"If a man hits you once, he will hit you again."
Those were Oprah's words to the embattled Rihanna who was abused--alright, allegedly abused--by her boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, last month. Oprah is dedicating today's show to the current epidemic of intimate partner violence.
Why does it matter? And why am I blogging about it here?
The issue of violence against women is one that is dear to me, for myriad reasons. I worked for years in NYC emergency rooms, in conjunction with a non-profit agency, bearing witness to the very real, very disfiguring results of sexual and domestic violence.
This violence is raging in our schools, in our comfortable neighborhoods, on our college campuses and in our housing projects. It crosses every single socio-economic barrier that we have ever envisioned. It ravages the mind, the body and the spirit. And it currently exists at epidemic proportions.
You don't even have to take my word for it. The Bureau of Justice reports that "on average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day." A study commissioned by Liz Claiborne's Love Is Not Abuse initiative found that 1 in 3 teens report knowing "a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, slapped, choked or physically hurt by his/her partner." These statistics are available here, at the National Domestic Violence Hotline Website. They make me wince. And then, they make me angry.
As I mentioned, today, Oprah is dedicating her show to this topic, because of teenage Rihanna's recent ordeal. Oprah calls this a "huge teachable moment for our young women and men." And I'm inclined to agree with her, a rare occurrence to be sure.
No one can know how Rihanna's very public ordeal will turn out for her. But the rest of us can take notice. This is not a private issue. It is a public one. If you know five women, you know at least one person who has experienced sexual or domestic violence.
When we shine light on this monster that thrives in darkness, we help those who have experienced this particular kind of terror to heal. We help strip away the layers of guilt and fear and shame. We must continue to illuminate this violence and call it by it's name; we must not turn away. By talking about it to one another, by educating ourselves and by beginning to put the focus where it belongs, we facilitate change. Instead of asking, "Why does she stay with him?" perhaps we should start asking "Why does he beat someone he professes to love?"
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Love Is Not Abuse