During a visit home a few years ago, an old friend of my mother's dropped by. As we talked, the conversation turned to her poor health. "It's the stress, you know," she said. "Stress can take such a toll on your body. I never really recovered after my daughter passed away."
"What happened?" I asked.
"Well, dear, don't you remember?" she said. "Her husband beat her to death with a hammer."
In my shocked silence, she continued, "Oh, it was terrible. He hit her over and over again until she died. My oldest grandson had to leave the army to come home and take care of his younger siblings."
Following my useless murmurs of, "Oh, that's awful. I'm so sorry," she continued, "With their mother dead and father in jail, someone needed to take care of the younger ones. He's a good boy," she said proudly. "Taking responsibility for his brothers and sisters the way he has."
As we continued talking, she added, "She tried leaving him before. The first couple times, he tried running her over with his car." Then she smiled at me. "But she survived those attempts."
I remember looking at her, unable to think of what to say. All of the knowledge and understanding I have as a domestic violence advocate just seemed grossly inadequate in response. In fact, as she sat there, so calmly telling me about the tragic murder of her daughter, all I wanted to do was burst into tears; but I knew if I did, she would try to comfort me and make me feel better, which would be absurd considering the horrible loss she had experienced. So I just sat there feeling numb, helpless, and so sad. A mother should never lose her child that way, and no children should ever have to live with the reality that their dad murdered their mom.
Today – October 1st – marks the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month is a time to mourn those who have lost their lives, celebrate those who have survived, and connect all of us so we can work together to end violence.
The unfortunate fact is that so many of us know someone who has been affected by domestic violence—a friend whose creepy boyfriend we never really liked, or a family member who, years later, reveals harrowing abuse no one ever knew about, or a family friend whose daughter's tragic murder weighs heavily on her every day of her life.
At the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), the stories and experiences of survivors and their families are at the core of what do every day. In honor of them, NNEDV is launching a domestic violence awareness campaign—31 facts about domestic violence in 31 days (31n31). We will post facts about domestic violence on our Facebook page, and we encourage you to share it with your friends and family. Every Monday, we will post a blog on our website to talk about the work that NNEDV does and our commitment to creating a world with no violence. And every Friday, we will ask you to donate $31 to a local shelter, state coalition, or NNEDV in honor of the women in your life who have been impacted by domestic violence.
Domestic violence thrives when we are silent. But if we take a stand and work together, we can end domestic violence. We can end it by telling our friends and family that we will not tolerate domestic violence and by asking them to take a stand with us. We can end it by supporting the programs and shelters that provide refuge and safety for hundreds of thousands of survivors every year. We can end it by ensuring that our communities hold abusers accountable for their actions. Throughout this month, help us raise awareness about domestic violence and join us in our efforts to end violence. Together, we can make a difference.