I am big on processing my experiences in life. I like to always think critically about what I can take away from things that happen to me. I want to use the things I learn in one experience to make future experiences better or future decisions more clear. I also like to think other people's experiences and how I can learn from them as well. Naturally, I've been thinking a lot about Ciara and Aiden's experience and my experience with them.
And because you, dear blog readers, are such a good sounding board to bounce my ponderings off of - I want to take a minute to throw out some thing that I've been thinking about a lot since my experience with Ciara and Aiden.
First, I want to tell you that Ciara, Aiden and I live in one of the Top 5 biggest cities in the US.
I can get to 3 Targets, 5 Walgreens, 4 CVSs,
and approx 12 grocery stores within a 10 mile radius of my house.
Our city has more boutique clothing stores than I could even fathom to count.
We literally have Starbucks shops across the street from each other.
And yet, on the night Ciara needed a safe place for herself and her child,
ALL THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SHELTERS WERE FULL.
What does this tell you??
It tells me that we have an overabundance of places to by trendy clothes, overpriced coffee and Q-tips. And a serious deficit of places for terrified women and their children to find security.
That makes me angry folks. Does it make you angry? Or frustrated? Or Sad?
If not, I'd like to politely ask you to step away from this computer and contemplate it for a little while. Please think about how you really feel about living in a society (because this doesn't happen in only my city) that values convenience over the complicated. And if you can't work up some feeling about that reality, please contemplate why you think that is too.
Perhaps it is because you try not to think about sad facts like that -
because you feel hopeless to do anything about it.
Perhaps it is because you have thought about it so much
that you have become jaded and apathetic.
Perhaps it is because you just never realized that it was a reality.
I'm okay with whatever your reason is - you can be sure that I have felt all of those things and more at one time or another! I just wanted to ask you to think about it for a little while.
People ask me all the time -
"Why don't women leave abusive partners?"
"How can they let their child see that kind of thing?"
"And when they do leave, why do they often go back??"
Well friends - the answer to those questions (especially that last one) is sometimes as simple as the situation Ciara found herself in the other night.
Well past dark, with a hungry and tired 2 year old, and absolutely no place to go.
She knew that she didn't want to go back home, but what else could she do?
Sleep with him on the streets?
Let her child go hungry?
So, at that point, Ciara could have had to choose to put her little boy in the care of strangers, in a strange country, while she went to a homeless shelter. With the insults of her husband chanting in her head - telling her she is weak, that she needs him, that she can't make it on her own. Even once somebody finally gave her the name of my Resource Family agency - she still found herself in the position of having to give up her child. That is the way my program usually works. The point of the program is to put children in Resource Families so that they are safe while their parents work on a more stable living arrangement. It is very unusual for the agency to try to place a mother and her child together.
Because, let's face it - while some people will open their home to a needy child, far fewer will open their home to a needy adult. After all - who knows with an adult right? Especially adults who have found themselves in these kinds of situations. Its kind of like children in foster care - many people are open to babies, most to preschoolers, and some to elementary school kids.
Most people won't take that risk.
Same thing applies to adults who find themselves without support and security.
Again, I'd like to challenge you to think about why that is:
Why are these women, who are unfortunate situations, regarded with more fear than sympathy?
I'd like to present an uncomfortable idea.
One that most people will not admit.
I think that the reason that these women are considered too "risky" is because,
deep down in many our hearts,
we think maybe they did something to deserve it.
I will admit that I definitely used think that way.
Even though I would've agreed that no one ever deserved to be abused -
I still judged people who chose abusive partners.
Even though I would lament the sadness of teens aging out of foster care -
I still knew if they had behaved better, they might have been adopted.
Even though I know that there is always a bigger picture -
I still assumed that everyone could make something out of those lemons
if they really tried hard enough.
I am not any better of a person than anyone who has decided that it is "too risky" to open there home to a women from a violent marriage. I am not a better person because I let her stay in my house unsupervised all day while I was at work. I am not any better because I choose to take that risk. I just happen to know a little bit more than the average person about issues like domestic violence. I don't just get my information from the news and crime dramas. I work with people in these kinds of situations every day. It makes me a little bit more comfortable - because "these types of people" are real people to me.
So, if you find you find yourself reading my blog and saying to yourself, "I don't think I could ever do that". I'd like to challenge you to think about one more thing.
Is there some risk that you are willing to take?
Perhaps answering a crisis hotline.
Maybe donating some clothes or toys.
Or perhaps working a shift in a DV shelter. .
Something that will make these women a little more real to you too.
Because I would really like to believe,
that if you spent some time with these women
You would decide that they were worth the risk.