For three weeks, I had been going to the domestic violence/sexual assault recovery center. I was checking out books from their library in an effort to know if I had done the right thing. On one particular day, I was checking out the fifth book when the organization’s clinical therapist asked me to come to her office. I just knew I was in trouble. I bet that my presence had offended a female client.
I was 19 years old and not wise to the ways of the world.
“I am a therapist here and I noticed that you have been coming here for several weeks,” she remarked. I was certain that she was about to ask me to never return. “I wanted to give you an opportunity to know that if you needed to talk with a professional about something that may have happened to you that you are welcome to speak with me.”
“It didn’t happen to me. It happened to a friend of mine,” I explained.
“Ok, so what happened to your ‘friend,’” she inquired with emphasis on the last word. It was clear she thought I was the victim and afraid to disclose. Once we had cleared up the misperception, I went back to my original purpose.
“My friend was raped,” I said. I was in her dorm room to find out how her date went that night. She told me what happened.”
I detailed what my friend endured during the rape. “I have read all of these books and I can’t find the answer to my question,” I exasperatedly said. “I want to know if I was wrong.”
“Wrong about what?” she puzzled out loud.
“After she told me she was raped, I asked her if I could give her a hug. She said she could really use one of my hugs. Was that wrong? Aren’t I suppose to not touch a girl after she’s been raped?”
The therapist answered my question, “That was perfect because you gave her the choice and control over her body.” My friend was able to reaffirm her physical boundary. “So you read all of those books to find that out?”
“None of them could answer my question and I didn’t want to have made things worse,” I stated.
“You really care about this, don’t you?” She inquired. I nodded affirmatively since my emotions locked up my words. “Would you like to volunteer?”
These stranger’s words set me on a course where my life would no longer be the same. I never conceived that a man could advocate in an area I thought men were forbidden. Let’s face it, men cause the violence and I could play a role in the healing process. I volunteered for three years conducting training, answering crisis calls, and holding support groups for family/friends of survivors. I have worked in the social services/education arenas ever since that day the therapist posed that question.
Some twenty years later, I am employed as a Case Manager doing Social Work with the goal to end domestic violence.
Domestic violence is not a Women’s issue; although, the majority of the voices for change have been female.
The organization’s president, where I am employed, has the goal of ending domestic violence. I had the same thought when I heard my favorite Social Work professor declare that she wants to end poverty. “Yeah, right!” I thought both times I heard these unrealistic proposals.
Just like the original debate that needled at my heart some twenty years ago, I have mulled over this question: How can I help to end domestic violence?
I don’t have an answer as of yet.
My intentions are to read everything I can, talk with stakeholders, be open to opportunities to grow, and do my best to treat each client with compassion. The answer eludes me and I choose to embark upon this journey. With the resources I have, I will use my voice to speak up. I will use my body to stand up for what is right. With my ears, I will actively listen to those in need. I will use my hands to applaud those who need encouragement. With my heart, I will love my wife and our family. I will use my feet to exercise and work off the stress such a question may generate. Lastly, I will use my brain to identify the avenues towards a freedom from domestic violence and unlock the shackles that bind families into generational cycles of abuse.
While I am only one person, I have the opportunity to be that individual who can help guide a survivor to safety. I will search for the answer how to end domestic violence. I know this expedition will be full of mental and physical challenges. Each passage I choose shall provide a wealth of experience and growth that only makes me stronger.