This morning when I woke up, I had a bruise on the lower left side of my back. It was about the size of a large head of lettuce and had the shape somewhat like a football. I also had a bruise on the inside of my right thigh. Of course, I expected the bruises to be there this morning because they were there last night when I went to bed.
As it turns out, yesterday morning when I was showering, the shower curtain must not have been drawn completely and a bit more water ended up on the floor than should have. So, when lifted my leg over the rim of the tub and placed it down on the tiled floor I slipped, lost my balance and came crashing down.
To say that I’m black and blue wouldn’t be exactly accurate. The bruises I have seem to also have a few touches of purple, green and yellow to them. Despite their variety of colors they aren’t pleasant to look at and they’re definitely tender to the touch.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a klutz. In this case, however, I have to admit that I sure feel like one because I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. I had my mind on other things. Consequently I didn’t notice the amount of water on the floor. Now I have to contend with my bruises and the physical discomfort – with no one to blame but myself.
Each year in the United States, there are literally hundreds of thousands of women who end up with bruises that aren’t as a result of taking a fall in the shower. Their bruises are deliberately inflected on them by their husbands, domestic partners and boyfriends.
"Estimates range from 960,000 incidents of violence against a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend per year to three million women who are physically abused by their husband or boyfriend per year."
Those are disturbing numbers. What is even more disturbing is that for some of those women, the only option that will be available to them to escape continuing abuse will be life on the streets: homelessness.
The National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, Domestic Violence and Homelessness, states that domestic violence is clearly a contributing factor to the numbers of women who become homeless. At one point in the report it states,
"Lack of affordable housing and long waiting lists for assisted housing mean that many women and their children are forced to choose between abuse at home or the streets."
A bit further down the same report it says,
"In addition, 50% of the 24 cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors identified domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness."
For single women who become homeless due to domestic violence, the streets aren’t that much of a step up. In some instances, some of them will again find themselves victims of physical abuse while being homeless. Some may even find themselves victims of rape.
For mothers with children who become homeless because of domestic violence, the challenges they face are even greater. The need to protect and provide for their children becomes all consuming.
Their ability to seek employment is eclipsed by the need of searching for homeless support services in order to provide for their children. This is further complicated by a lack of access to someone – or someplace – where they can safely leave their children while they seek for work. Homeless mothers who have school aged children, are restricted to part time jobs whose hours coincide with the hours their children are in school.
I suspect that my bruises will heal within a week or so. Then they’ll be completely gone and I won’t be any the worse for the wear and tear. In the meanwhile, I’ll just have to sleep on my stomach – and pay a bit more attention to what I’m doing when I step out of the shower.
The physical bruises that women who face homelessness because of domestic violence will eventually heal. The experience of homelessness, however, will produce the types of emotional and psychological injuries which may last a lifetime.