This month, ‘Walk in Their Shoes’
To the editor:
Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as usual, is happening now, this October. Traditionally, it is a month to recognize the problem of domestic violence in our communities, call on the public to be supportive of measures to end domestic violence, ask for support for victims, and recognize the efforts of community organizations and public entities to address domestic violence.
This month, there will be no rally, no balloon launch, no Purple Door Breakfast. Social distancing prevents those activities. So how should we recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month?
May I suggest that we “Walk in Their Shoes.” Walk in the shoes of a victim of domestic violence. Walk in the shoes that are isolated at home with an abusive partner. Walk in the shoes as she tries to keep a fragile peace in a house where walking on egg shells is the normal way to walk. Walk in her shoes as she absorbs all the negativity directed toward her. Walk in her shoes as she wakes each day with a sense of sadness for what her life has become. Walk in the shoes of one who lives in uncertainty and terror, as she tries to protect the children from harm.
Walk in the shoes of those children who see too much, hear too much, feel too much anger. Walk in the shoes of those children who run and hide in the closet when the hurting starts. They know where to go and what to do because they have been taught to hide for their own safety.
Walk in the shoes of a grandmother who has a meager pension to eke out a living on. Walk in her shoes as a grandchild comes into the house and steals her bankcard from her wallet on payday, leaving her with a few dollars. Walk in her shoes as she cowers in fear of the slap if she protests. Who can she call? If she reports to the police, her only care-giver will be hauled off.
Walk in the shoes of the law-enforcement officer responding to a domestic call. It’s not the first time he has been to this address. He knows there is a gun on the premises. He doesn’t know if it will be pointed at him this time. He doesn’t know if the victim will give a truthful account of what is going on. He wants to help. But if both of them agree that it was “just verbal,” there is little he can do to help. Once he convinced her to make a statement. Before she got started, she changed her mind, begging them not to take him to jail.
Walk in the shoes of the advocate, offering help, listening to the story, explaining her options. Maybe this time a protection order can be given. Patiently the advocate listens, makes referrals, goes to the magistrate’s court room with the victim. Maybe this time she won’t ask the judge to drop it after two weeks of separation. Maybe this time he can be served and the guns confiscated. Maybe this time it will work out.
Walk in the shoes of the counselor, listening to the story. Finally the victim has reached out for help, wanting to move on, make a change, live in safety. Meeting her where she is, the counselor gently encourages her to have hope, to believe in herself, to know she has worth. You pray she will find a way to keep coming back.
Walk in the shoes of the shelter staff member. Taking a call in the middle of the night, you listen as the victim tells their story. You invite her to come into shelter and she accepts! A mother and three children soon arrive. The staff member makes them feel welcome, shows them to a room, talks to the kids to ease their fears. The case manager talks to the mom. She helps her make a plan to move forward. There are many steps to take, but the case manager is encouraging, patient, kind.
Walk in the steps of a service provider that is helping a victim of domestic violence.
He might work for Job and Family Services, Family Recovery Center, Community Action Agency, or any other helping agency in our county. He meets with the victim. He listens with empathy, offering what services he can. He knows that with each step the victim takes, she takes back part of her life. He is happy he can help.
Walk in the steps of the victim again. She finally realizes she can make it. She has hope. She can have a future. She can find a job, a place to live. She can rebuild her life. She remembers what life was like before the abuse. She knows she can have that life again.
Walk in their shoes this October.
Christina House outreach coordinator,