In their New York Times column, “From Dangerous Home to Safe House,” Amelia Duchon-Voyles, with Liz Welch, describes how Amilia helped a woman and child escape from a bullying and domestic violence situation. They also described the mother’s progress toward standing up to her batterer and to establishing a steady life for her and her son. Good for all of them. Their individual efforts, in emergencies, under duress, save lives.
Some ideas for the targets of domestic violence are:
- Don’t remain a victim. Whatever your second thoughts, stop the harassment, bullying, abuse and domestic violence by getting away safely. If you’re threatened, beaten, terrorized or abused, get away. Don’t live in fear. Don’t allow your children to grow up in fear. In your heart of hearts you know that if you stay, you’re dooming your babies to a life of pain, stress and anxiety; negativity and depression; low self-confidence and self-esteem; increased chance of addiction, alcoholism and suicide.
- Find a safe house and helpers to get you away and to start a new and better life. Seize any window of opportunity; you don’t need a plan with all the details worked out. From a safe house you can make and carry out a better plan than you can when you’re terrified.
- Don’t worry about the stuff you leave behind. It’s got his cooties on them. You’ll get new. More important than any attachment you or your children might have to the stuff, is the value of being free to breathe deeply again, to laugh and sing and dance with abandon, and to plan for a great future.
- Your children need your good example more than they need his bullying, abusive presence and any benefits you imagine of growing up with a bully for a father. They need to be away from the fear. The boys need to learn that bullying and violence won’t be tolerated or get them what they want. The girls need to learn that they don’t have to tolerate abuse and battering.
- Don’t believe his promises. You’ve heard them all before. Don’t answer emails, texts and calls. Your safe house helpers will help you get the police on your side. Give up false hopes of rehabilitating him. Later you can find a different love that feels good.
- Get stable over time. You can get education, skills and a job or career to make a life in which you can get your own place. Start stable routines for the kids. Convince them that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Tell them hero/heroine stories. Even though it takes time and hard work, they can be fine as adults – successful people and good parents.
- Don’t think about divorce and moving far away until later. The people at the safe house will help you plan ahead. Guilt and shame won’t help you now. When you can stand up straight again, you’ll figure out how you let yourself slide into marriage hell and you’ll take steps to make sure it won’t happen again with a new boyfriend.
Be courageous, take the risk. Your future, your children’s future is calling to you to make your lives better. No matter what you say, if you stay your babies will believe your example. They’ll think that being a bully or being a victim are acceptable ways to go through life. Set a good example for your children.