Speak up and speak out

No More!” Have you heard this statement lately? Have you seen the ads on TV? It is once again that time of year to repeat that phrase because October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is that time of year to speak up and speak out. It is that time of year to encourage victims, applaud survivors, and honor those who work to help them.

It is good to take time for Domestic Violence Awareness Month activities. It brings a national problem to the forefront of our thoughts. Perhaps some will make the extra effort to reach out to a loved one who is in an abusive relationship. Perhaps a prayer will be said on their behalf for strength, courage, safety.

But what about the other 11 months of the year? Domestic violence continues as we go about our day, blankly gazing at people in the store, at work, during church. Domestic violence continues as we hear an argument coming from next door. Domestic violence continues as we notice the bruising on our sister’s arms. Domestic violence continues as we see a man nervously answering his phone when he is staying late at work. Domestic violence continues as a teenager’s grades slip and she doesn’t call her girlfriends anymore. Domestic violence continues as a co-worker quits her job because her partner makes it difficult for her to continue working. Domestic violence continues as a grandmother turns her social security money over to her controlling grandson so he can buy another hit of his drug of choice.

Domestic violence continues when the problem is out of focus, pushed to the back of our consciousness by thoughts of Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring, summer vacation. Domestic violence continues when we aren’t thinking about it. But victims are always thinking about it. They are thinking about surviving, appeasing, de-escalating. Victims are thinking about staying safe, protecting their children, leaving, starting over. They are thinking about it all the time, not just at this time.

You can think about it all the time, too. Educate yourself about the signs of abuse. Get to know the resources that are available locally. Learn what to say to someone in an abusive relationship. Learn what to say to a victim as well as an abuser. Be ready to respond appropriately when you see abuse. Be ready to say “No More!” in October and every month.

(Nickie Ostick is outreach coordinator for Christina House, Lisbon)