Thursday, 4 May 2017

Domestic Violence - Assume Nothing

I would like to tell a story about a friend who I will call Beatrice (not her real name).

Beatrice is undeniably intelligent and has achieved career success in two distinctly different professions. She is strong of character and independent of mind.

She is the lovingly devoted Mother of 4 children, two Adults, and two pre-teens with her current partner.

Beatrice is widely read, has broad interests and is an engaging conversationalist.

We met by accident and kept in contact, although not regularly or habitually.

A measure of her character, generosity and caring was first revealed to me a few years ago.

We discovered we were to be in the same rural town on the same day. I arrived after Beatrice and as is the way these days, we communicated via SMS and I found the hotel where she was enjoying a soda water.

Beatrice had found a spare seat at a table where several others were sitting. She noticed two ladies, one of whom was intellectually disabled, the other her carer, looking for somewhere to sit. Beatrice asked the others at the table if they minded “closing up a little” to make room for two more.

The two ladies gratefully accepted the offered seats. Beatrice proceeded to converse with the intellectually disabled lady in the most inclusive and respectful way and as an equal. She included her in the general conversation, encouraging her to express her opinion. She asked questions of her and most importantly, patiently listened to the answers, respectfully and genuinely.  

It was beautiful to observe.

I mentioned her inclusion of the intellectually handicapped lady as we left the hotel, commenting how incredible, generous and caring her actions were. I added I would like to think I would have done the same, but cannot honestly say I would have. I said she set me a great example.

Beatrice is a warm inclusive person, generous of spirit and very open.

Last night I participated as part of a team in the Darkness to Daylight event to run 110 kilometres raising funds and awareness for Domestic and Family Violence.

At approximately 2.20am  I was taking a break and noticed a message from Beatrice sent a few hours earlier. She thanked me for what I was doing and the importance of it. She also revealed her experience of being exposed to Domestic Violence, and it was horrific. This has taken place some 20 or more years ago.

I was shocked, stunned and moved. I was also educated. If ever I need a graphic example that anyone at all can be in, feel trapped in a violent environment, this was it. This taught me there is no victim stereo type  for victims of Domestic Violence horror. No matter how intelligent, educated or independent someone is, it takes an extraordinary act of courage to extricate yourself from a violent family situation.

We can all contribute to reducing the damage of Domestic and Family Violence. We can all be more aware of what is happening in our surrounds, to reach out and support or report concerns about the goings on with neighbours, colleagues, friends or associates. We can choose to 'not ignore it'.

Equally, I need to, and we all need to suspend any pre-determined belief we may hold as to the typical victim, because no such thing exists.

Beatrice, I am so proud of you and proud to be a friend. I am also honoured you shared your story with me.

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