Let’s Talk about Domestic Abuse
Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I want to share some of what I have learned over the years from talking with women from all different backgrounds and life journeys.
Every week I talk with women who have been physically abused by people who say they love them. Yet, simultaneously I see the highlight reel of others in a stream across social media – smiles, filters, the angle just right. Posts that proclaim that “I would never” and “he knows he better.”
Yet, more than 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide from women suffering silently. When we present ourselves in a way that abused women can never identify with, it makes it difficult for them to come to us. Unless you’ve been a victim of domestic violence, you don’t have a clue as to what to do. The narcissist abuser doesn’t advertise himself. Oftentimes, the narcissist comes across as the most wonderful person in the room. However, you’d be shocked to see what happens behind closed doors.
Domestic abuse presents itself in so many different ways – a woman isn’t always going to have a black eye or a bruised arm; sometimes, it is an empty womb.
When we think of a woman in “crisis,” we assume that basic needs like food, housing, transportation, and even communication are not being met. We may think this person probably doesn’t have a job for whatever reason—a woman who is not married and qualifies for some kind of government assistance.
But the truth of the matter is that we get calls from professionals (lawyers, psychiatrists, teachers), often married but are pregnant and being abused. We also see women who are stay-at-home moms who have no financial crisis but are emotionally overdrawn.
We have Christian women who have multiple children and “seem to have it together” in the eyes of all of those around them but are keeping this pregnancy secret and contemplating abortion because they are still nursing the last baby and are so tired.
Unfortunately, far too often, people who want to join our efforts to provide a safe place and provision for her make comments like this: “why did she go back?” and “why wasn’t he in jail after the first rescue?” Instead of praying for her, people judged her.
The truth is, it is not always safe to call the police when her spouse or intimate partner has assaulted a woman. Likewise, it’s not always safe to “just leave.”
A few reasons why a woman feels she can’t leave:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline found that about 75% of survivors who called the police on their abusers later concluded that police involvement was unhelpful at best. At worst made them feel less safe.
- 25% of those surveyed said they were arrested or threatened with arrest when reporting partner abuse or sexual assault to police.
- Approximately 50% of survivors never called the police, citing fear of discrimination by police, invasion of privacy, wanting to protect their children, not wanting their partner arrested, or concern that involving the authorities would exacerbate the violence.
- Women found it hard to manage the delays in the process of getting a court injunction or having their injuries assessed.
- Survivors said that calling the police wouldn’t help them or will only get them in trouble.
- The fear and shame accompanying domestic violence makes it difficult for survivors to ask for the help they so desperately need. Most abusers will convince their victims that the abuse is because they deserve it.
- When the police threaten to have the children removed from the home, it closely mirrors the fear the survivor has already been facing at the hands of their abuser.
- If her spouse or partner is a law enforcement officer or works closely with the police department (prosecutor, attorney, probation, etc.), calling the authorities may not seem safe.
We should be mindful and not judge the crisis of others. They want the violence to stop, but they also want to live safely in their own home. Even if you’ve been in a similar situation, your response may differ for many reasons. We connect violence survivors with proper authorities when it is safe, but it is always her decision. It is disempowering to “tell her what she should do” as if we know her situation better than she does. She’s been living it. She knows!
Despite criticisms, the police remain one of the essential frontline services which survivors can use to prevent and stop incidents of violence and abuse. It is important to remember that it is the survivor’s choice of whether to involve the police or not. No matter how a survivor decides to get help or get out of an abusive relationship, the important thing is that they are reaching out. In seeking an immediate answer to an ongoing crisis, many women who are being abused see abortion as a “way out.”
Experiencing violence, especially from intimate partners, is common among women having abortions, with 6% to 22% reporting recent violence from an intimate partner. Often, women fear exposing their children to violence, believing that having the baby will tether them to an abusive partner.
Whether through law enforcement, a domestic violence advocate, a pregnancy center, a hotline, or any other option, survivors need support, love, and safety. The solutions to their crisis should never involve more violence or dehumanization, and abortion is both.
The truth is abortion is fear-based. It always says, “you can’t.” We are here to help with support in real-time. If you are pregnant and need assistance, contact Loveline at 888-550-1588. If you are struggling with the impact of a past abortion, please reach out to us through our contact form. If you’re on a healing journey and have something that can help, make yourself available and make sure people know you’re a safe person.