entire approach was focused on happiness and taking all that your life has to offer and living it? What if we left those “negative words” for another time and place and focus on the reality of our mission…helping people find happiness?
What if? I wonder….