23 May 2016

When Domestic Abuse Hits Close to Home

If you live in New England, you may have already heard the stories. It's all over Facebook and on the local news. My husband's family, my family, has been touched by domestic violence.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that: 
Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.
I hesitated to post anything. I wasn't planning on writing a word because I honestly didn't know if I could put into words what happened to my husband's cousin without crying. I didn't know if it was my "place" to write about it, to talk about it on social media. I was nervous that I wouldn't write it just the right way. But then I reminded myself that two young and very strong women didn't question themselves on whether or not they should be speaking about it. They reminded me through their actions that domestic abuse ALWAYS needs to be talked about and educated to all victims that they are NEVER at fault. After all, if we do nothing, if we don't try to teach each other, don't the abusers win?

My husband's cousin, Gina, is a beautiful, funny, smart, loyal, and sweet woman in Boston. She is a hair and make-up artist and is damn good at it. But just eight days ago, something happened. Something absolutely horrific.

When it happened, Gina's cousin Jen took immediate and consistent action. She posted a before-and-after photo of Gina on Facebook and it went viral. It's been searched over 62,000 times on Facebook, shared more than 4,000 times, and countless articles and news stories have been printed and broadcasted in just six days.

So what was it? What happened?
Gina was brutally assaulted in the early hours of Sunday morning, May 15, 2016 by her boyfriend. She was choked so badly and then so violently beaten with MMA-trained punches that he broke her eye socket and teeth.

Gina, the beautiful, sweet, smart, funny, tough and impressionable thirteen-year-old kid who I first met years ago on a bright and clear day on my father-in-law's boat in Boston Harbor, became the twenty-five-year-old adult victim of violent domestic abuse. It is unimaginable. The links below can provide you much more detail, including the "after" picture.

How could this have happened?
Only a few hours before, Gina was out with her friends to celebrate her birthday, but on their way home, when it was just the two of them together, they got into an argument. He choked Gina while she was driving, until she passed out and the car crashed. When she woke up, she was being punched in the face over and over again. She couldn't get away. When we saw the pictures, my husband and I were heartbroken. We felt angry. Helpless. My husband was devastated that he wasn't somehow there to protect his cousin. He, like everyone in the family and our friends, are numb with the shock of this terrifying moment. We still cannot believe this happened.

But then, I got so proud again. Of Jen, for doing something hard and taking action. For Gina, who so compassionately posted only days later that the issue is with this man, and not to seek revenge on his family, or threaten them in any way. For Gina to talk about it, to be public about it and who is already helping other victims. I am so impressed. These two cousin, these friends, are my new heroes.

Many times, domestic abuse is silent. You don't know who might be suffering from it. One of your Facebook friends is likely a victim of domestic abuse and you probably wouldn't know. Whenever a tragedy like this happens, we always say that we should be talking about it more. Let's please try. Please teach your children awareness, how to manage anger and conflict, frustration, and disappointment. If you're not sure, search out the answers. Stop yourself before you raise your hand. Stop to think. Stop to control yourself.

If you are, or know of someone who is, a victim of domestic abuse, please reach out. Say something. And if you're a victim of it, please remember that you have to protect yourself, but most importantly, you are NEVER responsible for helping the abuser to get better.

The criminal is behind bars, pending his next court date today, Monday, May 23, 2016. He's been arrested for doing this before to another girlfriend. He is not named in this post, and no need to. I'd rather put the spotlight on heroes like Gina and Jen.