It’s easy sometimes to take for granted a loving family and friends, a safe and secure home, schools and community, particularly when we realize the considerable number of women and children across the country whose lives are filled each day with the chaos, fear and hopelessness of domestic violence.
As I walked down the sprawling hallway at the Balboa Bay Club a little over a week ago for Human Options’ annual luncheon, there was an air of congeniality that pervaded the ballroom which was filled to capacity. The positive energy didn’t belie the seriousness of the luncheon’s subject matter – the shame, terror and denial of domestic violence.
During the luncheon, keynote speaker, acclaimed actor and New York Times best-selling author, Victor Rivas Rivers took the podium and began telling the story of a boy, his mother and three siblings who lived in a modest suburban Los Angeles home in the 1960s.
From the outside, they seemed like any other immigrant family who had come to the United States seeking a better life than the one they left behind in Cuba, but the reality was they were all being terrorized by a tyrannical father and husband who beat and verbally berated them virtually around the clock.
Fearing for his life and those of his family, the boy reached out to authorities for help but was told that the situation was “a private family matter.” Sadly, at the time, domestic violence was not a circumstance in which authorities would intervene, and there were no organizations like Human Options to provide the resources necessary for victims to escape.
As we listened to Rivas Rivers tell this boy’s horrifying tale, I looked around the room and saw many guests with tears in their eyes, men and women alike. I suspect there were not just a few in the audience who on some level, have felt the sting of the domestic violence of which he spoke.
At a point in the story in which I thought this poor family could take no more, Victor revealed that the story he was telling was his own. It was his father who was the abuser, it is his gripping story he reveals in his book “A Private Family Matter.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, I am not a woman,” he noted. “The fact is, domestic violence is everyone’s issue.”
Rivas Rivers is the national spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and as such uses his own harrowing story to raise awareness about what he considers to be greatest, yet most curable of diseases. Thanks to his willingness to talk about his own story of shame, denial and finally, freedom, he helps to shine a light in some of the darkest corners of our society. More importantly he spreads the word of hope and survival.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The statistics surrounding its cause are staggering and affect nearly every aspect of daily living. Nearly one in four women will be physically assaulted by a partner in their lifetimes; one in five teens experience dating violence; 90 percent of elder abuse is committed by family members; the cost of domestic violence to American business is more than $4 billion a year, and the list goes on.
Thanks to organizations like Human Options, which helps battered women, their families and the community break the cycle of domestic violence, women like Victor’s mother, now have somewhere to turn.
Unfortunately, over the last 18 months, Human Options has had to make cuts in their programs, eliminating 9 positions and reducing the hours of others. Projected cuts of over $400,000 in the Governor’s budget will greatly affect Human Options’ ability to provide the vital services needed from therapists, case managers, legal advocates, child counselors and more. Despite these challenges, Human Options continues to provide emergency shelter and transitional living programs that help abused women and their children rebuild their lives.
If you or someone you know is suffering physical or psychological domestic violence, don’t be afraid to reach out. Contact Human Options 24-hour hotline at 877-854-3594.
For more information about supporting or volunteering with Human Options, log on to www.humanoptions.org or call 949-737-5242.
You can also shop at Classy Seconds Resale Boutique on 17th Street in Costa Mesa, where all proceeds go to support breaking the cycle of family violence.
Columnist Lynn Selich resides in Newport Beach. Follow her on Facebook at Lynn Selich-Columnist and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnselich.