The elephant in the room

There’s an elephant in the room. Nobody talks about it and when they do, there’s uncomfortable silence and uncertainty about what to do.

Its a big old elephant – the subject of domestic violence in the relationships of people you know.

i think, as a society, we are uncomfortable with the thought that intimate partner violence is so endemic, that people we know are victims and survivors of it, and people we know are the abusers.

I support a refuge in South Auckland. Beautiful people support me, donate all manner of things and give money – all of this for strangers. Poor brown women who, on the main, live in South Auckland. They have no resources and the help is sorely needed and much appreciated. Everyone involved talks about it – about the problem of domestic violence, misogyny, classism.

But  the interesting and more telling thing is this – very many of the women who support my work are people who are survivors of intimate partner violence. Physical, psychological, emotional, verbal. Once Were Warriors in the leafy suburbs.

And I believe we don’t talk about it, and we don’t feel comfortable with it, because it’s easier to say: it’s over there, happening to those people.

When someone you know discloses personal information about their own situation, their experience of  intimate partner violence, I hope you listen. Because the likelihood is that you’re friends with their partner. Who may be hugely charming, really affable. Uncomfortable and weird, yes?

if you’re reading this, I want you to think carefully about how you react.

It takes women huge courage to speak up, and so many never do. So many women never ever do.

Because they fear they won’t be believed. Because their partners are people we may know.

We need only think of the case of Tony Veitch. Whose ex partner was vilified, and he himself suffered a brief period of Coventry and it is now as if nothing happened.

Today I was with a friend and we were stopped at the traffic lights. Across the road was a man she knew. He was abusive in his relationships. I observed that there’s so many men like this, walking around, no consequences for their inhuman behaviour. And so it is.

Intimate partner violence is endemic in New Zealand.

We just never talk about the violence that occurs right in front of us.

So if someone you know ever does, listen. And believe them.

 

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