ROSEBUD RESERVATION – A small group of tribal citizens braved the chilly wind over the weekend and walked through town to bring awareness to the domestic violence epidemic plaguing the reservation.
A police escort led the walkers from the west end of town to the Sicangu Family and Child Services where refreshments were served. An open microphone was also available to participants.
One domestic violence (DV) survivor shared her story with the group as follows:
“I’d like to address a question that I hear often. Why does she stay? That disturbing question has an equally disturbing answer. Why would anyone stay with a partner who abuses them?
“In the beginning his drinking didn’t bother me. I knew he drank but I didn’t really see the extent of it until we moved in together. The abuse I endured usually happened when he got drunk. I knew once he was off to get his alcohol I was in for a rough night. Eventually I stopped going around my family. I stopped seeing my friends. Mostly because he would do things that made me feel so much shame and humiliation.
“My family would tell me that he wouldn’t stop hurting me and I needed to leave him. Did I listen? Nope! I thought that if I showed him how much I loved him he could change. He just needed a little love and understanding because he had been through so much. I hung in there because I loved him and he loved me too. He was just stressed out and it was an isolated incident and it was never going to happen again. Until it happened again. And again.
Why did I stay? I didn’t know he was abusing me, even though he held me hostage at knife point, tried to wreck the car we were in, stripped me naked and pushed me out of the house by jabbing me in the leg with his machete. Even though he killed my dog, smeared my make up when I tried to dress up, destroyed my pottery and paintings, I never thought of myself as a battered woman. Instead I was a very strong woman in love, who was in love with a deeply troubled man and I was the only person on this earth that could help him face his demons.
“Why didn’t I just walk out? To me that is the saddest and most painful question that people ask because we victims know something that the rest of you don’t. It’s incredibly dangerous to leave your abuser because the final step in the domestic violence pattern is to kill her. Over 70 percent of domestic violence murders happen after the victim ended the relationship.
“And still we ask why doesn’t she just leave. Well, I was able to leave after one final sadistic beating. I realized that the man I loved so much was going to kill me if I let him. So, I broke the silence. I told everyone. My family and friends, the police, my coworkers, total strangers. I am here today because they all listened and helped me.
“We tend to stereotype DV victims; as grizzly headlines, self-destructive women, damaged goods. The question ‘why does she stay’ is code for some people to think it’s her fault for staying. As if we choose to intentionally fall in love with men intent on destroying us.
“I am now married to a strong, kind, hardworking, gentle man. We live together with our fur baby and we have a happy, supportive and healthy relationship. What I will never have again is another knife held to my face, a chain wrapped around my neck, or cuts and bruises from a man who says he loves me.
“I promise you that you know someone currently being abused, who were abused as children or who are abusers. Abuse can be affecting your daughter, your sister, your best friend right now
“I was able to end my own crazy love story by breaking the silence. Talk about what you heard here. Abuse thrives only in silence. You have the power to end domestic violence simply by shining light on it. Show abuse the light of day by talking about it with your children, your coworkers, your friends and family. Recast survivors as wonderful loveable people with bright futures. Recognize the early warning signs and conscientiously intervene. Show our relatives a safe way out. Together we can make our homes, our communities, our nation the safe haven that it could be. Wopila!”
Vi Waln (Lakota) is an award-winning Journalist. She can be reached through email firstname.lastname@example.org