Domestic Violence doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t care what race you are, doesn’t care about your age or your gender. Domestic Violence impacts us all in a myriad of ways.
Recently a woman gazing at one of my ugly paintings, contacted me to say that I should paint the roles in reverse. I didn’t respond. How could I respond & gently say, that either way it would still be domestic violence.
Of course I could physically add paint and brushstrokes anywhere on the canvas, as she said “reverse the painting”, but then it might be less effective. Because society still views women as the lesser sex, a vulnerable damsel in distress, and while I don’t quite agree… for the purposes of this series, I used that motifs to make a point, as a more poignant way to bring attention to the horror called domestic violence.
And it had worked, because in my effort to make an ugly thing visible, here this woman had saw it! And while it wasn’t exactly the response I had hoped for, because her empathy was absent, it still was an emotional response. This woman, who disconnected to protect herself from a bad memory, a reality that she had or hadn’t been able to escape.
So if I paint another series of domestic violence, where the roles are reverse and a woman is depicted punching a man. Would that evoke the empathy I hoped for? Would it make you dig deep into your pocket and donate? As if role reversal were the solution. No matter what I paint, I haven’t painted the ugliness away. But I wish I could.
The statistics are mind boggling, 1 in 3 women are victims. And to the point of role reversal, 1 in 4 men are victims of violence. And during Corona Virus, a global pandemic that has seen us locked inside our homes, many with their abusers, the situation has only gotten worse.
This ugly art that I do, is my way to pay it forward, to bring attention to the numbers & maybe begin the good conversation. Because we can do better than this, we aren’t cave dwellers, we have language and the power to use our words.
My best friend Sheila’s mother was killed by her father, and Sheila was removed from her house and our neighborhood. We didn’t enter third grade together. I didn’t have her to skip with me, to giggle with me or to help me tie my shoes anymore. Poof! Sheila was gone.
So many lives were impacted by that one violent act. And from but from my perspective, where the id and the ego were still in development, all I knew was that my friend was taken away. No one checked or bothered to ask how I felt, it was compounded by the fact that school had let out for Summer break, so there was no classroom support; no teachers who might’ve hugged me & helped me to understood the pain.
The next school year began and I was less giggly. That was the year that I punched my teacher, Mr. Santiago. He was a retired military man, who sometimes wore his uniform to school. Proudly.
I punched him because he said I would have to stay after school for talking. I didn’t want to stay after school because I didn’t have anyone to walk home with me. Had he asked, I would’ve told him that it was dangerous in my neighborhood for a little girl to walk home from school, alone. It was late autumn and dusk seemed to come sooner.
But he didn’t ask and I punched him in the arm. I’m absolutely sure I hadn’t hurt him. Because after I punched him, I bounced and I must’ve lost my footing, because I landed on my rear and went sliding across the floor. He just stood there, while the class laughed, and he turned beet red from embarrassment. My punishment was swift, I was sent to the principal’s office, and I was told that my mother would be called.
And that was something I would’ve giggled about, because we didn’t own a phone. So, after the principal and her secretary realized that the couldn’t reach my mother, I was suspended and sent home. The end result was what I wanted, that was to get out of school, when it was safe for a little girl to walk home alone with her friend Sheila.
Of course, in order for me to return to school, I had to write an apology note to the teacher and I had to read it in front of the whole class. In my apology I thanked him for protecting us and serving our country. That last part got to Mr. Santiago he was nice to me, told me I could take a seat and that I had written a very kind letter.
In hindsight, I was beginning to realize that words do matter. That people could be persuaded to see things differently just by speaking, that words could be used instead of fists. I never used my small balled up fists to hit a teacher again.
Truth is, Domestic Violence is a vicious cycle, it crosses generations and sometimes does irreparable damage to one’s self-esteem, breaks a family’s bond and interrupts a child’s development.
So where does anger go, when it’s not released? Is it displaced? Do we lash out, because of frustrations? Where does it end?
October is Domestic Awareness Month. I paint ugly art, that you might see it. Compassion is taught, but empathy is natural and when put together the two are empowering. Yes, we can do better.
If someone you know, someone you love or if you are being abused call for help. And if you’re an abuser, there’s help for that too.
Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) TTY 1-800-787-3224