There are some nightmares you can never seem to chase from your memory; they seem to haunt you with every passing step, following you wherever you go. There are nightmares so vivid and true that you are scared to sleep because once your eyes close, the nightmare can once again take roost in your mind, never leaving. And then, there are events so brutal you beg for them to be just a nightmare:
A woman, ravaged by the effects of cancer, sits in her home, weak from her day's chemotherapy treatment. Her husband walks into the house, carrying in an armful of groceries, and yells to her, "Get in here and put these away!"
So weak she can hardly muster an answer, she meekly replies in a whisper, "I can't. I'm too sick."
"I don't care how you feel. I have been working all day, and I am not about to do all the work around here. Get in here and put this stuff away," he says as his figure darkens her bedroom doorway.
"I can't even hold my head up; I am sorry, you will just have to put them away yourself. I just can't do it today."
"Oh, I will put them away," he says as he raises a can of food in his hands and launches the projectile at her weak body, striking her in the face, instantly bruising her fragile cheek. He rushes the bed and pulls her body out from under the covers, onto the floor, a look in his eyes all too familiar to her; the look that meant he would not be stopping anytime soon.
He cocks his foot backward and kicks her, nearly dislodging her shunt from her chest.
"Now, get in the kitchen and put away the groceries. Now!"
Somehow the woman manages to crawl to the kitchen and pull herself up on the counter to attempt to put away the food. Pleased with the results, the man leaves. It was that night she finally decided to get help.
It is a true story – an account that I truly wish was just a graphic dream, instead of a recreation of the past. Sadly, it is not an uncommon story, and there are millions of others like it.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I am doing my best to shed a light on a crime that affects almost every family in the United States. Across our nation, millions of women and children are being victimized by a crime that gets less press coverage than minor political indiscretions or even a quarterback's injured shoulder.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline's Web site, www.ndvh.org, 4 million American women experience a serious assault by a partner during an average 12-month period (a statistic that only includes those who report the crime). In addition, they estimate that one-in-three women are assaulted by a partner at some point in their life. Next time you are in a big lecture hall – or even a large room – look around and count out one in three women; it's a truly frightening realization.
Domestic violence is not a crime that takes place in poor households or affluent ones. It is a non-discriminate crime that has no relation to race or age, and it should matter to each and every one of us. In fact, according to the American Bar Association's Web site, www.abanet.org, women ages 19 to 29 reported more violence by intimate partners than any other age group.
It is a problem every generation faces, and yet, many of its perpetrators face a lighter punishment than someone who possesses an ounce of marijuana or steals someone's dog. If they do not use a deadly weapon in the attack, they will most likely be prosecuted for battery, a misdemeanor that often does not even carry mandatory jail time. As much as I sympathize with lost dogs, I think a man who beats his wife, girlfriend or child deserves an exponentially harsher punishment. If I were a lawmaker, my first move would be to lobby for more intense punishments for those who commit the heinous acts that put women and children in hospitals each and everyday.
So, now that we are aware of what is going on, what can we do? Awareness is the key. The more comfortable victims are with reporting the crime, the better chance they have of getting out of the relationship safely. If you hear about someone being threatened or victimized, it is your responsibility to help that person. Tell them about the resources that exist to help them, like hotlines and shelters, and encourage them to report the crime. We cannot sit by and watch those around us get hurt. It is happening even as you read this column, and the time to act is now. Please do not let domestic violence remain as America's most silent crime.
Victims of domestic violence or those who feel they are in danger can contact Crossroads, Larimer County's domestic violence shelter, for assistance on the crisis line: 482-3502 or toll free at (888) 541-SAFE. Those interested in helping victims of domestic violence can contact Crossroads at 482-3535.
Jake Blumberg is a sophomore technical journalism and political science double major. His column runs every Monday.