My first jarring encounter on Wed. night, Oct. 29 at the Girls Reaching Out: “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” function; was being asked: “How many of you have been, or know someone, who has been affected by domestic violence?” And, unfortunately, this question was met with an overwhelming majority of hands raised in the crowd.
This event and question of course, is a reminder that October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. Held outdoors on the Kaplan Wellness Center balcony, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” stood as an opportunity to inform and raise awareness about domestic violence. Further, one of the ways in which this was conveyed, was through survivors sharing their personal stories and experiences.
While most know what domestic violence is, however, I think people often forget just how many people are its victims — one in four women and one in seven men — this large percentage of people, will be victims of domestic violence or intimate partner violence.
One in four; every 20 minutes, a person is a victim. Additionally, the county in which we inhabit, Guildford County, has the highest number of deaths from intimate partners, over every other county in North Carolina.
Guilford County is also third in all of North Carolina, regarding domestic violence cases.
Further, domestic violence is more than just physical; it encompasses emotional and verbal abuse too.
Hosted by Girls Reaching Out member, Gabby Bright, the night’s theme was “Are you Afraid of the Dark?”
The “dark” in which the event’s’ name is used, is meant to symbolize the loneliness, neglect, depression or any other devastating emotion or reaction in which one could experience as a result of experiencing domestic violence.
The “inner light” in the dark, came from the victims as well as those gathered at the event that night, to “light up the darkness,” or, to show that resilience and support can trump despair, and that no one who has faced traumatic experiences with domestic violence, is alone.
After each woman spoke, they were given a candle to hold.
The most insightful and moving moment during the night, was hearing survivors’ tell their stories.
About six or seven women retold the stories of their experiences with domestic violence. I deeply admire and am humbled by their braveness and strength.
It was eye-opening to see that a victim really could be anyone, even just someone you are sitting next to. Their stories are not mine to retell; however, I did notice common themes within each of them.
The first theme that I noticed was that most of the women were victims more than once.
They often were molested when they were children or in an abusive relationship at a very young age. Most of them however, did not process their assaults at the time, and therefore did not realize they were abused.
They encouraged the audience to really process every traumatic experience that has ever happened to attendants. Because, they said, if one buries their trauma deep down inside, it can lead to self-destruction.
The second theme I recognized was the strength and honesty of those who spoke about their abuse.
Each woman was at a different moment in their recovery. However, each of them realized that they could not do it alone. They turned to friends, family, or religion to comfort them. For some, the hardest part in their recovery was recognizing that they could not do it alone.
The third theme I recognized was that each of person speaking about their abuse, felt compelled to share their stories. They felt that, if they had a story to tell, why not tell it, and felt it important, to inform, inspire and discuss.
Finally, a main discussion point of the evening, was how to help victims. A representative from Family Service of the Piedmont, attended the event in order to explain how their services could help. Additionally, Centers in Greensboro offer places for victims to stay, counselling services and support groups, as well as provide educate victims on the legal means of how to leave a marriage.
A representative of one of these groups, also spoke of how to help a friend who is a victim of domestic violence. They encouraged attendants to be understanding of complicated situations for victims of domestic violence, as they usually love the person they are with, so it can be hard for victims to leave.