Saturday, October 31, 2015

are you listening?

Last month I asked who is the face of illiteracy and I approach you today with a similar question.  Can we really "see" who is being affected by Domestic Violence?  Oh sure, we can see the bruises and other obvious signs.  But, what about the people in relationships that have not escalated that far?

What does control look and sound like?  Where and how does restriction bear is face?

So, on this our last day of the month of October when we find ourselves preparing costumes and
Are you listening? | Domestic Violence starts long before the hit @bigpittstop #NWArkCares
masks, I wonder if we could peel them back for a second.  I wonder if we used those Minion goggles to see beyond the Wonder Woman and Superman facades that many around us bear.  What are we really missing?  What words do we try to not hear that tell us something else might be going on?  None of us really know what happens behind closed doors.  None of us really know what our co-workers deal with when they get home.  None of us really know the story of the guy and the kids in the line in front of us.

"Sure I do", you say.  "She puts it all over social media. They are fine."  And, I crack a smirkish grin from the left corner of my mouth and ask you to settle in.

In college I took a social psychology class.  One of the few that I remember most of what I learned and one of the few that I still call to mind often in every day conversation.  Hindsight Bias, Pavlovian Response and Bystander Effect.  All 3 terms I use frequently (hey, I admitted a long time ago I was a BIG nerd).  But, also 3 things that I've wrestled with this month.

Hindsight Bias - reminds us of all the signs we should have seen and responded to:
  • "I need to ask Jeff if I can spend money on that." - I'm not talking refrigerators and couches here.  Everyday stuff.  Silly little purchases that you would never think twice about getting "permission" for.
  • "Oh I couldn't possibly live without her in my life." - again, not an affectionate, I love my partner kind of response, but a compelling draw that you know keeps them in an unhealthy situation.
  • always checking phone, "I'm just waiting for Cindy to call"/ "I need to be home by 8:30, Jim doesn't like me to be out late." - signs pointing and indicating to a dependency and control of time, how its spent, what is done and who they are with.
  • "He always tells me I'm fat or that I can't eat sweets, but I know he is doing it because he loves me and wants me to look my best." - controlling diet is one of the low hanging fruits.  Its easy to be manipulated into thinking that its about you and your health.  When you hear these "but" excuses...listen to the real thing being said.
Pavlovian Response - learned behaviors instigated by a specific action
  • loud noises and yelling are a big trigger for many 
  • when he gets home, she starts shuffling papers and indicating its time for you to leave
  • early intervention is the key here - helps with the length of time to brainwashing
Bystander Effect - the thought and assumption that someone else will take care of it
  • "I didn't really see him hit her" - right, if you turn your head he won't do it again.
  • "I don't see those bruises around her wrist or when she accidentally pulled her sleeve too high" - its hard.  I worked in an after school program when I was in college.  I had been trained.  I knew what I had to do.  She pushed up the sleeves on her windbreaker.  It was 80 degrees outside.  No reason to wear a windbreaker and she had already refused to take it off when we came in the classroom.  A few days later she was not in the room and had been removed from the school because she had gone to live in a new home, a foster home in a different town.  What I saw was real.  My gut reaction was right.  I didn't want to.  But I had to.
  • "I didn't really see that mom grab and snatch up that kid or use inappropriate language in the aisle at the grocery store" - the big longing eyes of that kid looked up at you.  Beckoned you to listen and knowing that's not the way you talked to your kids.  They saw another way out.  Just ask the woman if you could help her with something.  Just offer a smile, a dollar, anything that could passify and shift the moment.
  • "I don't hear my neighbor yelling the F-word at his girlfriend in their backyard every night" - been there done that.  I cracked open the squeaky back door just enough to make sure the elevated voices were saying what I thought they were.  I was going to step out there.  Surely if he knew I was also in my backyard he would do anything.  Or, would he? Would he do something to me too?
We've all been there.  (well, many of us have) The hairs on the back of our neck stand up.  We wanna throw a flag, the reddest of reds.  We hear the excuses and we know if they were said to us, we would not stand for them.  Yet we do.  We pause, we listen and like the bystander....we assume our friend is strong enough to say no or that they don't want us in thier business.

Girlfriend, let me tell you.  She does.  No one is fighting for her.  He needs you to hear the irrational talk she is using and tell him.  Yes, there will be "but" excuses and rebuttals.  Yes, they will most likely not listen and act immediately.  But, they need an advocate; a voice of reason.  Speaking truth and connecting life.  Safety - that's really all they want to know.  The rest of the details can be figured out later.

So, what' can you say/do? 
  • Simply...."What can I do?"
  • "What do you need from me?" - a suit to interview? keep your kids?
  • Ask now, but come back in a month, 6 months, 1 year.  Celebrate their successes. Don't leave them hanging to slip back in to the situation.  It was safe and comfortable.  That's why they stayed their in the first place
  • Don't blame them.  Connect with their emotions (even if you don't agree or understand).  "I get that." or "You've invested a lot in this."
  • Provide resources and options.  
  • Know what healthy relationships look like and reinforce those.
  • Seek out a couple who has been married for 30 years and things are going well.  Ask them what that's like, what works, what was the hard stuff?
  • Couples counseling is not just for mess ups or people right before they get a divorce.  Life get's messy.  Sometimes even dating couples need to learn how to connect better with each other.
Most of us are ALL OR NOTHING kind of people and dont realize that SOMETHING is sometimes ok.  And Enough.

This post is part of the #NWArkCares series by the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers group. To view other posts, visit the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers Pinterest Board or follow #NWArkCares through social media.


Debbie Arnold said...

Such an excellent post. Thanks for sharing.

Keisha Pittman said...

Debbie I don't know if it's because I'm a big sister or just value girlfriend relationships, but I just think its so important that we listen! Those verbal cues tell us so much!