Sebastian tells his own account of how domestic violence has become a very close issue to him. In this piece, he wants to show people that it is an issue that is much closer than we think, and that most people are not sure how to react to it, both as victims or as witnesses.
“You are an asshole, you make my life miserable”
In just a moment, the violence of these words filled the air. It was 6:35 a.m. on a cold Tuesday morning. There was no need for alarm clock to get out of bed. The words are so hard to hear but it is the sincerity in the tone of her voice what makes them so hurtful. Then, silence. What are you supposed to say? Violence is an extended phenomenon in our society: war, racial and religious conflict, starvation and social exclusion. The vast majority of people are detached from it, living their lives as if it could never happen to them. But what about if it does? What happens when violence hits home?
Gender based violence (GBV) is a pervasive force that affects primarily women. The World Health Organization (WHO) shows that “35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime”. If you are in a room with your mother, your cousin and your aunt, the chances are that one of them may have experienced violence in their lifetime. This is a scary fact, specially when you realise that such violence will likely have come from a men you know. But as a man, you never think that you are going to be the one abused. In our current conception of masculinity, men are protectors, providers and those who hold and excersises power not those at whom abused is directed.
Before, it only happened in the mornings, some mornings. Then, it happened on Saturdays, Sunday’s after church. It became the new way to communicate with each other. The monologue expanded, her words were getting louder, her insults stronger. His silence became words, and his words became insults, and his insults became the norm.
“I hate you“
“You are a moron”
Her voice got louder and his insults are timidly growing. The escalation of verbal abuse is evident and the question lingering becomes harder to ignore: what is going to happen next? In the US, more than 60% of domestic violence incidents happens at home and 85% of the domestic violence victims are women. This means that 15% of victims of domestic abused are men. Men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators but they also are the victims. In Washington DC, in 2013 every 16 minutes a call was made to the DC Metropolitan Police regarding domestic violence. In the same city, the average commute takes 35 minutes. This means that by the time it took a person to get from home to work in DC, at least two people had reported a domestic violence incident. At least one of each ten calls received is reporting abuse against a man.
Last night, I went to bed late. But it did not matter much. It was 6.42 a.m. when the insults began. It is disturbing, really disturbing. How can anyone live like this? I m still in bed, and I am growing tired of this situation. I turned around and looked at my wife. She is silently stearing at me. We kissed good morning and hold each others hands. Our neighborhs are figthing again. The thin walls of the crowded city makes privacy a lost privilege. I kissed her forehead, I looked at the ceiling looking for the right words. I wonder, if as mere witnesses of this situation our daily life has been disrupted, how is it for them? Is it ever going to stop? Where is this going to lead them?
I take a moment to say the words, but the more I think about them, the more sense they make. I get closer to my wife, I whispered in her ear, afraid of asking the question ,“ How do we know when it is time to call the police?”