Breaking Away

This past month, I’ve had several wonderful opportunities to speak to book groups about Skipping Stones, and I’m amazed by the interest women my age have in domestic violence. Most of the women I’ve spoken to are what we call “women of means” – affluent, highly educated, successful in their own right. They want to know the facts, particularly what causes a man to become an abuser; why women stay; why, on average, they leave and return to the abusive relationship an average of four times.

Something interesting occurred at my most recent presentation. A participant came right out and asked her friends how many of them know women who are or have been in abusive situations. There were thirty-three women there. Out of the thirty-three, fourteen women raised their hands. The statistics are that one in every three women will, at some point in their lives, be involved in a violent relationship.

How do abused women break away? How do they break the silence? That is the central focus of the book, and one of the major points of discussion at the book clubs. For affluent women like my character, Jess, the process often begins with someone close to them really paying attention to their moods, their appearance, their overall health, and the small openings that the victims leave in conversations. In the case of Jess, it is her young nephew who became the catalyst for change – the only one in the home who had known unconditional love and open communication. Victims are hesitant to talk about how they’re living. They’re afraid; embarrassed; ashamed; lost, believing that they are somehow at fault.

Women…help other women and their innocent children. Learn about domestic violence. Listen, observe, and reach out to women you suspect are being abused. Communicate in an honest and sincere way. Break the silence. Offer help. Be a good friend, a caring mother or sister, a compassionate co-worker. You just may end up saving a life.

Be the Gull!

One of my favorite books is Jonathon Livingston Seagull. In it, Jonathon risks family, friends, and his own safety to reach his full potential in order to realize his dream to fly higher, to see the world in a different perspective, and to encourage others to do the same. In my book, Skipping Stones, after reading about Jonathon, Josh, Ben and Katie vow to “Be the Gull!” and whisper their own individual dreams to each other outside their home on New Year’s Eve. The statement becomes their mantra and motivates them to begin their journey to break out of their lethargy and to escape from the violence they endure inside their home. They dare to dream, and their intent to pursue their goals encourages Jess to find her voice and to finally communicate to the people she loves and trusts how she and her children live.

The story of Jonathon is inspirational for all of us and reminds us that each of us is unique and has particular gifts to offer to the world. We have the right – the responsibility – to use our gifts and to pursue our dreams, however simple or lofty they might be. When that right is taken away, we are lost.