The Survivor Next Door

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A number of years ago, Thomas Stanley published a best-selling book titled The Millionaire Next Door.  In it, he describes the characteristics of individuals who achieve great wealth while attracting little attention to themselves. One of the ideas prevalent in the book is that the savers “next door” don’t seek attention or flaunt their wealth. In other words, you would not know they were millionaires by their behavior or lifestyle (7 Key Insights from The Millionaire Next Door).

There is another kind of person who lives next door to many of us, though we often fail to recognize it:  a survivor of domestic violence.  Like the millionaire next door, the survivor does nothing to attract your attention.  Considering the numbers projected from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will be victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime (NISVS 2010). This translates into approximately 136,000 individuals in Northwest Arkansas who will be victims of domestic abuse/violence during their lifetimes. So the likelihood that a survivor lives next door to you is fairly good. Hopefully the secret next door is not that one of your neighbors is currently a victim.

During my time in this field, I have learned that domestic violence knows no age, race, gender, economic or social conditions, or status in life. Domestic abuse is an effort by one person to control and dominate another through psychological, physical, sexual, emotional, or financials means, just to name a few. Each individual who is victimized experiences the abuse in their own unique way and it is not a ‘hell’ they want to broadcast to the universe. It is a story often shared only with those who have helped them rebuild their lives, their esteem, and their personal value–all of which were previously taken from them by their abuser.

Since domestic violence is painful experience both for the victim and also for those in close proximity to the victim (for example his or her children), being a survivor is not something most individuals freely discuss. Each victim and each child who lives in a house where domestic violence is prevalent suffers from wounds and scars that are invisible to those who are unaware.

Therefore, in your midst may be many people (both adults and children) who through courage, perseverance, and pure tenacity have righted their own ship and moved forward to live a life free of violence and abuse. It is a part of our responsibility as a shelter to be a team that helps all survivors change the course of their lives and enjoy a future with healthy relationships.

Our goal at the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter is to help focus that courage, perseverance, and tenacity in a manner that makes the journey to a violence free life less cumbersome, fully supported, and productive. The requirement is not to reside in the shelter in order to receive services. It simply requires an individual to want to make that journey and to be willing to work towards it. And to the victims and survivors next door: we will not disclose your challenges. We will help you as you move along in your journey. We will support you and your child(ren) in a manner appropriate to your needs and consistent with our mission. That is our promise to you.

When an issue and experience is so personal that it cannot be talked about publicly, clearly it is easy to hide the information from those who are not privy to the intimate secrets of one’s past. There probably are not any outward signs of the abuse that would identify someone as a survivor of abuse. Survivors may have moved on, but the scars of the experience remain with them forever.

Just like with the millionaire next door, we should treat all people with dignity and respect because we do not know where they are or what their story has been.