October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. However, according to sociologist Dr. Evan Stark, the term “domestic violence” is a bit of a misnomer: Up until they try to leave, abuse survivors experience “coercive control” — a spectrum of instrumental violence consisting of intimidation, isolation, and physical abuse meant to maintain an abuser’s power. Thus, the abuse survivors experience is not necessarily domestic, nor is it physically violent. As such, abuse survivors often face three difficult options: Stay with the abuser and live in terror, try to leave and risk serious harm, or try to neutralize their abuser.
Toward the end of last year, several women and children in the Portland-metro area tried to leave their abusers behind. As a result, their abusers murdered them. Under the lead of the Portland Women’s Crisis Line, the community responded with a vigil. During this month of October, 2010, my thoughts turn back to my experience at that vigil last year…
As horrific as these murders are, an abuser’s final homicidal tendencies are just the tip of the iceberg of what abuse survivors experience daily in our communities. They live their lives in an atrocious terror that is completely preventable, and their murders are flash points, like lightning on a stormy horizon. The storm of violence will continue to surge in our communities and terrorize our loved ones if we keep ignoring the warning signs and their underlying causes. When will we commit ourselves to acting as a community?
Let me clarify who I mean when I say, “we.” Read the rest of this entry »