The below was originally published in The Commercial Appeal, Dec 4th, 2018.
You see her walk in. You say hello to her, and as you do she immediately averts her eyes while saying a muffled “hello” in response.
As she tries to breeze past you as quickly as possible, you can’t help but notice the bruises on her arms, or the slight discoloration around her eye.
Concerned, you take her aside and ask if she is OK. She replies that she is, that it was just her nephew who accidentally hit her with a toy, or that she tripped and fell, or any number of other plausible explanations.
The problem, however, is that you are acutely aware that she is covering up the fact that someone close to her – an adult, usually a spouse or significant other – has abused her. Such abuse is extremely common.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence is one of the most chronically under-reported crimes. Only 25% of all physical assaults, 20% of rapes, and 50% of stalking cases perpetrated against females by their partners are reported to the police.
Victims who actually do report do so after they have been assaulted by her partner (or ex-partner) an average of 35 times. Thirty-five times. Think about that.
The reasons for not reporting are wide and varied. It could be because the victims are embarrassed, or they could be deathly afraid of retaliation, or perhaps because of economic dependency.
No matter the reason, this must change and society must embrace the fact that a lot more of this goes on than we may want to admit, and it cannot be swept under the rug.
As the owner of two music venues and restaurants in Memphis, I have known numerous people who have been victims of this type of abuse. It is always a cycle.
The ones who will open up and talk to you about it about it tend to go back to the same abusive person, because in part there isn’t enough support around them to enable them to break the cycle.
Unfortunately, over the past five years, I’ve come to know customers and employees both who have been victims of abuse. Some of them tragically lost their lives, and it is heartbreaking.
Recently I found out about an important organization in Memphis called the Family Safety Center of Memphis and Shelby County (familysafetycenter.org). Its mission is to provide assistance to the victims of domestic abuse by helping them find and access the many civil, criminal, health and social services for victims of violence.
It’s a mission we all should support.
We cannot sit back and ignore this problem and pretend it does not exist. We have to let victims know there are people who truly care about them and want to help, and there are resources available to help protect them and provide services they need.
And remember, if you need help now, please call the FSC 24-hour Crisis Line at 901-249-7611.
The first “Rockin’ for Hope” was held Dec. 8 at RockHouse Live Memphis, 5709 Raleigh LaGrange. Proceeds from ticket sales will go directly to the Family Safety Center of Memphis and Shelby County. For more information visit rockhouselive.com.
Zach Bair is owner of both RockHouse Live locations in Memphis, and the CEO & Chairman of VNUE, Inc., a music technology company based in New York.