I’ve been debating whether I wanted to express myself through my blog on this particular subject.
Out of respect for the families and friends involved, I don’t want to write too many hurtful details.
Instead, I want to look at the neighbours I never knew.
By all accounts, they were perfectly normal neighbours. Very normal. You couldn’t hear any arguments echoing through the still night. Out in public, they were both well-known, the husband as quiet, and the wife as a kind person.
But we all know, things aren’t always as they seem.
Domestic violence is far more prevalent than we think in Lunenburg County and rural areas like it.
I’m not sure why it seems so rampant in small communities. Maybe it’s because we all know each other in little villages and don’t think the quiet person we see standing at the Irving is capable of ghastly acts fit only for shows like CSI.
Perhaps it’s the mentality that persists from days gone by, when a woman was considered a man’s property. (Think I’m lying? It’s only since World War I that men began wearing wedding rings too; it also persists in the fact a man gives a woman an engagement ring to show she’s taken, while he wears nothing.)
The culture of men is different too. They’re taught to be tough. Taught not to cry but to suppress their feelings, only letting loose to kill animals in the forest or to drive extra-loud vehicles.
And love. It’s made to be an all-consuming thing. We’re taught to love until death. We’re taught there’s only one true love out there for us. We’re taught love is the only thing that matters. We’re taught by Disney that after marriage, we all live happily ever after.
Combine all these factors together, and you begin to see how violent domestic partnerships evolve.
I’m no expert on the matter because I’ve never experienced it first hand. Yet. They say one in four relationships is an abusive relationship. That means I have a 25% change of becoming involved in one.
Young girls in high school have every reason to fear. For every 100 of them, 25 will end up being abused by a partner. Women are 45 times more likely to be killed by a spouse or intimate partner than by a stranger.
Don’t get me wrong: women abuse men, women abuse women, and men abuse men.
However, the very structure of heterosexual relationships in which the man dominates the woman is deep within our psyches. Even the most feminist of us still have this movie script inside us, whether we consciously rebel against it, or jump in and hope it works out.
Rural areas are thought to be pristine, innocent paradises where nothing bad ever happens.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Even though we all know each other in the rural community, it’s that very thing that makes it difficult to fight domestic violence. After all, we don’t believe so-and-so is capable of hurting someone. That’s plain silly.
Leaving violent men in small towns is even more wrought with danger. It’s easy to see where someone lives because there are no nameless high-rise buildings. You can see right in someone’s window if they’re home, if there’s anyone else’s car in the driveway. There’s no escaping in a small town.
My neighbour died because she went to the local grocery store.
Women shouldn’t have to fear being hurt or killed by someone who’s supposed to love them more than anything in the world. Even if they separate or part.
My neighbour was a kind, wonderful person whose demeanor was far too kind for someone who was being hurt at home. I didn’t know her well, but I know her family and friends, and there are many.
She had the strength to leave.
And then she paid the ultimate price.
We shouldn’t live in a society where a woman should be afraid of her loved ones. Yet so often, that is the way it works. Women are often hurt by those closest to them, not strangers. And that is what we as a society should fight. And fight hard.
The memory of my neighbour will live on in a lot of us. And many of us will think twice about being with an abusive person because we may pay the ultimate price too.
And maybe too, we will do our best to liberate women who are being abused by the partners. Abuse happens in far more homes in Lunenburg County and Nova Scotia than we know. Maybe it even happens in yours.
There are resources if you or someone you know needs help. I worked in one such place. More than a few times women came in looking for ways out of abusive relationships. Thankfully we could refer such women to Harbour House, the women’s shelter in Bridgewater. The location is secret; even I never knew where it was and I worked at Second Story Women’s Centre for three summers.
Women, you have the right to be in a safe supportive relationship where no one hurts you, physically and emotionally. Abuse is never your fault. You are the object of abuse but you are not the reason for it.
Men, you have the responsibility to not use your power to hurt or intimidate your partner, even if she is going to leave you. If you have any concerns about your behaviour, talk to someone and get help. Join the White Ribbon Campaign and stamp out domestic violence against women and girls and children.
Changing our thinking and consciously working to keep men from hurting women is the only way we will free ourselves from these awful statistics.
And so, in closing, I remain thinking about my neighbours. I have a feeling I will never forget them, the lives they lived, and the many more lives they have touched.
Harbour House Transition House. 1-888-543-9999
Transition House Association of Nova Scotia. http://www.thans.ca
White Ribbon Campaign. http://www.whiteribbon.ca/about_us/
Signs of Domestic Abuse. http://helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_types_signs_causes_effects.htm