When violence gets personal

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When my sister entered my parents’ house that Sunday afternoon, I knew something was different.

Her walk was slowed, she had her hair covered in a scarf and kept her sunglasses on when she sat down at the kitchen table.

“Get out of here, you little creep!” she yelled at me, a seven-year-old at the time.

One of the people I look up to in my life had just yelled me. I left the room shaken and confused having never heard those words from her before.

I’d never seen her with that demeanor before. Being the youngest of three boys and four sisters older than my brothers, I was used to sibling confrontation from time to time, but ‘little creep?’

All I could do was wonder why she hid her eyes and had no energy for a smile.

I would later learn she was there to ask our mother’s advice on whether she should stay married to her husband.

You see, it was behind those sunglasses she hid two purple bruises from his fists. We’re talking spousal abuse. Domestic violence with a capital V.

I was not told her complete story until I was a teenager and, when I got all of the facts, I was able to release the negative thoughts I’d harbored all those years for yelling at me and calling me a creep.

I love my sister as I do all of my family. And, hearing how she had been beaten that night made me furious. Although I knew answering violence with violence was not the solution, I wanted him to pay for what he had done.

He was a PTSD Vietnam War veteran who was on the way to becoming an alcoholic and she was finally beginning to think about self-preservation. She also had to think about their one-year-old son and whether she wanted him to grow up in the same home as a man who was prone to fits of rage.

The teenager I was at the time I learned all this was also paralyzed. I knew, in reality, there was nothing I could to help my sister, who had since gotten back with him after a long separation. Actually, as the old saying goes, it – the abuse she suffered – ‘was none of my business.’

As it turns out, it was not all bad. Seeing and being exposed to that kind of gruesome pain at such an early age had its impact.

Although it took me years to understand it, that bad example of human behavior shaped the way I treat and

respect others. The guiding principle here is that violence is not the answer. Ever.

Perhaps there is someone in your life who has been the victim of domestic violence? In fact, the numbers prove it.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States, which equates to more than 10 million women and men in one year. On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent.

Last week, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office kicked off its observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Awareness Month. Victim’s Rights week will be recognized April 8-14.

As we venture into April, think of ways you can help raise awareness about these types of abuse. Someone you love may be in pain.

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