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Domestic violence shelters give refuge from monsters

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By Robert Kelly-Goss
Columnist

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The rage, the anger, the contempt; all of it is understandable if you have experienced, or perhaps witnessed, abuse. The issue of domestic violence and sexual assault have been front and center over the past year, culminating in the #metoo movement.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and while much of the public conversation over the past year has focused on sexual assault, the two go hand in hand. They are both tools of power that seek to dominate their victims and ultimately destroy lives.

I know what I am talking about. As a child, I lived through two years of hell.

My mother married a man two years after she divorced my father. The man was a prominent physician, by all accounts well liked, and respected in the community. However, a person’s public face does not necessarily reveal what goes on behind closed doors.

Behind closed doors, you might not have realized that there was a monster in our midst. This was a man who would seek to dominate and control every aspect of our lives. And when someone did not adhere to his rules, he would demand obedience through violence.

I was 10, 11, and then 12 as I lived through this. I was old enough to want to protect my mother and would try on several occasions to champion her as this man beat her, dragged her and threatened her with death. When my attempts at striking back at him didn’t work, I would threatened to call the police, and he would threaten to kill my mother if I did this.

I was frozen in fear. I was horrified that he would follow through with his threats. So I hid away in my room, or out in the garage where I would create clubhouses, a place to hide and find peace.

This was in the 1970s and while I can’t say for certain that there were no domestic violence shelters, I can say that I didn’t even know that such a thing was necessary, or even existed. And perhaps that was part of the horror, that I didn’t understand what was happening to us, to my mother. Why was he doing this to her?

After numerous attempts to convince my family, who lived several states away, that this was going on, my grandmother arranged an escape, a literal escape to another state. It was a lifesaver and gave us the ability to start over, away from him and close enough to family that we felt relatively safe.

But so many women and children were not, and still are not, that fortunate. That is why organizations such as Albemarle Hopeline, our domestic violence shelter and counseling service, are so important and so worthy of your support. Hopeline gives our community a place to help women and children who find themselves — through no fault of their own — in desperate positions. It is a refuge from monsters.

The rage and the anger expressed across the country over the past year is real. It is palpable and understandable. But it cannot be lost to media soundbites and internet memes. It must be channeled into an energy of healing for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

We must turn our awareness and energy into an opportunity to help victims heal and educate a generation of people who will not be perpetrators, nor become victims. It’s time to make a difference, to step up and end the abuse through education, support and public dialogue.

Robert Kelly-Goss is the president of the board of directors for Albemarle Hopeline.

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