Separated and Later Widowed–Why Domestic Violence Curriculum Needs to be in Schools

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Carolyn Bell Murphy

At age 17, I went away to college and was introduced to a world that I didn’t know existed. At the beginning of my junior year, I started dating a smart, handsome guy who eventually became my husband. When we started dating he began showing signs of abuse very quickly, trying to control every minute we were not in class or working.

When I didn’t show up at the time he thought I should have been somewhere to meet him, I was drilled and often accused of lying. I thought it was love and that he must really care about me since he wanted to be with me so much. We got married and I knew things would change because married people loved each other and showed it. That’s the way it was supposed to be.

Over a period of a few years we became parents of a son and three daughters. With four children, I knew things would be better. I loved him and wanted my children to have both parents in the home in the way that I had grown up.  But our turbulent relationship persisted for almost 40 years.

Eventually, I came to the realization that almost 10 years had passed without any physical abuse, but the verbal abuse was ongoing. Regardless of what I did or said, it was usually the wrong thing. I sought God’s guidance and said to Him that I had been in the relationship long enough trying to please him and nothing worked. I was getting old and I called on Him to show me the way by doing different things in preparation to leave. Each step went well, such as telling the children and getting their support, putting furniture in lay-a-way, and having the money and courage to find an apartment and then move out of the house. I left him the house along with more than 95 percent of the things that had been accumulated over the years. At this point material things meant nothing; I wanted peace of mind.

Before I moved out, I attended a weekend retreat in Philadelphia at my middle daughter’s church. It was six hours away; I asked my spouse to go with me and he said no. I went anyway and when I got there, a young lady who had been a pastor’s wife was presenting on the topic of domestic abuse. When she finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the auditorium. This gave me the encouragement I needed in order to follow through with leaving. I made up my mind right then that if she could get up in front of people with such a horrific story, I could, too.

On my way home, I knew leaving was not enough, I decided to start an organization so I could help other women. There is no reason why women should have to stay in relationships that are verbally or physically abusive. But to fix this, they need to be educated about domestic violence.

The purpose what has become my organization, Woman of Excellence, NWAS, Inc. is to raise awareness about domestic violence. It is comprised of women from all walks of life, beginning with middle school girls. Some people have a tendency to minimize domestic violence because of a lack of knowledge. It is a big secret in too many homes, brushed under the rug and rarely talked about. Three or four years ago, the national domestic help hotline on their thirteenth anniversary announced that over 1.3 million women had called the hotline. But this organization is about those who did not call. The thousands of women who support Women of Excellence NWAS, Inc will admit that very few have called and live a secret life. Some doctors have repeatedly stated that too much abuse goes unreported and thus it is often hard to get an accurate count. According to statistics, one in four women is abused every 15 seconds.

Domestic violence does not discriminate. It crosses all cultures, denominations, different educational backgrounds and this is why we are coming together as one to enhance the total woman. We provide temporary shelter, mentoring, legal assistance, referrals, scholarships, and counseling. We donate new and used clothing, individual toiletries, and give a good meal to those hiding from the abuser and sit with them. There are now scholarship funds at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland, The University of West Alabama in Livingston, Ala., and Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, so that women can improve their skills and become independent of their abusers.

Victims do not wear signs identifying them, and neither do the abusers. We need to raise awareness about the war that is going on right in the home, and to do that we need to enhance the total women by providing them with educational information. We must not assume that women know about domestic violence, its prevalence and its effects, and this is why it needs to be instituted as part of school curriculum.

Three major reasons why it should be part of the curriculum:

  1. Being a part of the curriculum reminds students that abuse, both verbal and physical, is bad. Education would be ongoing. “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.”
  2. They need to know what love is and what it is not. This is when they start dating. The slapping begins, the control, the shoving. This is a delicate time in their lives and they need to feel good about themselves and develop a high self-esteem. They can’t be beat down before they go out into the world. We want to empower them to make positive and independent decisions. It is not enough to have someone come to schools once or twice a year to lecture on domestic violence. We need something to remind them that this behavior is unacceptable.  What happens after they have had the lecture?
  3. Ending of the generational cycle – the generational curse as some refer to it

I have met families where the great grandmother married an abuser, the grandmother, the mother and daughter. This is all they know. We can’t have our young girls embrace this as being acceptable behavior.

An abuse survivor, Carolyn Bell Murphy is the founder and CEO of Woman of Excellence NWAS, Inc. Passionate about raising awareness about domestic violence, she has spoken on the topic at various retreats, churches, women’s groups and universities. She has been recognized for her persistence toward abuse education and elimination. Murphy holds a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and social studies from Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio. Murphy’s book Woman of Excellence includes lesson plans and advice for incorporating curriculum in schools alongside an account of her own experience with abuse and her courage to leave. The book can be ordered on www.authorhouse.com. For more information, visit: www.womenofexcellencenwas.org..

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