Many of us are so proud of ourselves for our stand on equality. We vocalize our belief that there should be same sex marriage, because gay men and women are just that…men and women, just like you and I. We pat ourselves on the back because we don’t “judge” and because we are so accepting of a lifestyle that varies from our own. We do this to soothe and ease our own conscience. How many of us are truly “non-judgmental” or accepting of those that we don’t understand? For instance, do you know what domestic violence is? Have you ever known or been aware of a victim of domestic violence? What did you do? Did you offer to help them, did you stand up and shout your belief that it shouldn’t happen? Did you ever stop to consider what it was like to be a victim of domestic violence? After all, they are men and women, just like you and I. Or did you immediately say how bad you felt, but if it were you, that kind of treatment wouldn’t be tolerated. Did you make sure everyone knew you sympathized but if it were you, you would simply walk away, just leave. Have you ever seen a crippled person struggling to get up a flight of stairs, trying to open a door, or to maneuver around someplace that is not handicapped or wheelchair friendly? Did you immediately feel bad for that person or offer to help? Of course you did! All of these things make us feel superior, because we offer pity and we think that’s what makes us “accepting” and strong proponents for the cause, whatever it may be. This is how we pacify ourselves, how we make ourselves believe we are part of a better, more accepting class of people. But is it really true? How many of you didn’t stand up for marriage equality until AFTER it became a nationwide cause? How many of you are comfortable now seeing two men kiss in public or two brides at a wedding instead of a bride and groom? How many of us has approached an abused woman and tried to help, really help. Have you ever asked why she stayed in an abusive relationship, what would help her to be able to walk away from it, or even how it made her feel? Or have we all just shaken our head about “the poor thing” wishing we could help, but not willing to get involved because it’s not your business. Have you held a door open for a handicapped person and thought how glad you are that it isn’t you, or been dismayed because it seemed so difficult for someone with a cane, walker or wheelchair to get around certain places, but never spoken up to anyone who could change it? We are all so proud of ourselves for our compassion, our dedication to causes we really do believe in, but is it really pride or is it complacency? Are you willing to stand up every day and tell your friends and family that you believe in any of these things and explain why in an articulate, educated way? Or is it just words? Maybe you don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable with discussing “issues” that everyone doesn’t agree on. Maybe that’s just the problem with people. We all have our views, but how many of us took the time to research or truly educate ourselves on the facts, not just the feelings they evoke when we come face to face with it. For instance did you know that throughout much of the 20th century, an admission of homosexuality could result in a felony conviction and a lengthy prison sentence. Even as late as 1970, Connecticut denied a drivers license to a gay man on the basis of his sexual orientation. Did you know that because abuse often happens behind closed doors, it is important to understand the statistics that show just how many people are affected.
- 1 in 4 women report experiencing domestic violence in their lifetimes.
- 2 million injuries and 1,300 deaths are caused each year as a result of domestic violence.
- All cultural, religious, socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are affected by domestic violence.
- Nearly 2.2 million people called local and national domestic violence hotlines in 2004.
- More than 1.35 million people accessed domestic violence victim services in 2005
Do you know what the percentages are now? Have you ever even wondered about it?
And what about the disabled and handicapped? How many of you have pulled into a handicapped parking space because you’re “only going to be a minute”?
Were you aware that one obstacle area involves transportation. Millions of Americans use a wheelchair or a walking aid such as a cane; consequently, getting around can take a lot more effort. Nevertheless, there is some reason for optimism due to the availability of mobility products such as a wheelchair lift and handicapped vehicles like accessible vans. And there are positive trends in public transportation as well. In 2007, some 98 percent of transit buses were equipped with ramps – up from just 62 percent in 1995. What are those percentages now? Do you know? Or is it just another statistic if it doesn’t personally affect you even though you are a “supporter?”
Employment represents another challenge area for America’s disabled population. An estimated 14.5 percent of disabled people have been unemployed, compared to 9 percent of the general population. The numbers for people in wheelchairs are even more disturbing. Less than 20 percent of wheelchair and walker users are employed.
Another obstacle for the disabled is education. Some 28 percent of disable people ages 25 and older have less than a high school education. Just 13 percent of disabled Americans over 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Disabilities can range from physical or mental. More than 16 million Americans have cognitive limitations or a mental illness that interferes with their daily activities.
Maybe we should all take a long, hard look in the mirror before we continue to pat ourselves on the back for our support and selflessness. Maybe we should educate ourselves and try to educate others. Maybe we should ask those people affected how they feel, what we can do to really help and try to make a real difference. Next time you find yourself confronted by platitudes, sympathizers and those who spout their never ending support, ask for some information. How much do they really know? How much are they willing to learn? I’m sure many of you will have strong opinions about this. I hope you do. I was a victim of domestic violence for many years and I am handicapped, so I know first hand what a few of these feel like. Am I a victim now? Hell, no, but it taught me to never assume I understand. Instead it taught me to learn, research, not be afraid to reach out, not be afraid to ask questions, and definitely not be afraid to offend someone who isn’t willing to do the same.