The Land of the Free

Today, we celebrate our independence as a nation.  We give thanks to the brave men and women of our country who have paid the ultimate price for us to gain and maintain the many freedoms that we enjoy.  We know that we are blessed by our many freedoms – the freedom to vote, to speak our minds, to worship our own God,  to make our own decisions about where we live, where we work, whom we marry, and how we spend our time.  The 4th of July is a time to recognize and rejoice in the fact that we live in a country where we have choices and freedoms that many nations do not have and that we often may take for granted.

On this Independence Day, however, we must also recognize that while we live in a free nation, there are many within this country who live in bondage behind closed doors.  In the United States, one out of every four women report that they have been abused by a spouse or dating partner.  Many others will never report their victimization.  A victim of domestic violence not only lives in fear of physical harm.  She also lives in a world that is void of all freedoms.  She is isolated from family and friends.  Every aspect of her life is controlled by someone else – her finances, her whereabouts, her daily activities, the way she dresses, who she spends time with – the list goes on and on.  A victim of domestic violence may live in the land of the free.  But, in her world, freedom does not exist. 

I read an article today in the New York Times about a woman who killed her husband after enduring years of abuse – http://nyti.ms/iuDbkY.  She is now being charged with second degree murder for her actions.  This is a tragic story on many levels as we think about the years of abuse that this woman faced, her children (now adults) who were forced to witness this violence in their home as they were growing up, and the fact that this story ended with a homicide and a murder charge.  But, I think the most tragic aspect of this story is the fact that, in our nation of freedom and independence, there are still people who are so oppressed and controlled that they think that death is the only path to freedom.  This story is unfortunately not unique.  Victims of domestic violence are at a much higher risk for suicide or homicide, because they may not know any other way to be free from the oppression and fear that they are enduring from their abuser.  Victims may be so isolated that they have no support, thinking that there is no way out.  Often, they are not aware of local community resources such as Safe Harbor or other local domestic violence programs for victims. 

On this Independence Day, I hope that you will join Safe Harbor in our effort to reach out to victims.  Put brochures for your local domestic violence program in your workplace or place of worship.  Discuss the issue of domestic violence with your neighbors, colleagues, or within your faith community- brainstorming ways that you may be able to provide support or proper referrals to those within your community who might need help.  Together, we can raise awareness and bring help to victims who may be living in chains behind closed doors.  Together, we can help all people within our nation to gain the freedom that we all deserve.