One of the darkest memories that I'm often reminded this time of the year is a story about my aunt and uncle who'd come to my grandmother's home for a holiday gathering. I remember looking at my aunt wondering if anyone saw what I saw. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the festivities, while I, young and naïve, sat staring at my aunt, wondering, "Do you see what I see?", it reminded me of the Christmas carol.
But this was no little lamb, no dancing star, no kite, no song high above the trees.
What did I see? I saw my aunt sitting on the couch, quiet in her own spirit, her face black and blue on one side, her eye closed, clumsily covered in makeup.
No one said anything. No one did anything. No one seemed to notice, but me.
Do you see what I see?
The holiday season, though joyous, is also a time that is very stressful and leads to greater rates of domestic violence. Not to mention the added pressures of a recession that makes it even more daunting. Not only can there be an increase in domestic violence incidents, they also sometimes go unreported, more often than not, given the holiday season. Besides, it's supposed to be a time of families coming together, happy homes, holiday festivities. Who wants to ruin this picturesque occasion? Who wants to be sitting in police barracks, standing before a judge, or worse yet, sitting behind the unfamiliar walls of a shelter? Not I. And certainly not the countless number of women, like my aunt, who come to the holiday party, covered in foundation and blush. Having come from four generations of mothers and daughters, all of whom who had once sat on that same couch, I certainly can appreciate why any woman would rather hide behind a mask, rather than report it. Shame brought us there, but silence kept us there.
If you are my aunt, know that there is help. Know that you do not have to sit there covered in secrecy and shame. Know that the silence, perpetuated, can be broken, that the chains of shame can be disbanded. There are so many waiting to help you. Reach out, talk to someone, tell somebody. Let today be your day. Call 1-800-799-SAFE, the National Domestic Violence Hotline and speak with someone in confidence.
And if you are the one sitting across from that couch, watching the proverbial mask, ignoring the obvious . . . Do you see what I see?
L.Y. Marlow, Author/Founder, Saving Promise