Have you seen the video?” one friend asked. Another asked if I thought the NFL got it right.

I did see the video. You’ve probably seen it too – the one that’s making its rounds on the news. But I don’t think it’s really about the NFL. It’s not even about what happened in that elevator. It’s about much more than that.

All across the country news reporters are shaking their heads in disgust. People are angrily taking to social media or conversations around the water cooler to debate if the NFL got it right. But, is that where our focus should be? If every abuser in this nation lost their jobs today, would that make the situation better? Would that really provide justice? Would that heal our society, our families, or our relationships?

In all the discussions I’ve heard over the past few days, I haven’t heard one that has used this moment to educate. The reality is, domestic abuse is far too common. It’s the crime that so often hides behind closed doors. It’s our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends, our sisters, our brothers, or it’s us. It hides in the shadows. We hope it will go away by itself but, it doesn’t.

What angers us about the video is we see abuse for what it is – really, really wrong It destroys families, marriages, and individuals. When it’s right in front of us, we’re enraged, as we should be. But even though we might not see it so clearly every day, the truth is – it is right in front of us on a daily basis.

What the video doesn’t show is that 1 in 4 women have been her. It doesn’t show us 1 in 7 men have been “her” too. And, it doesn’t show us that 75% of us know her. It affects the wealthy and poor, educated and not educated, women and men. It impacts those who grew up with abuse as well as those who grew up in loving homes. It crosses geographic boundaries and is an issue in our cities, suburbs and rural towns alike. It affects all ages and races. Abuse does not discriminate.

The statistics from the National Domestic Violence Hotline (hotline.org) are staggering:

  • 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.
  • Nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the US have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by a partner
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Females ages 18 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence.

So what do you do?

First, recognize the signs:

  • Isolation from friends or family
  • Jealousy
  • Hypersensitive
  • Controlling
  • Always “checking in”
  • Verbal put downs or abuse
  • Blames others for actions/feelings
  • Breaking or hitting things
  • Threats of violence

If you’re reading this and you’re in an abusive relationship, get help today. From a phone or a computer that is safe reach out for help: 1-800-799-7233  or www.thehotline.org. They can help you! You are not alone!

If you’re reading this and you realize you’re the abuser, find a reputable counselor and get help. You can learn to adapt so that your anger doesn’t continue to hurt you and those you care about.

If you recognize these signs in someone else’s relationship, be supportive and let them know you care. (More information on how to help other will be covered in part 2.)

A few ways you can make a difference and support individuals dealing with abuse:

  • Donate your old cell phone. It can be refurbished and given to someone in danger. (You can do so at your local Verizon store.)
  • Donate supplies or financial support to your local domestic violence shelter.
  • Doate to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (hotline.org).
  • Learn the signs of abuse and share them with those you care about.
  • Share this blog to increase awareness.

I invite you to read my survival story in A Search for Purple Cows – A true story of hope. Although every story is unique, it provides perspective on how easy it is to end up in an abusive relationship, how difficult it can be to break free, and the tangible hope we all have despite life’s difficult challenges.