Since October is Domestic Awareness Month, I want to help bring awareness to this issue while offering ways to write about how violence affects each of us personally.
It’s not a subject we like to think about. And when it happens publicly, as recent viral videos have shown, those of us who have not experienced that kind of violence personally express morbid fascination and outrage. We know that no one — man or woman — should have to endure that kind of treatment, but it’s so ubiquitous we don’t know what to do about it.
Domestic Violence Month grew out of the Day of Unity begun in 1981 as a day intended to connect battered women’s advocates in their efforts to end violence against women and children. In 1989 Congress passed the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month Commemorative Legislation, and it has been observed every October since then.
Here is the first paragraph of the President’s proclamation of this year’s awareness month:
Domestic violence affects every American. It harms our communities, weakens the foundation of our Nation, and hurts those we love most. It is an affront to our basic decency and humanity, and it must end. During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we acknowledge the progress made in reducing these shameful crimes, embrace the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse, and recognize that more work remains until every individual is able to live free from fear.
I think we can all agree with those words. We have made progress since 1989, but we have a long way to go. Here are some recent statistics from a variety of web sources (sources cited at end of post):
- 10% of teenagers are intentionally harmed by someone they are dating. In 2013, that figure included 1.5 million high school students.
- One woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds in the U.S.
- One in four women experiences domestic violence in her lifetime.
- It’s not just women. Yes, they represent 85% of the domestic violence victims, but let’s not forget the other 15%.
- Police are more likely to respond quickly if they think the offender is unknown to the victim.
- Based on reports from 10 countries, between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted non-governmental organizations, shelters, or the police for help.
Reading these statistics has made me wonder how far we have really progressed. Here in the U.S., we believe we are more aware and less tolerant of this kind of violence, so if these are our statistics, how much worse is it in countries where domestic violence is still considered acceptable?
Below, I offer a few journaling, memoir, and personal essay writing prompts to help you develop your thoughts on this issue. Not all the prompts will apply to everyone, so just use what works for you.
The Writing Prompts
- Perform a word association exercise with domestic violence at the center. After you’ve finished the word association, set a timer and freewrite for 10 minutes.
- How do you feel about having a month every year devoted to awareness of this issue?
- What experience do you have with domestic violence (include emotional and verbal abuse in your answer)? Write about its impact on your decision-making processes, then and now.
Prompts for memoir and personal essay:
- Write about a time you experienced domestic violence, either as a victim or perpetrator. If you never experienced this personally, write a scene about the first time you heard about domestic violence happening to someone you know.
- How far have we come in the long journey to end domestic violence around the world? Perform some historical research on this subject and write a summary of your findings.
- Get on a soapbox: Write a speech about what needs to happen to eliminate domestic violence and what your “listeners” can do today.
- Write a letter:
- If you have ever been or are a victim of domestic violence, write a compassionate letter to yourself (to the past or present you) offering advice and wisdom for the future.
- If you have never been a victim of domestic violence, but know of someone who has, use your imagination and write a letter from that person’s perspective about why he or she stayed and what it took (or will take) to get out of the situation.
I realize that even if you have never experienced or know someone who has been embroiled in domestic violence, this is not an easy subject to write about — and it is extremely difficult if you have experienced it. To all who take this subject on: thank you for your courage.
This much I know — writing has the power to heal.
I invite your comments on this topic and on the power of writing.