TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook present a never-ending game of perception: A momentary window into what someone, somewhere allows others to see; the perception we can then interpret the lives of others. Funny, sad, reality, make-believe – only a moment. We have come to believe that by seeing someone’s social media, sitting together at a dinner table, having conversations over drinks, praying together in the church, working side by side 9 to 5, or putting a uniform on together, we know someone. People with whom we spend small pockets of time or who casually slip in and out of our life. The “masks” people wear when they step out of their front door each day can be elusive to all those who believe they know a person – even those with whom they sleep each night.
Years ago, a supervisor once said in a meeting that we spent so much time together in the workweek, we all knew each other more than our families. I heard nothing else in the meeting that morning, thinking we knew nothing about each other. Over the years, I had learned to master the public perceptions and play “the game.” As my husband perfected the art of donning and removing his mask, in turn, I learned how to maneuver life in secrecy, hiding my life in shame, hoping no one could see through the facade. No one could know of the abuse that awaited me when I went home at night. The police calls, protective orders, punched holes in walls (furniture, doors), hidden bruises, DUIs, and so on, were far too real.
For many victims of Domestic Violence, perception becomes a losing game, because we no longer know who is on our team and who is our enemy in “the game.” The popular myth is that our battles are only in our house.
WHAT ABOUT REPORTING?
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) estimates more than ten million adults experience domestic violence annually. The Department of Defense (DoD) reported ONLY 40,000 incidences of domestic violence from 2015 to 2019 met their “criteria.” A staggering difference in the world of reporting from DoD and Military to civilian DV reports for the United States in total. As victims, we lose awareness, and we see the world around us losing understanding.
WHAT OTHERS NEED TO KNOW
Knowledge is powerful. Knowing what Domestic Violence IS and understanding the long-term effects it carries takes DV from “Not my business” to “What can I do?” Knowing that domestic violence is in every community, and affects all people regardless of age, race, gender, socioeconomics, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality, can help remove the stigma. Domestic Violence affects each generation….and the lasting effects are forever.
It is not only physical abuse. It is also sexual, psychological, financial, and verbal abuse.
DON’T WE HAVE LAWS?
In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA), becoming the steppingstone for domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual assault — making Domestic Violence a crime. Since 1994, legislation that has followed provided enhancement, guidelines, and funding in the United States, until it expired in 2018, leaving programs across the country to falter, and victims and their children to once again question where to turn in need.
In spring 2021, the House introduced, H.B. 1620, Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2021, yet as we approach winter 2021the legislative piece sits in the Senate; 3 years after expiration.
The military did not hold Domestic Violence crimes accountable until January 2019 under the Uniformed Military Code of Justice (UCMJ). As of 2021, these crimes still must meet “criteria” and can fall under Commander discretion to proceed.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? If you know someone affected by Domestic Violence: Listen. Be there. Be on their team! Let them know that you are there for them. Contact your state legislators and let them know that no matter whether they are military members or civilians, your loved ones should always have the protection they need.
If you are a victim of Domestic Violence, know you are not alone. Feeling anxious, scared, emotional, numb? These are all normal emotions. Recognizing you are in an abusive relationship and that you need to get out? Be proud of yourself. Seek help and safety.
Here are national agencies to help you on your path:
Domestic Violence Hotline
National Coalition Against
It is time for everyone to seek help and urge those in positions of authority to assess existing procedures and question certain long-standing policies.
Lara Sabanosh grew up in various parts of the country and for a time, lived overseas in Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), where she was an education service facilitator at the Fleet and Family Support Center and became acting director in December 2013. She spent much of her adult life as a wife, mother and student, eventually completing two doctoral degrees. Six years in the making, her new book,Caged is an honest and introspective memoir detailing the never-before-told other side of an international, headline story, taking readers through the first twenty years of her tumultuous marriage to Christopher Tur, to events as she lived them on the night he went missing and the aftermath. Sabanosh is currently retired from government service, residing quietly in Pensacola, Florida, surrounded by her loving family, dogs, and grand puppies. For more information see Lara Sabanosh.