Staff column: Thankful for a safe home, free of domestic violence

Sifting through upsetting statistics on domestic violence and learning the stories and scenarios that can lead to these troubling situations has really made me realize how thankful I am to have a safe, loving family.

Over the past several weeks, I have spent many hours talking to law enforcement Domestic Abuse Response Teams and domestic abuse advocates to learn the dynamics of domestic violence for “Behind Closed Doors,” our three-part domestic violence series. With the high amount of domestic homicides across the state, and in Eden Prairie in particular, domestic violence is an issue that cannot be ignored, even though it is so often unacknowledged in the families and relationships it affects.

With the culmination of the completion of the three-part series and Thanksgiving, it seemed especially poignant to reflect on my own life and the lack of domestic violence I have had to experience.

Throughout my findings on the topic, I found it interesting to observe not only the victims of domestic violence, but also the offenders, who were often victims themselves. Children are adversely affected by abuse at a young age, and often learn the concepts of love and relationships from their parents. A child that is either submitted to abuse from their parents, or views abuse or domestic violence between their parents, can be left with emotional and mental scars that can lead to domestic violence in the form of bullying and anger, which can affect their later relationships.

I am so thankful that I grew up with two caring parents who showed love and respect for one another and their children.

I never had to be afraid to go home for fear that I would be abused.

I never had to run away or find shelter.

No matter what mistakes I made, I knew I would be accepted with open arms.

While I was lucky enough to be born into a safe home, there are many children who are not given this benefit. The amount of domestic violence can vary greatly from year to year, but the problem will always remain. All crime is terrible in its own way, but domestic violence stands out as a debilitating crime that involves intimate relationships, complicating the issue beyond repair.

How can someone love you and hurt you at the same time?

If your first experience with relationships involves abuse, it is hard to know otherwise. My limited experience with abusive relationships consists of dealing with the kind of verbal backstabbing and hurtful gossip that all girls deal with growing up, of which I played both parts. And arguments among friends and siblings are not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to domestic violence.

It’s easy for those of us, like me, who have never truly experienced domestic violence to ignore or forget the issue. Just like human trafficking and many other issues that fly under the radar and are hidden behind closed doors, unless we recognize domestic violence and become aware of the situation, it will only continue to chip away at society and even take lives, like the 37 lives throughout the state that were lost to domestic violence just this year.

Domestic violence may not be an issue for me personally, but I can only hope working on a project like this can expose the issue to those who are unaware, and better inform them of the signs to look for in their own friends and family. And more importantly, I hope both victims and offenders are able to read the series and recognize their own problems, and realize that there are so many resources, advocacy groups, shelters and programs in the community that are more than willing to provide help to those in need.

I am thankful for a life free of domestic violence, but I will not forget those who are not as fortunate. I will not turn a blind eye if I witness domestic violence. And while I no longer live with my parents and siblings, I know that they will always be there, in a way that will never hurt.

Contact Natalie Conrad at natalie.conrad@ecm-inc.com

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