I was asked to speak today to some of our state senators and representatives. Here are my remarks:
I am a survivor and former victim of Domestic Violence.
I have been mentally, emotionally, verbally, physically and financially abused by my ex wife. I have been bitten, hit, kicked, cut, and bruised.
There is a lie in our society that men cannot be victims of abuse and that if a woman abuses a man the man is somehow weak, or they did something to provoke her and deserve it.
There are no rules in domestic violence. It is not conditional based upon gender or age. It is not specific to your level of education, race, income, religion or social status. It is a plague that is destroying families and our children and we must act to put an end to this scourge. Abusers will blame the abused for making them into the abusers they are. This is part of the manipulation process abusers use. Sadly, many of us fall victim to this lie and believe it.
If we falsely believe that domestic violence will go away by ignoring it, or if we fall victim to the many lies about this plague we are abandoning our children and grandchildren to continue perpetually down this evil path in our society.
Domestic Violence impacts every one of us in this room. Whether or not it is public knowledge or anyone outside the victims immediate family knows about it, such as in my case, we all know someone who lives this hell. It could be your daughter, your son, father, mother, grandchild, or neighbor. It could be a leader in your church or a teacher at school or your coworker and friend. Most victims are silent, looking for help and not knowing where to turn.
In Utah we are surrounded by many who by outward appearances have great and amazing families. From an outward perspective, I had it all, a great family, a great wife, a great job, a beautiful home and great kids. No one ever suspected the hell I and my children were living as a result of her abuse.
Many have asked me afterwards why if things were so bad would I stay in the relationship for so long. First and foremost I will tell you that I love my children and am a deeply devoted father. I worried for their safety and well being if I left.
Remember I had been told by the many police officers and those in the legal profession that I turned to for help, that a man cannot be a victim of domestic violence and if it is happening then he provoked her to it. Utah has a terrible history in family law, one that quite frankly we should all hang our heads in shame over and that is the blind obedience of the judges to mothers and custody. This was the single largest issue that kept me in this abusive relationship. I didn’t want my children to suffer without my protection for them.
In the end, like most abusers, she left when she found someone new. My relief at this being over was minimized as the courts gave custody to her. My biggest fear in leaving came true.
My other primary reason for staying is abuse doesn’t always start off being physical. Abusers manipulate and make the abused feel worthless and that they don’t deserve anything better and that they deserve what they are getting. This lie held me hostage for years.
It was upon finally being freed from this abuse that I began to know about the resources in the community like the Domestic Violence shelters and what they do.
I have spent countless hours volunteering to help with anything the local shelter was in need of, from painting, to moving furniture, to fixing toilet seats and washing machines. I have spent the time to know and understand what they do and why they do it. While a handful of the shelters will take in men, and shelter them from abusers, there are many that do not primarily due to funding issues. I don’t believe I would have sought shelter as financially I was in the position to leave if I needed.
What I wish with all of my heart and that would have saved me and saved my children from witnessing the abuse is the knowledge available through the community outreach efforts of the shelters. The education and resources they provide that would have given me direction and support were not known to me. I was unaware that anyone could help my children and I during this nightmare we were living.
The South Valley Sanctuary currently operates a community outreach center in West Jordan to assist those in need of resources and support prior to the need to seek shelter. We need more of this in our communities. We need to ensure that our children are protected and that the resources are given to those making a difference on the front line of this plague everyday!
The domestic violence shelters need your support to continue to operate and not only provide the shelter from the violence, but the ongoing community outreach, training and resources to those in need prior to the need to flee. It is far less expensive to make certain that resources are available to those in need than it is to prosecute and house the perpetrator and bury the victims when the violence turns deadly.
We cannot end the violence if we are merely reactionary. We must provide the resources in addition to just shelter that many in this community are in dire need.
As you review the funding this year, I hope that my story resonates with you and opens your eyes to the need for additional resources that will help these shelters continue to provide safety as well as resources to your daughters and sons experiencing violence at home to get the help that they need, before your need to plan their funeral.