Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Did Somebody Hit You?

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

She sent me a link to the pictures, blithely posted on Facebook. Her closed eye was engorged to the size and tone of a plum, a large, ripe plum big enough to stifle — oh, I don’t know, Rush Limbaugh, perhaps. Surely big enough to indicate serious damage and pain. Indeed, big enough to pucker my motherly derriere up to my earlobes and launch me from Fallbrook to the University of California Santa Cruz, where my precious, bloodied child needed me.

And then she stood before me, teary-eyed, swollen and bruised, waiting for me to fix it.

But what could I do?

Well, try not to cry, for starters. Pull her to the comfort of my maternal bosom. Hold her and tell her it’ll be okay.

“But, when?” she implored. “And what if my eyebrow doesn’t grow back? I hate my life.”

So much for my comforting bosom.

At least we could both take comfort that it was not an abusive fist that battered my kid, but an unkempt road, a road harboring over-sized, bicycle wheel-grabbing gaps between old train tracks and lumpy asphalt.

DomViolBannerIt’s a road that deserves a good jackhammering, but it’s too low on the Santa Cruz totem pole compared to the need to invest in social awareness campaigns; for instance, the Domestic Violence Awareness Month banners I noticed driving into town. Those puppies were well hoisted, while the dastardly train tracks dumped a near-death experience on my baby.

Well, okay, I exaggerate. And, truth be told, I like the banners. In fact, I love the banners. I pointed them out to my daughter on the way to pick up copious amounts of feel-good food. I asked her if anyone had tried to rescue her from an abusive partner, a black eye being such a common red flag for domestic violence — you know, the old “I walked into the closet door” alert.

But nope. In this enlightened town of progressive academics, gracefully aging hippies, medical marijuana peddlers, tree-loving hemp wearers, locally roasted and cold-brewed coffee vendors, devoted political activists and banana slugs,* no one checked to make sure she wasn’t a victim of abuse. Not a professor, not one feminist studies student, not a single concerned and domestic violence-aware person.

So much for the banners.

Oh, she did get plenty of stares — from students, from kids in the grocery store checkout line, from the equally battered and downtrodden homeless on Pacific Avenue — and her adorable Latin professor kindly asked if she were okay.

But no one uttered the most important words, the most hopeful words, the words that can mean the difference between life and death for a battered woman: Did somebody hit you? Because if somebody hit you, it’s not okay. You don’t deserve it. It's not your fault. It’s a crime. If somebody hit you, let me help you.

These are the words of someone who is truly aware of domestic violence. They were spoken to me one hot summer’s night in a hospital emergency room. They saved my life — and allowed me to eventually have my daughter.

I like these words. In fact, I love these words. I suppose they’d make a lousy patch for the crummy road, but I wonder if maybe they’d make a good banner.

For more information:

If you want to help, use those words whenever you find yourself wondering, and visit your local domestic violence prevention agency or the Family Violence Prevention Fund.

If you are a victim of violence, leave your abuser, go to your local shelter, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website or call 800-799-SAFE (7233). Save yourself, Sweetie.

Love, K-B 760-522-1064 — call me, because being hit once is indeed domestic violence

*The banana slug is the UCSC mascot. No kidding.

©2009 Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Note: This piece is cross-posted at the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

(Photo from the Santa Cruz City Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women.)