Domestic Violence Awareness: Collaborating and Offering New Perspectives
Guest post by Allison Tsai.
The month of October marks Domestic Violence Awareness month, a sensitive topic that is too often hushed or silenced on both an individual basis and in the larger social conversation. The reach of domestic violence is far, and the people affected by it are diverse. This diversity brings a variety of perspectives to the table, from romantic relationships to elder abuse to the effect of domestic violence on people who are disabled or living with a chronic illness. The need to tell a deeper story about domestic violence brought together experts from 10 different HealthCentral sites to join forces for a powerful awareness effort.
We created a section on the site dedicated to the shareposts being posted across the sites on domestic violence, and new posts are going up each week showing different paths of the same issue. The important of these shareposts, and the passion behind the writing is echoed in how the experts feel about raising awareness for domestic violence from a different angle.
Lene Andersen on Rheumatoid Arthritis discusses the lack of information on chronic illness, disability and domestic abuse:
“There is a silence surrounding the issue of domestic violence. And domestic violence against those who live with chronic illness and disability is wrapped in a silence within a silence. There is very little information about how domestic violence and abuse affects this population. And that means the people who are affected have very few resources for help, making it even harder for them to become safe.
During October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we started a conversation about the issue. Building bridges outside and within, the project included Karen Ager, author of Enemy Within and Community Leaders and Experts from ten HealthCentral sites. We shared our personal stories of abuse and violence, interviewed survivors and offered information and resources. We hope that by breaking the silence, we can begin to create a safety net that will help those who live in an abusive situation. We also hope that this will be the start of a bigger conversation, one that continues to build bridges that will create a safety net and put an end to violence against people with chronic illness and disability.”
Karen Ager, who did a guest post for us on RA, opened up about her personal experience with dealing with rheumatoid arthritis and domestic abuse, and how her illness perpetuated her inability to defend herself and leave her abuser.
“When you are physically unable to defend yourself, the fear associated with the abuser, even if it is just the sound of their name, never ever goes away. My inability to defend myself was perpetuated by my RA. Having a chronic disease can make you feel emotionally vulnerable and mentally fragile. Couple this with physical and emotional dependency on the perpetrator and you have a ‘double handicap.’ Unique vulnerabilities such as having to rely on the abuser for personal care, a possible lack of employment options due to illness and less community resources, make those with chronic illnesses or disabilities in domestic violent situations even more at risk for prolonged abuse. They are also more susceptible to mental conditions such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. This is why I truly believe this conversation is urgent and different. My hope is that our work will help women(and men) with chronic diseases who are in violent relationships to get out faster than I did, to be aware of their vulnerabilities and to see the link between violence, poor health and wellbeing.”
PJ Hamel on Breast Cancer talks about the shame that was associated with breast cancer prior to national awareness, and how domestic violence awareness needs more light shed on it.
“Thirty years ago, women didn’t speak openly of breast cancer; it was a forbidden subject whose name was only whispered, not spoken aloud. But today, thanks to pioneers like Betty Ford and national organizations like Komen for the Cure, breast cancer has come into the light. The shame of a breast cancer diagnosis has been replaced by the courage and confidence engendered by a new-found national awareness that this disease, like any other, is random – not deserved.
Today, the subject of domestic violence and abuse occupies the space breast cancer owned 30 years ago: hidden. Shameful. Forbidden. “She must have deserved it…” We need to “out” domestic violence, this intensely personal crime against women. We need to shine the light of truth on it: no woman deserves to physically, emotionally, or financially abused. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a strong first step in focusing attention on this blot on our national character.”
Pam Flores on Osteoporosis talks about the importance of collaboration to bring awareness:
“This collaborative effort, to write about domestic violence across many health sites, allows each writer to reach out to their personal readers and in turn spread awareness and hope about domestic abuse. Because violence fosters silence, this is our opportunity to give everyone who is silent a voice, and that hopefully is a different way to vocalize the non-vocal recipients of these offensive actions.”
Lisa Emrich on MS talks about the spectrum of people who have witnessed or experienced domestic abuse:
“The face of domestic abuse is as varied as are the communities at HealthCentral. No matter if you are a woman, man, child, parent, elderly, caregiver, we want you to know that support and resources are available. Have hope that there is life after abuse.”
“Elder abuse is often in the news, yet people are often unsure what to do to prevent it. Yes, there are people who intend to be abusers, but most do not. They are stressed caregivers who “lose it.” These people need to know there are steps they can take before they become abusers.
The opposite kind of abuse – elders abusing their caregivers – is more common than most people know. I read about it often from caregivers who just don’t know what to do. I wrote on these two topics because I hope that education and awareness can lead people to action to prevent, or at least end, both types of abuse.”
John McManamy on Bipolar talks about the added challenge of mental illness and domestic abuse:
“Mental illness poses severe challenges to any relationship. Emotional safety is the number one concern for both partners in the relationship. What can we do?”
Through this collaboration HealthCentral hopes to improve the conversation on domestic violence awareness, to show that this kind of abuse can take place in many different ways, and to let people know they are not alone. No matter what your situation is, there is help.