Be Aware. Stop Domestic Violence.

Domestic Violence isn't a game, a joke, or just a passing topic of conversation. It isn't just something for the NFL to talk about for a little while in order to look good. Domestic Violence and other forms of domestic abuse are a way of life for women (and men) all over the world, and domestic crime is epidemic in our society.

Right now, someone is currently being beaten to death by someone they loved and trusted.
Right now, someone is being raped by someone who once promised never to hurt them.

Right now, women (and men) and their children are homeless, living in cramped quarters in shelters for domestic violence, trying to rebuild what's left of their lives.

Right now, there's a victim living in fear, who can't or won't leave the danger zone they call home.
Right now, there's a victim barely getting by, stuck in a helpless situation due to a lack of funding for a local shelter, or the fear that there's nowhere safe to run.

But there ARE safe places for victims of domestic violence, places that are the real life versions of what I imagined when I wrote the Safe House in Fighting For Freedom.

In providing shelter, hotline assistance, and legal advocacy to victims of domestic violence and abuse, organizations that focus on helping victims of domestic abuse take a strong stand against domestic crime and provide desperately needed support to countless victims all around us.

Right now, at least 1 in 3 people have fallen victim to domestic partner violence and/or abuse. One in three. We campaign against violence all the time, don't we - against guns and terrorists, against war. But in 2012, 6,614 men and women were killed at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But 11,766 women were killed as a result of domestic violence.

The violence we speak out against isn't just on the other side of the world, or even just in the politically charged cities of our countries. It isn't just in places where racism still runs rampant, where poverty drives desperate people to crime in order to survive, or where mentally damaged men, women and children seek to victimize each other in malls, theaters, churches, schools.

Violence is right in front of all of us, in our homes, in our neighbors homes, and we turn our heads. We pretend we don't see. We pretend we don't realize. Or worse, we tell ourselves that it isn't our problem.

How many people told themselves that what was happening to Angela Brower wasn't their problem? Luckily, she was able to save herself - she was able to escape without suffering the prosecution that plagues Marissa Alexander.

I grew up in a world where domestic violence was normal - it occurred in almost every living situation I had as a child, regardless of where I was or who lived there. It occurred in the homes of many of my family members. It occurred in the homes of many of my friends.

I saw things thrown, I saw things broken.
I heard ugly words, and vile threats.

When I was young, I saw a man strangle my mother, holding her body against a wall, her toes barely touching the front porch of the single-wide trailer we lived in ... because she didn't put enough mayo on his sandwich. In another incident, he hit her with his truck, pinning her leg between the truck he was driving ... and the car his only daughter had taken shelter from him in.

I remember having to be pulled out of class at school, humiliated in the guidance counselors office. I had to strip my clothes off so that police could take photos of the bruises on my body.

I remember rage. Fear. Helplessness.

My first serious relationship, I got slapped in the face, just once. I never allowed it to happen again, but for the longest time, I believed with all my heart that it was a little bit my fault, that I asked for it.

By the time, I realized how wrong that was, I was in another relationship, one that also got abusive - just once. He grabbed my wrist, held me back from walking away from an argument. I panicked; I turned around with fear twisting my gut and fire in my eyes. And I hit him in the face. Maybe a part of me was warning him, maybe a part of me had gone back in time, finally standing up for my personal right to space and the control of my own body. It doesn't matter why, really - he let go. Later, we talked and it never happened again - although we both knew his brother would regularly beat his girlfriend ... he even beat her all through her pregnancy with their child, and she wouldn't leave him. Violence was rife in that family too.

Now that I have children of my own, I watch them closely, even with other family members. Even with their dad. Even with people that I've trusted all my life - because all too often, it's the people you trust who hurt you the most.

That's why domestic abuse is the worst kind of violence - it isn't just ugly. It isn't just sad, or scary. It's sneaky. It's so quiet, like a dark demon shadow walking through our homes, through our families. And we don't stop it - we turn away.

Don't turn away. Help me spread awareness for domestic violence and victims who spend their lives suffering silently. Lend your support here.