On a morning when most of the news involves the ecstasy of Russian Olympics and the agony of its bordering state, Ukraine (where the city of Kiev is about to implode), the ratio of 1:5 is what sticks in my craw. According to the White House, one in five women in college will be raped. I don’t know about you, but I found this to be rather alarming.
Equally infuriating is that one in three teenage relationships has experienced dating violence. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26263171
Our little town has been singled out recently for two contradictory things: 1) Charlottesville has been voted the second most “Friendliest” small city in America http://www.movoto.com/blog/top-ten/friendliest-small-cities/; and 2) the One Love Foundation has developed a new App to help students and their friends assess their level of dating danger http://www.joinonelove.org.
Just weeks before her graduation from UVA in 2010, lacrosse player Yeardley Love was killed by her ex-boyfriend. Her mother and sister have started the One Love Foundation in order to address dating violence and educate students about the signs and symptoms of a relationship on the brink of chaos.
The “One” represents the number Yeardley wore on her jersey during her high school and college lacrosse career. The number has since been retired by the University of Virginia in her memory.
The Bride volunteered at a rape crisis center on her Duke campus. And I’ve just found out that my cousin Anita, in Richmond is being trained as a volunteer advocate for rape and abuse cases in her local hospital’s Emergency Department. I was surprised at my immediate reaction to this news; I was proud of her at once, while knowing deep down I could never do it.
It pains me to admit it, but I know I would want the women to immediately leave their abuser, to get a restraining order, to go into the witness protection program if need be and move to Arizona. I’d buy the plane ticket! This is most likely the same reason I could never see myself becoming a psychologist, like my MIL Ada or my brother Dr Jim, it’s just not in my DNA to suffer for days and weeks and years on end vicariously with patients.
It’s not that I don’t feel compassion for the abused, but I would have trouble feeling empathy. I cringed when I wrote this, so I had to look up the word – empathy “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” And I guess it’s true, because I myself would be the first one out the door if a man ever tried to hit or rape me, I can’t really identify with women who stay. I learned to love from my foster father Jim Mahon, and it never included a raised hand or a harsh word.
And I get that the abuse comes on slowly, that the abuser is so remorseful and kind after the incident and soothes his victim into thinking it will never happen again; he just has to stop drinking so much or she just has to make his eggs a certain way. I know it’s a slow insidious dance of death – if not physical, an emotional disconnect from her family and friends that strangles any hope of salvation.
I wonder if an App can help a victim understand she is in danger, or can it help one of her friends in our friendly city to alert her parents or a counselor? If it can, then I applaud One Love, which means more than just a number on a jersey. If we never learn to cherish and love ourselves, we can never expect others to do the same.
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