Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Assumptions to Assumption-itis
We make them every day. But when do our assumptions become dangerous? When does dangerous become deadly assumption-itis? I want to examine what happens with the assumptions surrounding domestic violence and teen dating violence. Anyone and everyone can be a victim of assumption-itis.
As a point, I was afflicted with assumption-itis. I am the daughter of a federal agent/investigator. I grew up around law enforcement and was taught to be observant. I was taught to use said observation skills for reasoning and drawing insightful conclusions. I was even told, repeatedly, that I had a keen and polished sense of observation. No one could sneak anything past me, no sir. I heard it so often that I began to believe my skills to be infallible. Never in my life had such an arrogant and misguided assumption become deadly assumption-itis. I truly thought that I could see and would know, in an instant if someone I knew was a victim of domestic violence. For the better part of my adolescence and twenties I held all the typical myths about domestic violence and teen dating violence to be truths. I just didn’t know any better and was never educated about the true signs let alone what to do if I came face-to-face with said signs.
Flash back to 2000-2002. I met a girl while in college and we became fast friends. She was slightly older than me, married, had a son, and a girl on the way. We hung out all the time. She was as studious as me and we bonded over homework and working toward 4.0’s. My boyfriend and I would go out to dinner with her and her husband regularly. We even spent nights at their house when our evenings ran late. We remained friends for a few years until her husband made repeated racist comments directed toward me. I decided I just wouldn’t tolerate it and we stopped being friends. I felt guilty about dumping her without explanation but the deed was done. Once I even emailed her after spotting her in a crowd. The email was filled with sorry and please write back if you want to be friends. I never heard from her again.
Flash forward to 2010. I ran into her at a domestic violence support group that I was volunteering with. Her children were grown but she looked just the same. I recognized her in an instant. She alas, had forgotten my face. In between the time we lost touch and having found her again, I had completed a few years of training in sexual assault and domestic violence. During training she crossed my mind occasionally, but I still didn’t believe a friend of mine was a victim, especially right under my nose.
When we finally sat down and talked I was amazed at what she was telling me. I was, above all, floored when I realized all the signs I learned about, I had seen in 2000-2002. Plain as day and the nose on my face, my long lost friend was a victim of domestic violence. Because I didn’t have the proper training or education, I didn’t see it. I even became part of her abuser’s isolation tactics. It almost cost my friend her life. Her story is amazing, dramatic, tragic, sad, funny, and victorious.
Everyone owes it to themselves and those they love to challenge the assumptions they carry. It is of the utmost importance to educate ourselves on the signs of domestic violence and teen dating violence and how to handle it if you or someone you know is suffering. You’ll never know, maybe the life and future you save will be your own.