Domestic violence is the ugly underbelly of our society. It exists everywhere, hiding in the places one would least expect to find it, being hidden by the unwarranted but seemingly unavoidable shame that its victims feel, the sense of hopelessness and isolation that its perpetrators carefully and skillfully cultivate and because far too often those who can help turn awayÖprecisely because it is something so ugly and vile that our minds wish to make believe that it doesnít exist and that it is someone elseís problem.
If you are reading this article and have not been the victim of domestic violence, then you are amazingly lucky. If you donít know anyone personally who has been the victim of domestic violence, then you simply donít know what you donít know. The victims are everywhere, they are your sisters and brothers, your mothers, your cousins and aunts and uncles, they are your friends and your co-workers. Whether you know of the abuse, suspect it or are completely fooled by it, trust me, it is there.
So this is not your problem, my problem or their problem, it is everyoneĎs problem. I am one of those people who befriended Seren on this site, wrote with her, watched her come out of her shell and spread her wings in a way I could tell she had not done before. It has been brilliant to watch, she is an amazing lady, as so many on E are, but she is a truly special lady to me.
Not too long after we began to write and pm, and yes, fun and light flirting was involved, with both of us knowing that we were married in our real lives and had no intentions of changing that, she explained to me that her husband was reading her stories and her pmís, deleting bookmarks and acting very jealously. To that end, I wrote her a pm, really meant for her husband, and I believe Shooter did too, explaining all of that. Explaining that we didnít even know each otherís real names, where we lived, that I was married and not interested in anything but friendship and good writing, and so forth. Seren told me that her husband read those pmís and was a little better about things, understood the innocence that even the sexiest words can have.
I run a game outside of E, one that is adult, but not erotic in nature, more sword and sorcery type fantasy. For the first time ever, I invited someone from E to join that game when I invited Seren to join. I had any number of great reasons to invite her, she is a great writer and role player, a dear friend and a devoted player, but in the back of my mind, I also thought it would help things with her husband if she had a place to write outside of E, some place he didnít consider Ďdirtyí and Ďpervertedí.
And even then I heard from Seren that he was upset, because on that site, a very small group of tight knit friends, including my own wife, we use our real first names in OOC discussions. So now I knew Serenís real first name and she knew mine, but nothing had changed and she was playing in a game with a bunch of completely harmless and geeky old guys like me and my wife. Everything was good, right? Clearly not.
In my own life I am no stranger to domestic violence. I was sexually abused as a child by two different Ďfamily friendsĎ. I saw my sister, who is nine years older, marry an abuser, divorce him and start dating a guy that was even worse. I grew up and chased both of those bastards off, but along the way I saw their methods, saw the damage they did physically and mentally to her and to her children, my niece and nephew. It happened to friends and co-workers of mine, including one woman who left and went back to her abusive husband at least a dozen times. I helped when I could, even had my house broken into when a friend of my wife sought refuge from her abusive husband in our home.
I worked for 13 years in the medical field, and met more victims of abuse than I care to count or remember in the emergency rooms and clinicsÖand even then, saw the frustration of the police and the nurses and doctors and social workers as lies and excuses were made up by the victims to protect their abusers. The abused were children, women, men, old and young, rich and poor. Age, sex and how much money one has never matters, abuse it omnipresent and it doesnít discriminate, I learned that it affects everyone.
In real life I am an attorney now, having gone back to law school in my 30ís. While I donít practice directly in a field where domestic violence is my focus, it I impossible to avoid and I deal with its effects frequently. I see how powerless the system can be at times, how it works at others, but I never, ever forget that the victims are people. Through my church I work with displaced families, mostly young, single mothers and their kids, and the incidence of abuse and violence in their lives is staggering.
Is there a point to all of this rambling? Yes, there is. Through all of this abuse she was experiencing I talked to Seren every day via pm here and in my game. I have experienced domestic violence in far too many forms, seen it, lived it, and am trained to deal with it professionally for many yearsÖand yet a woman I know as well as one can know someone on-line, a smart and resourceful 911 dispatch director, and someone I talk and chat with every day, was suffering the kind of abuse that Seren so bravely and courageously described aboveÖand I simply did not know.
I knew she had a jealous husband and even knew some of her history of experiencing abuse as a young girl and woman, learning that she had written about her real life in one of her stories, and yet, not until I read this blog did I know or even suspect that my friend, my incredibly talented friend, with a heart of gold, a truly beautiful mind and a very strong woman, was suffering this horrendous abuse all this time. I didnít even suspect it. That should be a wake up call to anyone who reads this as much as it is to me, that domestic violence can hide right in front of you even when you think you know what to look for.
Nothing I can do can change the fact that I was ignorant of what my friend has been experiencing, but I can do something going forward. We all can do something. There are resources in every community from the police, district attorneys and Legal Aid agencies to shelters, counselors, help-lines, churches, hospitals and social service agencies to help people deal with domestic abuse. The kind of assistance they offer is often the first step in lifting the veil of hopelessness and giving back some of the self-worth stolen from the victims of abuse. That can be the most critical step, letting the victim know that there is another way, that they donít need the abuser in their life, that it isnít their fault and that people do care and will help. This blog is now one of those places.
I know how these systems and agencies work, how to find them and where to go to seek their help. If Seren and Shooter will have me, then I will throw my hat in with them and offer my advice and assistance in these areas to anyone who needs it. Send me a PM, ask for my email, whatever it takes, I am in. Whether it is you or someone you know, ask questions, offer your help and comfort, urge them to get the assistance they need, do something.
I canít express how shaken and upset I was to read this blog tonight and to see what Shooter and Seren wrote, to learn how little I knew, nor can I express how little my feelings matterÖwhat does matter is moving forward and helping and being there for my friend and for anyone else who needs any kind of help we can provide.