Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Standing Strong II

Yesterday I talked about taking a stand; I talked about using my public voice to say something about something that's close to my heart. Through Cass Keaton's character in Fat Chance, I was able to speak up about subjects like self-confidence and bullying, and while that was incredibly personal to me, it's only the tip of the iceberg.

When I was young, I was a fairly thin child - a scrawny kid with awkward teeth and big blue eyes, a kid whose worst problems were the common issue of divorced parentage and single-mom poverty.Things progressively worsened from there ... but I didn't start struggling with my weight and my body until my teen years and the onset of hormones. My body changed rapidly in both shape and size - in some ways much more rapidly than those of the girls around me - so I have personally experienced the ugliness of the sort of peer bullying and resulting low self-image used in the story of Fat Chance.

In the years since, both through my own personal self-reflection and through the exploration writing allows, I have taken quite a long and intricate journey of self-discovery, and my sense of personal confidence is hard won. But honestly, that's not the deepest issue. After all, this body is only a body, and like the Carrie Underwood song, "this is my temporary home." I'm not going to live in this damaged body forever.

But my mind and the injuries to my soul ... those will go with me into eternity, I think, because they make me who I am; I am this person specifically because of the things I have seen and the things I've endured.

Sounds dramatic, doesn't it?

I know it does.

But I'm not being dramatic.

I was raised in a world of extreme domestic abuse of all kinds. My soul is injured by the circumstances of my childhood because it was an extremely volatile, extremely violent situation, and I remember horrible things that no child should ever be witness to. And yet ... there's another perspective on that too, a perspective completely apart from that of a child raised in fear.

The perspective of the woman, the direct victim, the target.

That woman is often left alone, feeling trapped, like an animal with no way out. She's afraid that if she leaves, her abuser will come after her. She's afraid she can't get by on her own. And if there are children, she's afraid he'll hurt them or take them. She stays, often because she simply has no other truly viable option. She stays because, despite the frequently given advice of those around her, there really is no way out.

Even the police and the legal system often fail to protect women in these situations ... or worse, the victim is blamed for any desperate or extreme acts resulting from her efforts to escape.

Lately, I've been closely watching the news for updates on the case of Marissa Alexander, one such woman who has come to my attention recently. In 2010, nine days after the premature birth of her new baby (who was still in the hospital), Marissa was attacked in her home by her husband, who had been in trouble on multiple occasions for violently attacking other women (he admits this string of abusive behavior on several different records). When Marissa had had enough, she retrieved a weapon from her truck in the garage (which was locked; she could not get out through there and her husband knew it). This weapon was licensed and Marissa did possess a carry permit. Upon re-entering the house, Marissa's husband saw the gun in her hand, screamed that he was going to kill her, and then began to approach her. Having already been assaulted by him, Marissa was in fear for her life, and would have been within her rights to shoot her husband and kill him in self-defense under the "stand your ground" law that is currently under fire.

For whatever reason, Marissa did not kill her husband. She did not give him "eye for eye" or "tooth for tooth." Instead, she took action to preserve the life of a violent man who had threatened and beaten her repeatedly. Instead, she turned away from him and fired a warning shot into the wall of her home, causing her husband to flee outside the home, at which point he phoned the police and reported that his wife had shot at him. Marissa was then arrested, jailed, and eventually sentenced to 20 years in prison despite the domestic record of abuse on file. Despite the fact that no one was injured.

Women like Marissa - cases like Marissa's - are so much a part of why women are too afraid to leave domestic violence situations. Cases like this, where a woman did everything in her power to diffuse a dangerous situation in the safest way possible, and still received a tragically inappropriate sentence, are why women all over the world would rather take the risk of staying instead of the risks involved with leaving.

Every day, the law fails women like Marissa, women who have done everything they could do and still slip through the cracks of the system. Every day, women like Marissa are punished for following their human instinct to survive.

Every day, people like Prosecutor Angela Corey stand strong in a long line of injustice against women. And every day that we turn our backs on victims of domestic violence, at least 3 women (and one man) are murdered by their domestic partners.

Why? Because people like Angela Corey refuse to allow these victims the right to defend themselves.

Stand with me against domestic violence. Help stand up for the victims who cannot stand up for themselves. Give them your support. Give them unconditional love. And lift them up. Give them strength. Help them find a way out. Give donations to local women's shelters. Give your time and your understanding to their cause.

It's so easy to convince yourself that you can't help, but chances are, you are in a position to make a difference for someone. Approximately 74% of Americans know someone who is (or has been) a victim of domestic abuse.

You can help, and you can make a difference.

Stand with me. Stand with Marissa, and women like her. Stand with Christine Matthews, the heroine of Fighting For Freedom.

Stand with women like her who have a story to tell but cannot find the voice to tell it. Women like Christine, who aren't noticed and aren't helped until it's almost too late. Help her to speak for the women who are lost, who are victimized, who are abandoned. Who are ignored.

Today and every day forward, stop turning a blind eye and make yourself aware of the truth. Lend your support. STAND.

Cover photo updated, April 2018
Fighting For Freedom, coming soon.

Edited to add: This book is now live - and the mission to spread awareness and taking a stand against domestic abuse is moving forward toward the ultimate goal of opening a Safe House program similar to the one mentioned in Fighting For Freedom. To learn more about how you can pick up a copy of this book, click the book title above - to take a more active role in my mission to create empowerment and the courage to live Undaunted lives in women everywhere, enlist in the Undaunted Army for free today - or go ahead and purchase your Officer Commission by signing up to support the movement on Patreon.

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