purple bouquetDomestic Violence: just words, until you see those horrible bruises on your friend’s body, (or her neck), or until you have to crawl try to raise yourself from the floor, wondering how badly you are hurt.

Domestic Violence: just words until you must go to the grocery store sporting your brand new black eye, lying, “I fell,” “I ran into a door.”

Everyone knows, not because an accident couldn’t have caused a black eye, but because you have a haunted look about you, you have bones sticking out of your neck and shoulders, your cheeks are hollow, your hair is dry and dead looking. They know because you brought only one of your two children with you (the other being held hostage until your return).

Words. They mean nothing out of context. Personal Violence can happen to anyone. It can happen to your twelve year old daughter at school. It can happen to your mother, at her job. It can happen to you, when you are least expecting it. Domestic/Personal violence is a crime. If you are afraid of your batterer, there are programs, safe houses, places you can go to escape the fear and the attacks.

There are so many helpful programs to get you started on a new life, it is amazing. During my time at the shelter, I was a wreck. Today, I would have been labeled PTSD. Then, I had “battered women’s syndrome,” which meant, I guess, that I could have easily killed my abuser but hadn’t yet figured out how to get away with it.

How did we do it? My family helped. I can’t imagine surviving that experience without their help. Yes, I was a mess. My girls needed encouragement and love. It is hard for me to believe that, as strong as I was, I had been reduced to a broken shell of a human being. I will not give him credit for that. It must have been something in my being that allowed it.

So, as I think about how “hard” it was, and I see these articles (below), I am again ashamed that I took so much of it personally. Lucky me. I was not traded for a sex slave at age seven. I was not sold to a brothel, or left to live on the streets of Los Angeles before puberty.

I am ashamed that I was so broken for so long, by someone who had only words and fists as weapons. Any of us could be one of those girls from Somalia, or a young girl whose family believes that female genital mutilation is the only way to make their daughter marriageable. I do so wish that no young girl ever had to suffer those things. I wish that I could change something for them. Help them. Do you wish the same thing?

Perhaps education is the key. Perhaps learning the truth and offering what help we can will make a difference. I believe that Middle School is the best place to address young people about personal violence – before they start dating, before the become just a piece of “property” in the sexual violence world. Help them if you can. Write a check. Offer your services. Teach your children to respect one another. Do something. Do anything you can. Nothing will change until we change it.

Nicholas Kristoff, NY Times Opinion Pages: On the Ground

Joining on Somaly Mam’s Brothel Bust

Futures Without Violence.com

Stopping Violence against Women and Girls Globally

Supporting Children who Live With Violence

Start Strong: Teen Dating Abuse Prevention Program