While reading an article about the effects of strangulation and considering how it fit into a bigger picture, I suddenly came across vividly violent media posted by a friend. Feeling shaken I got offline but came back in a bit to leave a note explaining the affect violent media has on too many of us.
Legislators in our state have made progress toward creating laws aimed at intimate violence. An understanding of the complex nature of family issues is an ongoing process being addressed by many groups of people with experience working in various aspects of violence, but we have so much more to do.
The need for legislation unfortunately comes after notable tragedy and those tragedies after years of personal life changing events. For instance, the laws in our state added wording when one “impedes or prevents the respiration” of another specifically, before the law would recognize a crime that left no physical marks. Without visible marks and despite the willing testimony of my rescuers, who were not officers of the court, my attacker was given a six-month class and probation.
No matter how strong I might have been as a nurse, trained to understand the dynamics of what happened to me, no matter the strength of a soldier who stood up to combat, or the endurance of the lifelong survivor of bullying , none of us can withstand “friendly fire” that comes from lack of understanding of trauma and how imagery of extreme violence traumatizes all of us in this political environment. Education doesn’t protect from trauma without the support of a system including friends and family.
I’ve heard the arguments more than once. Why not use everything at our disposal? Why should we be nice and why “go high”? I understand that argument. Angry people lash out without realizing their own trauma. I can only say, turning weapons on ourselves is self-defeating and injures those nearby. Violence and violent imagery including words, are weapons I won’t embrace or endorse.
Consider, while celebrating those who stay silent about their trauma and never miss a day of the fight, we subtly discourage everyone who’s struggle allows less. For healing to occur stories need to be shared but this isn’t something that will happen until we make people feel welcome and safe. If I’m worrying that a misstep, an error of wording will cause rejection after years of such rejection, I’m not the one who’s failed to create a healing environment.
In today’s world we are assaulted daily and increasingly. Even without prior traumas, it is doubtful many have come through unscathed. It is the nature of humans to draw focus into one’s self when wounded physically or mentally. Further, without education, we may lack the ability and the tools to self-heal. We may feel the need to “walk on eggshells” around other, forceful voices. Additionally, being made to feel less important, feeling as though we should self-check our thoughts before getting the silent treatment are also signs of dealing with overly forceful people.
Looking to others for ways to cope creates a need for quality leadership examples and creates a great responsibility for those with a voice of influence. Becoming stronger ourselves and supporting strength in others means encouraging individuals to be okay with not knowing all the answers and deferring to professionals and others who do.
One of those lessons is setting boundaries for ourselves. Boundaries are fences of sorts, saying clearly, this is the line I don’t accept being crossed. It’s not telling other people what to do, none of us have a right to do that, but we do have the right to say what hurts us and what we won’t accept in our own lives. Why do so many people have difficulty setting boundaries? It’s not easy to admit our tender spots. It’s a first step that takes courage.
Be sure to be in a safe place before setting a boundary, and be prepared to defend that position, because it will be challenged. Feeling the need to construct a barrier to your rights is something people do when their rights aren’t being respected. Change in people who don’t respect the rights of others can be an ongoing process. They often don’t give up easily. Be reasonable with expectations and know it might result in having to disconnect.
Strength is acceptance of the needs of others, creating accepting places for people to grow and heal. Allow yourself the strengths and needs you expect from others then set that example for others to follow.
If you need more or immediate help, reach out to someone and these number are available:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 800-273-8255.
- Need help for domestic violence? Call toll-free: 800-799-7233 (SAFE).
- National Runaway Safeline 800-RUN-AWAY
- National Institute on Drug Abuse Hotline (800) 662-4357
- Rape, Sexual Assault, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) (800) 656-HOPE
*I am a nurse on disability and a survivor. These articles are not intended to be substituted for professional health guidance.
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