.The What and Why of Violence
What is domestic violence and how does it occur? As a trained clinical psychologist, I have always had a deep interest in learning about other people’s trauma, but ironically enough, despite my training I have always stayed away from reading about domestic violence. Doing so would only resurface my own old traumas and emotions, I reasoned, and make me remember what I had worked so hard to forget. And perhaps, most frightfully, doing so would most likely produce newer memories with even fresher pain. To date, mine had been a life of purposefully curated experiences and purposeful avoidance where avoidance brought freedom - just as long as I didn’t self-reflect or remember. And while some of you may believe that a lack of such autobiographical memory might present itself as a career hazard for me as a psychologist, I am here to tell you that the temporary freedom gifted from such self-induced episodes of amnesia, was still indeed for me a form of freedom. And while I could not, perhaps, always be present for myself, I certainly tried to be present for others. At the time, being absent from myself, removing myself from myself, only allowed me to be more present for others. And, of course, for diasporic souls like myself, such temporary freedom was oftentimes better than no freedom at all.
Still, as any good psychologist will tell you, the truth is that we never forget, but that we just acquire newer memories built on top of the old ones. Upon such shaky foundations, it is therefore not surprising that old memories, usually with very little provocation, should be the first to come spilling out. The truth is that this violence spares no victims and that long term forgetting, the type of forgetting that is insistent and effortful, is really just another form of violence as well.
But what should I remember and why? To remember is to bear witness but what I first really want you to know is how very loyal my father could be. That whenever I was in need of anything, absolutely anything, he would be the first to give me a ride, give me money, and take me anywhere at anytime, with few questions asked. That whenever, I came home from school, he was always there, ready to greet me, and a la orden, ready to give me anything I wanted to eat. That he cared for my basic needs because that is what a father is supposed to do. This is what I wish to remember because that is what is true - that I not only loved my father but that I also felt deeply loved by him. And that in between the beatings and insults that I witnessed, he was also a man who loved my mother - or at least that is what he told us.
So, what is domestic violence and how does it occur? I am still not quite sure as it is difficult to reconcile the care I experienced with the pain I witnessed. But I do know is that when it does occur, it often occurs slowly, insidiously, and then all at once.
With this Time Out Grant, I hope to try and figure all this out.