aˑwareˑness : 1. Having knowledge or cognizance 2. Vigilant; watchful
We hear about awareness a lot these days. It seems like every month is dedicated to one or more things of which we need to be aware. For me this word is almost worn out. When I hear it in the phrase “______ Awareness Day/Week/Month”, my mind kind of turns off. But here I am, writing about awareness.
I changed my Facebook profile picture to a Domestic Violence Awareness ribbon. Soon after, a well-meaning friend wrote, “It is sad that some women do not know that they are involved in domestic violence.” I know she was well-meaning because she helped me be safe and get out of a dangerous relationship. But that sentence hit me
wrong strangely in the gut. Why? I didn’t know.
I didn’t know for years. Years! Maybe it was because it was subtle. Maybe it was because hE didn’t physically hurt me…often. Maybe because I didn’t know that sexual abuse could happen within a marriage. And when I finally starting thinking, Maybe this is more than a little twisted, maybe this could
qualify count as be domestic violence, the reality of my situation hurt so bad and was so scary that I didn’t want that label. It took me months to consider that I was involved with DV. And months to say it out loud.
I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’m a pretty smart person. I graduated at the top of my high school class, got the gold cords in college, have a respectable job, but I was not smart when it came to this subject. I probably need years of therapy to really figure out what the flying F I thought was going on or why I stayed as long as I did. My friend’s statement “It’s so sad…” hurts because it truly is sad!
The only things I understand (at this point) about my struggle to make a very sick relationship work are: 1. I made a commitment to my ex-husband and tried to stand by that like those vows say “for better, for worse, etc., etc., etc.” 2. The manipulation and crushing of my self-esteem and self-image was so gradual that it was like the proverbial frog in the pot of water. 3. I was afraid to let people down by saving my own life. Somehow what they thought of me was more important than my safety. Again, horribly twisted!
I write all of this to say: love yourself enough to ask questions. If you wonder if you’re in an abusive relationship, ask yourself why you’re wondering that. If you are hurting someone (not even physically–emotions count as well), ask yourself why. If you know you are in an unsafe relationship but aren’t yet ready to leave, make a plan for safety! And if you wear your own badge of purple, take this month to reflect (yes, it’ll be painful) and be thankful for the gift of new beginnings.