I have a lot of disclosures to make. This is a sponsored post, which means, yes, I’m getting paid for it. Also, I have to disclose that I tried to back out of writing it because I didn’t think I had anything to add to the conversation. I was supposed to write something about my personal experience with domestic violence, or what we, especially we men, can do to prevent it. And I drew a blank. Also, I felt like a scumbag for taking money to write about something that is an important issue that has never really been on my radar.
So, at the last minute–actually a while after the last minute–I tried to shunt the assignment off on someone else, someone who might have something relevant to say. I did this by going to my trusty Facebook dadblogger group to see if anyone could help.
One problem was solved right away, when a guy said I should donate the payment for this post to a women’s shelter. Duh. Of course. Of course I was already planning on doing that. (Okay, I might not have been planning on doing that. But I am now.)
The problem I was having getting started on this project, ironically, constitutes a response to one of the prompts: “How can we normalize the conversation about domestic violence.” Most people don’t want to talk about it. If it doesn’t affect them, they don’t feel like they have much to contribute (see also, me); and if it does affect them, it can be too raw to talk about.
Here’s another disclosure. I couldn’t think of personal experiences with domestic violence to write about, or even the experiences of people close to me. But it occurred to me that friends of mine who have been in abusive relationships have not remained close to me. This is partly because a typical aspect of an abusive relationship is that the abuser discourages or sabotages any other relationships the victim may have.
Which made me think about someone who I used to be really close to. Like super close. And I should be close to her now, but part of the reason we don’t really speak to each other is the series of abusive relationships she has been in. Forgive my vagueness here, but I can’t really talk about it, just on the off chance that the wrong person reads this. So much for normalizing the conversation. I can’t even talk to this person about how her controlling partner is isolating her from her friends and family. I couldn’t really talk to her about all of the other men she has dated or married over the past thirty years, who have abused her, sometimes physically, but always emotionally. I would try, we would argue, and she wouldn’t speak to me for a few years. That was our pattern. Her pattern was to fall in love with a jerk, stay with him for years longer than she should have, and then finally split up. And there were kids who grew up around this. Now I fear that she has been in this pattern for so long that there is no breaking it. But what do I know? She doesn’t talk to me anymore.
So I don’t have an answer to how we can normalize conversations about domestic violence. I can talk about it in the abstract all day, but when it comes to reaching out to people who you fear are victims or potential victims, it is a lot more complicated. There have been other people I’ve known who were pretty clearly in abusive relationships: friends, colleagues, students. But how do you tell them that you’re concerned their partner is an abuser without running the risk of them shutting down or shutting you out? I have no idea.
One thing I know I can do for my kids anyway, is to model what a healthy relationship looks like, and to hopefully set the bar for what kind of person they eventually end up with in a romantic relationship. What else can we do to be the solution?