When It Comes to Domestic Violence in Our Community… this CLUTCHette Has Had “ENOUGH”

Today I got an email from someone close to me, saying that someone close to her was in need of clothes, food, shelter and support. Why? Because her husband of many years had just burned down their home to the ground and subsequently shot and killed himself, leaving her and her young daughter to pick up the pieces like so much tsunami debris. My immediate response would have seemed callous and unfeeling to someone taking a peek inside my brain at that moment, but I couldn’t help but think how LUCKY she was. Lucky to be alive. This man had, only weeks earlier, tried to choke her and threatened both her life and the life of their daughter, for trying to leave. So yes, knowing what I know about domestic violence, knowing that the line between suicide and homicide is thinner than a strand of dental floss, I could not help thinking how very, very fortunate this woman was.

Intimate partner homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 15 to 45 IDVAAC*

TRUST, I’m no expert on domestic violence, so feel free to take all I’m about to say with a grain of “what the hell does SHE know, anyway?” I (knocking wood so hard I get splinters) have NEVER had a man lay so much as a finger on me. Which is not to say that it couldn’t happen to me, or even that I’ve been in a handful of hairy situations where it could have gone in a very different direction, had I stuck around to see what happened instead of bouncing at the first, “Bitch, you’d better listen &%$#@….” But, although it hasn’t happened to me personally, domestic violence comes too close…..too often. Friends, relative, SHEroes, women I adore have been subject to the unnecessary and light-stealing horror that is domestic abuse. And so today, instead of feeling helpless, instead of shaking my fists at the skies and screaming into the wind, I. WILL. DO. SOMETHING.

African-American women experience intimate partner violence at rates 35% higher than their White counterparts and 2.5 times the rate of men and other races IDVAAC

For me, “SOMETHING” means writing. That’s how I connect with the world. That’s how I share. So, please let me share with you a little story about a trip I took a few months back. In August of this year, I attended a conference called “A Journey To Healing” in Long Beach, California. My day job is for a non-profit, and too often, as part of the work I do, I interact with women who have been or are currently being exposed to domestic abuse. It ranges the gamut in terms of the nature and extent of the abuse they experience. From women whose husbands/boyfriends simply are “mildly” controlling (discouraging them from interacting with friends and family/telling them they can’t go to school for that degree they yearn for) to the extreme (bruises on the face, po-po at the house, lives at risk of not being “lives” anymore. But, whatever the degree of violence these women face, it’s all heart-wrenching. So, when I learned about the “Journey to Healing” Conference focusing on the particular stressors of the African American community, and knew I’d have the chance to attend, I was genuinely thrilled. The event was impressively well thought-out and organized. The line-up of speakers was A-Plus. Scholars, activists and conscious edu-tainers were coming from across the country to participate and lend their support, including Frances Ashe-Goins, Deputy Director of the Office of Women’s Health, Mildred Muhammed, Executive Director of After the Trauma and the ex-wife of John Allen Muhammed (the DC sniper), author/poet Asha Bandele, even, Margaret “Shug” Avery was there to perform a short but powerful vignette (yes, the “Sistaaaah, you’ve been on mah mind” lady), and on and on. Basically, I knew I was in for a good “show”. What I didn’t expect, what I didn’t see coming, was the extent to which it would be a TRANSFORMATIVE experience for me, personally. To be in the proximity of women who have been shot and left for dead. Women whose faces had been disfigured…by BULLET wounds, but now stood in front of me looking more beautiful than any queen who ever graced a throne. To meet and talk to and embrace women who have gone from living in shelters to running their own businesses, starting their own non-profit organizations to fight domestic violence? You cannot leave the presence of such women without being strengthened and inspired and moved to do better in your own life.

Among African American women killed by their partner, almost half were killed while in the process of leaving the relationshipIDVAAC

One message seemed to echo, as I listened to these magnificent beings. And, that was that these women didn’t wish to be defined as “victims”. Nor were their amazing experiences of healing able to be summed merely by terms like “survivors”. What their journey, what ALL of our journeys is about, regardless of where are struggles come from, is finding our way out of darkness and being able to SHINE again. So, if any beautiful, blessed, amazing CLUTCHette is out there right now, in search of a little hope, thinking that the situation they face is something nobody can help with….think again, my darling. You can have your LIFE back. You can have your JOY back. There are some amazing organizations and human beings out there who want to help. Women who have done it themselves and want to pass along the amazing gift of all of their hard-learned lessons, so that you don’t have to go it alone. Look for them. Find them. Call them. And, ASK for help.

*About IDVAAC:

“The Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community (IDVAAC) was first formed in 1993, when a group of scholars and practitioners informally met to discuss the plight of the African-American community in the area of domestic violence. The group ultimately agreed that the “one-size-fits-all” approach to domestic violence services being provided in mainstream communities would not suffice for African Americans, who disproportionately experience stressors that can create conditions that lead to violence in the home.” For more information please visit www.idvaac.org/healing.

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