Domestic Violence: Speak and Listen

Published 9:38 am Thursday, October 19, 2017

This month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, giving us an opportunity to shine a spotlight on a problem facing people all throughout the country. I recently attended (and wrote about for the News Herald) a short seminar at Roanoke-Chowan Community College focused on opening up discussion on the topic.

The most striking thing I took away from the seminar is how the subject is often brushed under a rug. It’s a “quiet epidemic” said one person while describing domestic violence. In the short video we watched, victims shared their stories and many of them mentioned how they felt like they couldn’t tell people what they were experiencing. They felt like they had to put on a brave face and pretend like nothing was wrong.

These victims echoed a story we hear all too often. Victims can’t speak out for a variety of reasons, so the abuse continues and it gets harder and harder for them to escape. And then no one else knows what’s going on or how to stop it.

This, unfortunately, is not just limited to domestic violence. We’ve been inundated the past few weeks with headlines about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and the numerous allegations of sexual harassment and abuse he committed. This comes after we’ve heard the same kinds of stories about Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, and many more over the years.

In light of this, I think now would be the perfect opportunity to keep the dialogue open and discussion going for any kind of abuse.

There’s been an outpouring of support for the victims, but there are still others with reactions that have been disappointing or disgusting. These reactions make it harder to address the issue, so it’s important to identify those reactions in order to learn what’s important to focus on.

Some say “just brush it off, move on with your life” like they are offended that other people are offended. A lot of abuse victims have, in fact, moved on with their lives, but that doesn’t mean they cannot speak about it. There’s a difference between complaining all week about the toe you accidentally stubbed on Monday and finally speaking up about harassment or abuse that occurred years ago, but was previously too shameful to speak about.

Then there are others who would rather lay the blame on the victims, as if sexual or domestic abuse happened simply because the victim didn’t do enough to prevent it. These are the people who make excuses for the perpetrators. If someone kicks in a front door and robs a house, we have no problem saying that the robber is a criminal who did something wrong. We don’t say that the house-owners are at fault for not having steel-plated doors.

Why is abuse any different?

I have even seen some people go so far as to suggest it’s better simply to avoid women to avoid false accusations of abuse. I think a better suggestion, perhaps, would be to treat everyone you meet with dignity and respect. That seems like it would be the much easier common-sense alternative.

But the worst reaction of all: the people who want to plug their ears and pretend abuse isn’t a widespread issue. That’s something happening somewhere else with people I don’t know, they say. This is only an isolated incident, they say.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have never been a victim of any sort of abuse (domestic, sexual, or otherwise), but it would be foolish to think my experience is representative of the billions of other people in the world. I can have empathy for victims without being a victim myself.

You can too.

Domestic violence. Sexual abuse. It’s here, too, in our local communities. We need to support and listen to the victims, learn to treat people with respect, and start conversations.

Otherwise, things will never change.


Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.