Where do you even begin? Apologies seem so flat. It’s in the past now, or it’s happening this moment, but an apology isn’t going to fix things. Can things even be fixed? Hey, wait a minute! I’m not Broken! So easy to go astray with a few words. That’s why I suggest listening instead of speaking. Of course, at some point, action will have to be taken. The place for that is in writing legislators and attending gender equality protests, speaking out at meetings, being there. Apologies fall flat because they don’t do anything beyond acknowledging that you’ve heard what has happened and are as helpless as the individual to which you apologized. That’s why you sink inside when you say it. As heartfelt as your condolences are meant to be, as much as you are filled with love and support, listening is more important than saying any words – a touch of a hand is more powerful than words in most cases too. That’s why abuse is so shocking. The kind hand that used to caress now hammers down destruction. Jarring.
You know what else is jarring? 1 in 4. ONE in FOUR women will experience abuse in their lifetime (the numbers are more recently reported as 1 in 3 for world statistics, better incorporating indigenous and minority populations, the underprivileged and unreported). This number doesn’t include men who experience abuse at the hands of a partner. That number would go up even higher, if it weren’t so shameful to report such abuse as a man. In reality, our culture doesn’t support reporting, it prefers to hide domestic frays behind closed doors, leaving them the purview of the abuser. Hiding it strengthens the process in which the abuser works. Ever hear of the saying “Street Angel, house devil?”
So what can we do? Shine a light.
Be that set of eyes that are turned toward those things which until now our culture has taught us not to see. Listen. Be attentive to those in your life, and above all be kind. Don’t ask silly questions like “why would you stay in a relationship like that?” There is such a complicated network of things that happened and are still happening that the person is netted and often feels trapped even when an escape presents itself. So be the light that shines on the path for them, that shines on the abuser so they know someone is watching them. Listen, to hear the signs and things that you can do to help. And, please, don’t forget that this happens to men and is more likely to be unreported among heterosexual males than any demographic for the gender inequality shame lofted on them.
Be a light. Read one woman’s story about her first memory of where the path diverged from bliss to shadow…