A few years ago, I joined a team of ladies who have become an essential part of my life. Different backgrounds and personalities brought together for a common cause! That cause is raising support and awareness for domestic violence survivors by hosting an annual Jingle Jam 10K race. Why I do it? The answer I found is simple yet profound.
Domestic violence knows no religion, race, age, or gender at times. It is a multifaceted international issue that knows no borders and social class. I can tell you a story or two or 10 or a 100 about women I know who are or have been physically, emotionally, and financially abused. This paragraph can become a heart-wrenching and tearful book. But I won’t go into detail. I won’t for the simple fact that I choose not to recall triggered memories. The recollections of my friends will be of good times shared, of happy laughs, and fun adventures.
As an immigrant to this country, I belong to a group that lives between two cultures. Even though I was not born in the US, I hold immense pride in being an American. Yet another piece of my heart holds an equal pride in being Lebanese as well. But with this situation comes a dilemma. It doesn’t matter where you immigrate from, at one point in your life you come to a place where you question your identity. It is a question of what happens when you are too Arab, too Indian, too Latin, or too Asian to feel solely American. Yet, you are also too American to feel Arab, Indian, Latin, or Asian.
In that spectrum, you encounter so many things that are not accepted yet tolerated. Physical violence is frowned upon but excused. “Of course, he had to beat her. She was holding a knife.” Isolation is normal. “Of course he can exclude her, she doesn’t speak the language.” Financial abuse is a necessity. “Of course he has to put her on an allowance, look at how she dresses! She will waste his money.” Mental abuse is defended. “Of course, he can cheat on her, he provides her everything, and she can’t even lose weight!”
If you grew up in two cultures, I am sure you sat there and listened, just like I did, and knew deep inside, while your heart broke, that it’s hopeless. You are told, “It is just the way things are.” But things are not hopeless! We are the lucky ones who got the chance to bring and carry everything good about our native culture to this country. At the same time, getting the opportunity to be rid of the bad! We CAN speak out! We CAN reach out! We are fortunate enough to live in a country where we can choose how to live our lives! Nothing like that should be tolerated or accepted.
Because of this, I choose to not waste a minute, recalling dreadful events some of my friends and family went or go through. For the past few years, I have chosen my arguments wisely, and I stand up and fight when needed, and I hold back when needed. Old traditions and ideologies don’t change fast enough! It takes years and generations. So instead, I connect, I listen, I help (secretly at times), and I preach as loud as I can at times to my kids and their friends. Domestic abuse is all around us. It is sometimes hidden and sometimes in plain sight. It is the ugly monster that silently lingers and festers, especially during this pandemic. The only way to see it and fight it is to observe, listen, and reach out!
This brings me back to Jingle jam 10K and why I choose to volunteer with this group. We spend hours and hours finding ways to support the cause to fight domestic violence in all of its forms by building community connections, empowering one another, and giving domestic violence victims a voice, and a way out! A step in the direction of independence, power, and self-reliance. For every life cut short, for every scarred body and soul, and for every traumatized woman and child, we say no more. If you are reading this and suffering! There is a way out and a safe home for you to get back on your feet at SafeHomes. You can get help! Things are not as hopeless as they seem.
I am lucky to work with Jingle Jam 10K! Our group works well together because we work hard, and we never lose our goal while living our lives and raising our kids to become individuals who continue the tradition and will one day help fight injustices everywhere.