The Quest Within A Question

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.

 

 

The Vice of Advice

“You really should stop smoking. It is bad for you.”  Sound advice, right? HOGWASH!

 

“Give up sodas. You would drop a lot of weight and you’ll feel so much better.”   (Whatever expression that conveys outrage more than “hogwash” but less than a curse word)
 
“Just exercise or go for a walk. It will help you lose weight.”  A heaving pile of festering rhinoceros dung! I put all of those “gems” of advice in the category of drink 64oz of water a day to feel less hungry.
 
A 32 year old man approached me at a community meeting recently. He has a progressive eye disease and he asked me a bunch of questions about my sight. There were a lot of similarities to his circumstances.  Want to know what advice I gave him?
 
Not a single word. I listened and let him know that his experience sounds very difficult and challenging.  I don’t know his life, support system, metabolism, or even his coping skills. I wouldn’t dare to presume that his loss is my loss.
“Why don’t you go for a walk,” people would suggest to me. 
 
If people knew how their words scarred me and did more damage, I would hope they would stop talking and begin listening. One good friend didn’t give me advice. That friend would just show up on my doorstep and invite me to join him on a walk.
 
“She should just leave him,” has been echoed with the Ray Rice assault clip. Society got a slight insight that it is more complicated than just leave. So many brave ladies shared their stories of “Why I stayed.  A national dialogue began due to a willingness to listen with our hearts.”
 
I walk a 5k every day now.   A year ago, I could barely endure a walk to the corner and back. There was physical and emotional anguish.  Somehow eating a triple burger felt like an accomplishment a year ago and eased the pain in my heart at the time.
 
The guy at that community meeting did not want advice. He sought to be acknowledged for his struggles and  begin to comprehend the unintelligible language of fear. He wanted to share his story and feel a little less anxious about his uncertain future. No word of advice would have relieved the emotions and breath he has held in for the past six years since he experienced loss in his vision.
 
I share the tales of adventure Perry & I get into by getting out. I open up about my experience of whatever situation occurred. I bring out my thoughts and I project what Sighters may have been thinking. Sighters is the term I use to describe the able bodied individuals who do so much damage to the dignity of a person who is blind. Some of their choices are fueled by good intentions and other choices are made from the cold, arrogant ignorance that presumption conceives.
 
I am astonished by what I am able to do now. My feet, shins, knees, and back would hurt me for three days after a five minute walk. When I went to Michigan to get Perry, I took six Advil three times a day and I was in serious pain the entire time. A half mile walk involved four sit down, breath catching breaks. The physical pain was matched by the emotional angst. I sat in my room in Michigan each night next to Perry with my bare feet on the cold tile floor because they were swollen. I would cry for the last bit of the day as I grieved over the life I lost. The stench of Icy Hot permeated my aura, like Pigpen from the Peanuts cartoon, as I hoped it masked the hurt that emanated from each sweaty pore as I battled to adjust to a new path in life.
 
A cliche or antidotal quote would soar far beyond the “Not Helpful” rating but qualify as making me feel worse about myself, the “SHOULDs” hindsight uses to torment the soul,and every decision I had made in the last forty three years.
 
The vice of advice is the presumption of thinking one knows what is best for another person’s life.
 
There is a simple principle that is missed by many. The wise sages have put this lesson into practice. Listen and acknowledge the person’s feelings. If the world did half of that basic strategy, a healing understanding may begin to flourish.  Using my heart to listen has shown how to hear what is really being said.  Knowing this difference only makes me stronger.