Column

Oliver: Let’s never forget those who have been affected by domestic violence

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

Painful echoes from the past always surface for me in October.

Never forget, we are told about traumatic events that we never want to see repeated.

Never forget, we tell ourselves when we want to keep a loved one’s memory alive, as if to spite the traumatic events that took them away from us.

Never forget, we ask the world so that they too can do something – anything – to make us feel that our pain wasn’t in vain.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

For those who have been touched personally by domestic violence or who live with its echoes, this is more than another marker on the calendar of causes.

I can’t help but remember those horrible days and nights in the wake of my friend Marie’s murder at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. She was a freshman at Northwestern University, and she had just become a pledge at my sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta.

Her body was found where he had dumped it in Skokie. She had been strangled and stabbed to death.

We were a sorority house full of teenage girls who had to make sense of this unspeakable horror. We had to somehow understand that this could happen to any one of us. It was a terrible wake-up call about the world we live in.

It’s something that I can never forget. And Marie is someone I can never forget.

Then there are the echoes of the stories another friend would relate about how her husband nearly choked her to death. How he would beg for her forgiveness and promise never to do it again. That was, until he would start drinking again and do it again.

Or the echoes of how another friend nearly died when her husband gave her a drink into which he had put glass shards in the hopes that she would drink it. Somehow she figured that out before she suffered any harm. That was one in a number of horrifying incidents that eventually led her to leave him and get help.

These are stories that I can never forget.

When you work in the news business, you know that it’s easy to forget. After all, these are hardly isolated incidents. McHenry County is hardly immune from the horrors of domestic violence. No place is.

Domestic violence isn’t isolated to one socioeconomic group. It isn’t isolated to one race or ethnicity. These days it isn’t even isolated to one gender.

Life amid a pandemic hasn’t helped, either. COVID-19 has brought abusers and their victims together in ways they might not have been before. The loss of jobs and freedom have added stress to already tenuous situations, like putting lighted matches next to powder kegs.

That’s why now, more than ever, we all must never forget. We can’t let these victims believe their abusers when they are told that they don’t matter and that no one cares about them.

In years past, Turning Point of McHenry County would host a candlelight vigil on the Woodstock Square to serve as a reminder of the work that still needs to be done here and everywhere.

This year, the event will be held virtually on Facebook live at 6 p.m. Oct. 7. To RSVP for the virtual event, visit Turning Point’s Facebook page at facebook.com/mchenrycountyturningpoint.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, know that you are not forgotten and that help is available.

If you live with the echoes of domestic violence, know that you aren’t alone.

Let’s continue to do all we can to help, not just in October, but year-round.

Let’s never forget.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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