Ending Domestic Violence

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Oak Floor

I’m a writer like my father. Not my father who raised me, that mother beater was crazy.
Crazy is subjective though, you know, a take on terms with a term taking on forms:
from the forms filled out by a father who loves his daughter and will go crazy without her
to the form of a father who is terrorizing your mother pinned down to the floor –

That floor was an old oak floor, an 1860’s hard oak floor,
the kind of floor that begs forgiveness for what it’s seen.
Like when the hospice folk lived there, living to die, dying to live,
then they were gone and we moved in.

Small-town Minnesota, where I remember my mother’s boyfriend became my father
and my father had my mother pinned down to the floor –
That floor was an old oak floor, an 1860’s hard oak floor,
the kind of floor that begs forgiveness for what it’s seen,
it was an old oak floor, a blood soaked floor,
the kind of floor that begs for someone, anyone to make it clean.

Nobody is cleaner than my mother, not the church folk, not the nurses,
not her obsessive compulsive brother.
My mother’s also bi-polar if you know her,
some say crazy all the peaks and valleys in the way that she raised me,
crazy is subjective though and I would know because I know my mother,
I know tribulation and it’s amazing, the love she can give.

Fifteen years old when I met the old man at the door
of a different house with a different floor in a different town where nobody knew,
but we knew, my sisters and I, we knew, we saw the bruises the black eyes,
we knew and I was strong enough now-
If you ever hit her again, I will fucking kill you!

So I’m writing again like my bio-dad, a musician a writer go figure,
or just another deadbeat dad who watched his life float down river?
Crazy.
Perhaps from his time in Viet Nam, or the heroin that he trafficked it from,
or the humans that he certainly slaughtered
who are haunting his dreams as he dreams through his days
and night time reminds him that he acted as God
the punishment for that act he would place on himself
when he turned his back on his children.

He followed his musical dreams bullshit; he followed the path of least resistance.
Forty years later,
he drinks alone in his room in the house my sister bought for his mother.
A recluse or an exile volunteer?
It’s semantics it’s lingual gymnastics, his defenses will definitely kill him.

Yet I am stout, strong enough to turn it off, on tap my flowing hatred.
I am sturdy, strong enough to defend my daughter demanding that she never lives with an old oak floor,
a blood soaked floor, the kind of floor that must beg forgiveness you see,
muscles become strong by tearing and mending, ripping and healing, breaking, repairing.
I am solid now, strong enough to rip the old oak from below me in splintery chunks of blood soaked wood while screaming at my father STOP! Please … stop … hurting …

by Ian Kelley

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The Wretched Truth

  • A woman is beaten every 9 seconds.

I grew up in a violent household. My step-father was a binging alcoholic. My biological father was absent.  My mother struggled with mental health issues. My sisters and I were witness to acts of abuse that no child should have to absorb.

  • There are 1,500 shelters for battered women in the United States. There are 3,800 animal shelters.

We were poor. My step-father’s meager income was our sole source of food and shelter for most of my childhood. My mother never chose to leave.

  • Police report that between 40% and 60% of the calls they receive, especially on the night shift, are domestic violence disputes.

There were times that police were called, but my step-father was friends with them and he was never really taken in to custody.

  • The American Medical Association (AMA) and FBI estimate 3-4 million women are battered each year in the U.S.

I didn’t know until I was a young adult that what I experienced was so commonplace.

  • Domestic Violence is the single greatest cause of injury to women.

More Facts about Domestic Violence

What Can Be Done?

When I was fifteen I summoned the courage to confront my step-father. My mother summoned the courage to threaten divorce. He entered Alcoholics Anonymous and the healing slowly began.

According to an article written by Jonathan Cohn for New Republic, there are actionable steps that can be taken. Here are five that he recommends:

  1. Keep trying prevention programs, scale up the most promising ones, and study how well they work.
  2. Make penalties for domestic violence consistent and firm.
  3. Increase funding for support services.
  4. Change the way family courts handle cases involving domestic violence.
  5. Help women to be economically independent.

As you can see these are high level steps to change. This means that public leaders and law makers must be influenced. Writing your Representatives, attending demonstrations and other awareness-raising actions can help influence change.

For those who are in the midst of the problem, here is a website that provides a slew of useful information and resources as well as several safety plans that can help to curb the potential harm. Here is an example of one of the safety plans:

Step 1: SAFETY DURING A VIOLENT INCIDENT. Women cannot always avoid violent incidents. In order to increase safety, battered women may use a variety of strategies.

I can use some or all of the following strategies:

A. If I decide to leave, I will ___________________. (Practice how to get out safely. What doors, windows, elevators, stairwells or fire escapes would you use?)

B. I can keep my purse and car keys ready and put them ___________ _______________________ (place) in order to leave quickly.

C. I can tell _____________________________________________about the violence and request they call the police if they hear suspicious noises coming from my house.

D. I can teach my children how to use the telephone to contact the police and the fire department.

E. I will use ___________________________________________ as my code for my children or my friends so they can call for help.

F. If I have to leave my home, I will go __________________________ ___________________________________ (Decide this even if you don’t think there will be a next time). If I cannot go to the location above, then I can go to ___________________________________________________________ or ________________________________________________________.

G. I can also teach some of these strategies to some/all of my children.

H. When I expect we are going to have an argument, I will try to move to a space that is lowest risk, such as ________________________ ____________________________________. (Try to avoid arguments in the bathroom, garage, kitchen, near weapons or in rooms without access to an outside door).

I. I will use my judgment and intuition. If the situation is very serious, I can give my partner what he/she wants to calm him/her down. I have to protect myself until I/we are out of danger.

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It Can Be Stopped!

My story is a rare one in that my step-father did get sober and the violence did actually end there. He is now over 25 years sober and eventually became a very different man. A man who is actually worthy of respect. However, the trauma that my sisters and I experienced has a lifelong imprint on who we are. Two of us continue to see therapists and my sisters continue to use antidepressant medications. He changed his future but he can never change our past.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, please reach out for help! Change is possible!

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4 thoughts on “Ending Domestic Violence

  1. Thank you for this blog. On some level, the prevention against domestic abuse has been getting heard, yet in so many other ways, it is still a silent cry for help. I think about the domestic violence in my culture and am very disappointed by the lack of support the victims receive from their family and community. Often times leading to a murder suicide and the innocent children without any parents. The trauma these orphan children have to live with for the rest of their lives trying to understand and cope with what and why it happened. I hope that through education and awareness, parents and adults will make a stand to prevent domestic abuse and to teach their children to not accept it at any means.

  2. Thanks for your openess and sharing. I truly hope through advocacy and education, that we will see more positive changes for the survivors! Great Blog!

  3. Ian, best poem I have read in a long time. The content was super rich and personal. Thanks for sharing that. The conclusions you have drawn from your past are very profound and it is amazing to see what you have come through.
    Sorry to over analyze the poem and miss the message, cause it is important, but your poem was so full of lingual gymnastics I feel sick; but in a good way. I was impressed with the rhymes, the pace, the use of assonance and consonance. Yeah, I love poetry and that was good. It probably was good because it was obvious you were passionate about this issue, and the poem was so raw and alive. Good work!

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