domestic violence awareness month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month – What Can You Do?

In honor of October being Domestic Violence Awareness month, here is what you can do to help raise awareness and make a difference in your community.

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  • Become a prayer warrior to intercede for women in crisis and for the needs of FOCUS Ministries. You will receive a regular update of prayer requests from women worldwide who need to know someone is praying for them, and a list of specific needs relating to the operation of FOCUS Ministries.
  • Partner with us financially. We are supported by individual and church donations solely depending on the Lord’s provision to carry our work forward. Funding is needed to help us meet the physical needs of families, to continue free counseling and support groups, and to provide Homes of Refuge. As a 501(c)(3) organization, your gifts are tax-deductible.
  • Start a FOCUS Support Group in your area. Our Train the Trainer seminar will help you with the tools you need and a leader’s manual is available for purchase. Leaders are able to connect with FOCUS representatives to assist them in this process.
  • Represent FOCUS Ministries in your area. Partner with us in distributing information about the newsletter, support groups, and seminars. Help us with creative fundraising through garage sales, walkathons, etc.
  • Support our Homes of Refuge. Big needs require big dreams and FOCUS Ministries has some. Perhaps you can become an integral part to providing a safe place to a family who desperately needs one.
  • Contribute by clicking. Check out simple ways that you can to earn donations to FOCUS Ministries in conjunction with your regular Internet activity. Every click counts!
  • Purchase the Teen FOCUS Curriculum.  Whether you are a school counselor, youth pastor, educator, or volunteer who works with young people, this tool is a “don’t miss” resource in helping prevent today’s youth from experiencing destructive relationships that will destroy their spirit.
  • Support Teen FOCUS.  Show your support by wearing one of our buttons or ribbons.  Give them to your daughters and friends.

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Domestic Violence Awareness is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I have been thinking about blogging about this topic for days. Upon stumbling across this amazing post from the Mary Byron Project, I knew I could not say anything better than what has already been said here.

It is my wish that someday men and women will understand the true devastation and the widespread effects of domestic violence.

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Ask anyone the color of breast cancer awareness and they will tell you pink.  Pink is everywhere this month.  There are breast cancer walks in nearly every community with survivors, friends, family members all wearing pink.  The American Institute for Cancer Research has a website dedicated to getting “pink on purpose.”  There’s a pink store that sells pink items and even a collection of pink recipes. 

October is a month awash in pink, and, rightly so.  Everyone knows someone, a friend, relative, co-worker, or acquaintance, which has battled breast cancer.  That is why we care so much, why we walk to raise awareness and why we fund prevention and treatment.  Breast cancer is a horrific disease, affecting one in eight women.  Hopefully, awareness, funding, and research will eliminate this monster before the next generation suffers.

 Domestic violence affects…

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Physical Constraint

Merriam Webster gives three definitions for constraint:

  1. The checking on one’s true feelings and impulses when dealing with others.
  2. Something that limits one’s freedom of action or choice.
  3. The use of power to impose one’s will on another.

Any woman who has been in an abusive relationship knows firsthand at least one of these definitions if not all of them.

In the beginning when we would fight and things would start to get out of control, I would leave.  I would get in the car and just leave.  Having already moved 1000+ miles from home, I didn’t have anywhere to go.   I did not have anyone to turn to, so I would drive around for an hour, maybe two, before giving up and going back to the house.  I don’t remember what would push me over the edge to get in the car and leave, and I probably wasn’t always right in walking away when things got heated.  But I do remember being afraid of what he would do while I was gone, especially to my cat.  He would threaten to hurt her if I left her with him.  He would pick her up and throw her at me and yell at me to take her with me.  So I would pack her up in her carrier, and she and I would take refuge in the car.

Eventually, I wasn’t allowed to leave the house when things got too intense.  The days of driving around in the car with no place to go soon became a distance memory, a luxury of freedom I would long for.  If we were having an argument, no matter how heated it got, there was no walking away.  He considered my walking away to be extremely disrespectful, and it meant either I didn’t really love him, or that I was sleeping with someone else.  I remember the sheer frustration and anger it would generate, to be confined to a room when you wanted to leave.  I pushed, shoved, screamed; I didn’t go down without a fight.  The first time he restrained me in a doorway, when nothing else worked I pinched him when he wouldn’t let me through.  It was the first time he hit me.  He slapped me hard across the face and then just stepped aside.

In the rare event I actually made it out of the room before he could stop me, he would take the car keys or stand in front of the outside door so I couldn’t leave the house.  I would try and remove myself to the couch or the guest room.  But that was not permitted either.  If I didn’t return to the bedroom in a reasonable period of time, I would be physically brought back to the bedroom.  This meant being picked up and carried.

On one occasion, I managed to grab the car keys before he could stop me.  I barely made it outside and into the car before he bore down on me.  With the doors locked and him unable to get to me, he went berserk.  There was an old tire in the yard, and he used that to start attacking the car.  Terrified, I sat in the car too scared to even drive away, while he pounded and screamed and threw that tire at the car over and over.  Once he had worn himself out from throwing the tire or was sure I wouldn’t drive away, or both, he went inside and locked me out of the house.

Eventually my anger and frustration at being restrained started to fade, and as it faded, so did my attempts to fight back against the restraint.  The anger gave way to a feeling of defeat and worthlessness and ultimately to acceptance.  In the end, I quit trying to leave.  I’m not exactly sure of the point in which I crossed over from believing I couldn’t leave, to not even thinking about trying at all.  It was probably around the time I had my oldest son.  There was no way I was going to leave that house without him, and my husband made it clear there was no way I would leave the house WITH him.

By the time my youngest came, I honestly believed there was no option of my leaving.  It saw absolutely no way of being able to leave of my own accord.  Instead I would daydream of ways I would finally be free.  I would fantasize of my husband dying in a car crash.  I would dream of him having an affair and leaving me for another woman.  I would often tell him that some other woman would make him happier, that clearly I was the wrong woman for him.  Silently I prayed that he would somehow leave me.

They say the average woman in an abusive relationship tries to leave 10 times before she is successful.  After the first couple of years we were married, I never tried to physically leave, and I was so trapped mentally by his abuse that I never even imagined a scenario in which I left.  But I probably fantasized of him leaving me more than a 1000 times.

Years later, my now ex-husband still does not recognize his actions as abusive.  He even recounts events as humorous anecdotes to tell while with friends.   One particular story, of my cat sailing through the air and landing in a clothes basket continues to be a party favorite.  Once I even laughed along when he told this story, desensitized by his violent behavior.  But I am no longer in that dark place of acceptance.   The other night while laying in bed with my oldest son, he referenced a story daddy told him of throwing our cat.  I am grateful that I am now in a place where I can openly discuss this story with my son and demonstrate to him that violent behavior is not the way to solve his problems as he grows up.

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To the Next One

On my way home from being a Matthew West groupie this weekend, I found my ex-husband’s new fiancee on my heart.  Over the past year or so that they have been together, I have struggled with the desire to warn her.  But I have resigned myself to the fact that she needs to be the one to figure it out, as did I.  She may enlist my help or someone else’s at some point in time, and she may not.   I have done my best to let go of any responsibility I feel for her.  However, as I thought of her on my drive back to Chicago-land, I wondered what I would say to her if ever given the opportunity.  Never did I dream that the opportunity would come much closer to being reality as I learned of the events that transpired over the weekend while I was away.

It took less than 2 minutes in the car with the boys after picking them up from their father on Sunday to know that something was wrong.  I will not go in to details as they are not necessary, but I find myself with a stronger desire than ever to reach out to the fiancee.  This is my letter to her.


Dear <Fiancee>,

I know you do not want to hear anything I might have to say.  But this is not about me or you.  It is about those two beautiful boys, that I hope you have come to care about over the past year or so.  What they went through on Saturday night is not something any child should have to go through.  The worst part is it’s not the first time they have been subjected to such an event, and that is a burden I get to live with everyday.

Hearing the commotion and certainly seeing their father in that state was most certainly frightening  But what truly scared them was the thought that their father might be taken away that night.  They did not know what was happening; whether they would simply be left alone; or if they too would be taken by the police.  I cannot imagine how scary that was for them to go through.

The following day brought about all the uncertainty their father’s actions had created.  They didn’t know if daddy was still getting married.  They didn’t know if daddy still had a place to live.  Furthermore, they were asked to withhold the events of the prior night from their mother, a burden a child should not be expected to bear.

I have been through this.  I have been where you are standing.  I do not fault you for wanting to defend him or for choosing to stay with him.  I stayed for 13 years; 10 after the first time he hit me; 3 after he struck me in the head with a lamp and was arrested for battery.  Even though I was terrified enough to call for help, I didn’t press charges.  In fact, I begged the police not to take him.  I did not appear in court for the hearing, allowing the state filed charges to be dropped.

They see their therapist tomorrow.  If he recommends what I believe he will recommend, then I will file a motion to modify the custody agreement.  You don’t have to support my decision. But I am asking you to be stronger than I was.  I need you to be honest; to tell the truth when asked about what happened Saturday night; to be willing to tell that to whoever it may be when the time comes.  If you don’t, the boys will be forced to testify.

Most likely you do not think what happened was domestic violence, but it was.

Any person who physically assaults (which includes but is not limited to; hitting, choking, kicking, shoving, raping, destruction of personal property), threatens, harasses, exploits, neglects, deprives, intimidates dependents, stalks, or interferes with the personal liberty of another family or household member has broken Illinois Domestic Violence law.

Illinois also recognizes the impact to children who witness acts of domestic violence.

The witnessing of domestic violence can be auditory, visual, or inferred, including cases in which the child perceives the aftermath of violence, such as physical injuries to family members or damage to property. Children who witness domestic violence can suffer severe emotional and developmental difficulties that are similar to those of children who are direct victims of abuse.

I left <my ex> not for me, but for the boys.  I need you to do this for them.  They can not continue to be subjected to such trauma.  As easy as it might be to dismiss, it truly has a detrimental effect on them.  No child should live in fear of their father.

That is all I ask.

Sincerely,

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