We were having a casual lunch on the Square one Saturday last month when my phone made that chirpy glass clinking noise indicating I had a new message. Three of our granddaughters were in for the weekend and lunch on the Square is always a highlight. I glanced down to check the incoming message and realized it was being sent through Mission Granbury’s website. The girls continued with their lively conversation while I read the message.
It was, as many are, from a woman in crisis. Their messages are never long and always urgent. They start out the same. “Can you help me? I need a place to stay where he can’t find me.” Then they take off in all sorts of directions. “I’m in my car and he’s following me. I don’t know where to go. If I pull over, he’ll get to me before I can get inside.” Some are even more desperate. “I just grabbed my baby and ran. I’m hiding behind the convenience store. I’m hiding at my friend’s house. I’m hiding at my mom’s. I’m sure he’s going to find me and if he does, he’ll kill me.” And sadly, statistics support that claim.
I excused myself from the table and stepped outside to make a call that would put the victim in touch with our hotline advocate so we could start the process to get her to safety. As I spoke, I peered through the restaurant window and watched the girls as they scrolled through their phone apps, laughing and taking an occasional selfie. They’re beautiful, vibrant and smart and they had no idea who I was talking to or why - and I had no plans to ruin our whole afternoon by telling them. I chose not to have the conversation.
But I should have, because we don’t have those conversations with our children enough. We talk to them about stranger danger and protecting their personal space. But do we tell them about the warning signs of a dangerous relationship - how possessive behavior can quickly turn into obsessive behavior and control becomes the weapon of choice? Do we teach our sons that they too can be victims of date rape and domestic abuse? Do we teach them to stand up against abusive behavior by their class mates or team mates? Do we teach our daughters to do the same thing? Do we tell them it’s not about risking your popularity but about saving a life?
Last year, almost 195,000 people reported an incident of abuse in Texas, a 5% increase over 2014. Of the nearly 16,000 people who sought safe shelter from an abuser, 39% were turned away because of lack of space. Our Ada Carey Shelter served 284 women and children in the most recent fiscal year. The numbers are staggering.
Almost every week, we meet a donor or volunteer who says they’re giving their time or financial support to Mission Granbury because they’ve been where our victims are. Some are years away from the abuse - their wounds have healed but they still bear the scars. Others are not so far from it and the tears flow freely when they share their stories. They survived, but the heartache and humiliation remains close to the surface.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. What better time to start the conversation with your child about how to prevent it, what to do if they see or suspect abuse, how important it is to tell someone about it. Keep the lines of communication open and take the topic off the taboo list. Educating them is our best hope for protecting their future.