A Word About Domestic Abuse
People in relationships face constant challenges to maintain healthy connections. And when these connections fail, it is our human nature to descend into decadent behaviors, wielding weapons to defend and control our environments. Some may pout, yell, withdraw, or leave. And while all of these mechanisms are destructive to our relationships, one line must never be crossed.
While the vast majority of my writing is on leadership, I wanted to share my heart on this today because as leaders, I believe we must face this epidemic together.
As a family doctor, I have seen too many women physically battered by their significant others. We all know the story. Arguments. Alcohol. A push, a shove. A slap, a kick…a punch. It’s ugly. And though it is difficult to think about and address, we must. We must have conversations about abuse if we are to successfully confront it as a society.
One Woman’s Story
Not too long ago, I saw a patient with the Chief Complaint of ear pain. I thought I would be treating a common sinus infection, but this visit was different.
This woman in her early thirties was pleasant, professionally dressed, and worked at a very well known company in a well paying job. She told me that she was accidentally slapped. As a result, her ear felt painful and her hearing seemed muffled. It was clear she did not want to tell me who slapped her, but I took her at her word and thought maybe she was playing around with a friend or a family member and was unintentionally slapped.
I looked into her ear. Normally I see a nice shiny eardrum. Instead I saw a red, mildly bloody eardrum with a big hole with jagged edges right in the middle of it.
I stood back and looked at her intently, “You have a ruptured eardrum.” She stared at me in disbelief. I then rubbed my thumb and index finger next her other ear and asked if she could hear that. She said yes. It’s a common test doctors use to check for hearing. I did the same next to the ruptured ear. She could not hear.
So I sat down and explained to her that this must have been a hard slap right over the ear, to which she agreed. I said, “I will give you antibiotic drops. Many times, eardrums will close up and heal on their own. However, sometimes surgery is required.” And that last statement seemed to trigger something in my patient’s mind.
I stepped out of the room to see if we could set the patient up with an ear specialist. And when I came back in she said, “Doctor, I want to tell you something. It was my husband who slapped me. And I want you to give me documentation of the medical facts in case I want to file this with the police.” I was not totally surprised that it was her husband. Just a bit saddened. It always bothers me to see my patients hurt in a cycle of violence. I was proud of her for having the courage to admit it and a desire to be proactive about confronting her present reality. But my pride would soon turn into disappointment again.
As she left, I hoped that she would be safe and prayed that healing would occur. Twenty minutes later, a staff member notified me that the patient’s husband was here and was asking for her. We could not give him any information as she had not given us permission to do so.
Later she sat in the parking lot in her car where we could see her husband gesturing to her. So we called 9-1-1. The police came. They talked to the couple. Then the officer came in and talked to me for further details. I was disheartened to hear from him that the wife had denied that her husband had hurt her.
I had really hoped the husband would be confronted. But he wasn’t today. She protected him. Like many others in her situation, she probably hoped the abuse would not happen again. But unless there are changes, abuse will happen again. And again. And again. Perhaps one day, she will be convinced that there is no stopping it, and she will leave.
But today was not that day.
What can I do?
I am not an expert in the area of domestic abuse and will not offer generalizations or solutions here. But what I do know is that change requires leadership. Whether it is one person choosing to stand up and take steps toward leading a better life for himself or herself, or a community which supports victims and confronts violators: leadership is required. Here is one simple way we can each take action below.
Actionable Step: Reach out. If you or someone you know is involved in physical abuse, please reach out for help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be contacted through this link or at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Donations can also be made at that website to support those who need help.
Thanks for allowing me to share a sensitive—yet critical—topic with you today.
Reading now:Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God’s Prophetic Plan for Ishmael’s Line, written by Southwestern Theological Seminary Professor, Dr. Tony Maalouf.
For Further Reading: