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Imagine living in fear of making coffee instead of tea

Blog - Image - Domestic Violence - November
There is a woman probably not far from you. Every minute of every day she has to think about her actions. And words.  Yesterday he asked for coffee instead of tea. Normally he never drinks the stuff, but she did what he asked. Then he poured the hot coffee over her hand. 

This woman is a victim of domestic abuse, but she’s not stupid or weak. On the contrary, she’s constantly making calculations about her safety and that of her children. You wonder why she never stops to talk in the supermarket. That’s because he’s watching the clock. He’s also got the children at home with him. 
That call she took when you ran into her was him. The third call in an hour. He calls her constantly when she’s out to check where she is. She always answers quickly because he gets very agitated if she doesn’t. She counts herself lucky he doesn’t take away her phone. He monitors all her calls, constantly checking to see if she’s called someone she shouldn’t. Someone who might know about him. 

Actually, you’ve probably met him. She knows you might not believe her because she’s aware how people respond, and that’s usually with disbelief. Or they don’t want to know. Even if she told you about last year when he killed the family cat. He thought she might want to leave so he was warning her. 
You have to earn her trust. You may not be judging her, but she knows how people automatically think. How many times have you read or heard about domestic abuse against women and thought to yourself, or even said,

“She must have done something to provoke him.” 

Domestic abuse has no excuses. None. The problem is that those of us on the outside see things through our own lens. It’s natural that we want to simplify things and make them black and white. Her life is full of grey areas and timelines that are constantly changing. She’s navigating a world where she’s under immense psychological power and control. Despite that she’s trying to maintain her dignity, and to assess her choices for the long term as well as the short term. 

Her perpetrator knows how to play the game. It got noisy one day, the neighbours must’ve called the police. The new bruises were already appearing over the old ones while he calmly explained ‘it was just a little domestic because they both got drunk.’ She nodded, because it was the safest thing to do at that moment and the police left. 

She most likely knows the resources, the helplines and all the things you think of. But if she does decide to trust you and open up to you, you can listen. That might be all you can do, and she knows this. No matter how much physical, psychological, emotional or sexual abuse she endures, she is the one who knows her situation best. She may or may not be waiting for the right time to leave, but only she can make that call. If she decides to trust you and talk, you will be one of very few people. Listen and take her lead. 

Today, November 25 marks the UN’s International Day of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The facts are harrowing and we all have a social responsibility to understand and if we are asked, to help. (https://www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday/
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