Sharlene B. Kerelejza, MSW currently serves as the Executive Director forMeriden-Wallingford Chrysalis, Inc., a local domestic violence victim's service agency. She is contributing to the Overcoming Battered Lives blog this week.
Several years ago I presented a rape prevention program at a middle school and one of the young men was having a tough time accepting that women don't "ask" to be raped. I was lucky to be able to silence his blame when I asked if it would be his mother's fault if it happened to her. He was a young boy raised by a single mom he truly adored, and so for him, that was enough to know.
Sadly, it's not as easy to convince everyone that it's never the victim's fault. And perhaps the most disturbing truth is that with domestic violence, it is the mothers and the sisters and the daughters that are being hurt most often. How can we instill compassion for victims and fury and non-tolerance against abusers if we don't find our own mothers, sisters and daughters as deserving of a life free from violence and abuse?
So many of the comments on this blog speak to experiences of "nothing being good enough."
The cooking. The cleaning. The parenting.
It was told to you in words and in fists. But these were excuses.
The excuses to hurt are never just or right. Yet for those of us who hear the stories of victims and survivors daily, the excuses abusers use are the same ones, over and over, for years and for decades. I am frightened that in this time of economic distress we have added one more excuse.
"I am stressed."
"I am working longer hours for less money."
"My paycheck doesn't go as far as it used to."
"I don't have a paycheck at all."
The National Institute of Health has published that in times of economic distress rates of domestic violence increase. Domestic violence agencies can say they've seen it to be true. I know we have. And the new excuses become one more way that a victim blames or an abuser exonerates him or herself, "If only I contributed more to the household. If only I."
Times of hardship bring out the very best in some, and the worst in others. My challenge and wish is to allow today's tough times to bring out our collective best. It is time for us to be better partners, better parents, better teachers, better people. It is time to say enough. Relationships and love will always be here, even when money is not.
Let us re-coin a phrase and live by it, "I found love the old fashioned way... I earned it."
-- Sharlene B. Kerelejza
Sharlene B. Kerelejza, MSW, has worked in victim's services since 1993 at Women and Families Center, Child Guidance Clinic and Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury, and her current role as the Executive Director forMeriden-Wallingford Chrysalis, Inc. In gradually increasing positions of leadership, Sharlene has worked to honor the stories and experiences of child and adult victims of violence while trying to challenge the beliefs and systems that allow such acts to continue. She earned her BSW from St. Joseph College, West Hartford and her MSW from Columbia University. She welcomes your questions and comments.
Photo courtesy of photoxpress.com