Today is White Ribbon Day. Today, men and women all over Australia have sworn never to commit or stay silent about violence against women. Images of white ribbons are all over my Facebook news feed today. Even my work intranet site has a white ribbon image that drew my eye this morning; so does Google.
And yet, for many people, domestic violence is something that happens to other people. Not in my neighbourhood. Not in my family, my workplace, my friendship group, my church community. Not in my educational level, or socioeconomic status, or political leaning. Not on my radar. It’s terrible, but it doesn’t touch me. We might buy a white ribbon, or spare a thought for those poor unfortunates for whom domestic violence is a harsh reality – don’t get me wrong, it’s with genuine concern, genuine regret, genuine compassion; but with the same level of distance with which we view images of a famine victim on the news. It’s so far removed from our experience that our compassion and distress are academic. We are naive to that particular horror. It’s the oft-repeated refrain: no one I know.
And so, I’d like to introduce myself: I’m a domestic violence survivor. I’m a rape survivor. I’m a sexual assault survivor (yes, there’s a difference). I will never look at a white ribbon with a sense of equanimity. I will never re-gain that sense of naivety, that sense of innocence that I once had. I wish I could. I wish my friends could: some of them, those I’ve trusted enough to really let into my experience, can no longer say that domestic violence is not on their radar, is not personal. Neither can my parents, who must live with the fact that their beloved daughter existed in a violent, volatile war-zone for the better part of ten years, and deliberately and desperately – with the best of intentions – kept them in the dark about it.
For the record, I think that’s probably my biggest regret in all of this.
One woman each week dies as a result of violence from a current or former partner. As terrible as that is, that statistic is not reflective of the literally thousands of women who experience domestic violence over the course of a lifetime. And that statistic is not reflective of women like me, who was too frightened and intimidated and cowed to report what happened to her.
I’m a year out, and I’m still paying for what was done to me. I will carry the scars on my psyche for the rest of my life. I hope that they cease to trouble me after a while. I worry that they won’t. But I got out. And I’m healing, and I have friends and family who care for me and who’ve got my back while I do it.
Which makes me one of the very, very lucky ones.
It’s worth mentioning that White Ribbon Day is a male-driven campaign. These are men standing up to other men, saying that domestic violence is not ok. Condemning it. Making it hard to ignore. Standing up for, and with, women like me. Women like so, so many of us. Thanks, lads.
It’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the hardest blog posts I’ve ever written. Literally, it has taken several hours. It’s all just a bit close to home, really.