In a world filled with constant triggers of emotional and physical violence, many can argue that society has become impervious to its impacts on our relationships. We have neglected to examine and remedy how these exposures impact us as humans and our ability to begin new relationships and cultivate pre existing ones.
It is often easier for us to accept examples of social and critical health issues when they are displayed in art form. In honor of Domestic Violence month, I recently saw the play Scrambled Eggs by playwright Reginald L. Wilson. The play gives an uncompromising display of life in an abusive relationship. It provides a nuanced take on domestic abuse from the victim, as well as the impacts said abuse has on the victim's family, friends, and child. It also attempts to examine the abusers' motives.
In various cultures, relationship issues can at times be difficult to talk about. Scrambled Eggs is not just a look at one type of abuse. We may all be familiar with physical abuse yet it doesn't make us immune from it depending on the myriad of excuses an abuser can give their victim. Scrambled Eggs goes beyond that and uses its voice to intertwine other forms of abuse that include mental, sexual, and financial abuse.
What the playwright does extremely well is clearly define the type of abuse and provides examples without sounding self-righteous. The playwright acknowledges that many in abusive relationships are often too ashamed to speak up and afraid of being judged. Coming across as condescending or judgemental can cause victims to turn away from help and loved ones. This behavior can mimic the mental conditioning done by the abuser or person trying to control them.
It takes time for an abuser to create dependency and drill away at self esteem. We falsely are taught by society that those with strong wills or high self esteem are not prone to falling prey to abusive relationships. There is not always a clearly defined symptom of abuse as the person being abused may not realize it themselves. It is a dangerous notion to assume that a strong willed person cannot find themselves in an abusive relationship. It creates a false narrative and gives way to a society that can repeatedly miss warning signs early on in abusive patterns.
The Call to Action
There are many public health emergencies in our communities and domestic violence is one that often goes ignored. Society feels that those abused can walk away at any time. There is an overt failure by society that includes our healthcare industry, those health professionals who do not do more to spread awareness about this issue and recognize the conditions that can lead to abusive relationships.
Where mainstream healthcare is failing, there may be room to take a more decentralized approach by bringing services to areas that desperately need them. This includes taking preventative measures to educate children, teens, and adults what healthy relationships look like so that they may clearly recognize early warning signs.
By examining the staggering differences by culture of the number of domestic violence incidences and by age, we can begin to take preventive measures against this issue. Whether that be through education or mental health resources such as therapy, society can begin to help eradicate this epidemic. Taking a more holistic approach to include not just the abused but also their family or friends and the abuser can also be key in finding a new approach to remedy this issue.
Scrambled Eggs takes the story of so many who have been abused and draws us into the most intimate moments of an abused victim's life. The play ends in tragedy and successfully leaves the audience searching for a resolution. The play doesn't just represent one victim's story, it can be anyone’s. The question is, where do we go from here? How can we protect our loved ones?
We should examine what is a possible resolution while keeping in mind that there can be no one size fits all approach. It is necessary to understand and respect how cultural beliefs can influence reception to education and prevention.
It's up to healthcare professionals and advocates to have a more nuanced approach to attract more attention to this issue and also to encourage those who may be in an abusive relationship to seek help without shame. That means breaking down barriers to treatment and prevention by going to communities and offering help in nontraditional settings. Taking these measures will help to prevent the abuse long before it happens and capture young adults and teens as they begin dating.
Support services and preventative measures in marginalized communities and communities of color should be tailored to meet the needs and challenges of the particular demographic. Support services should acknowledge the unique social determinants of health that impact marginalized communities. This may look like culturally sensitive counseling, language support, school programs, peer support, and a decentralized healthcare approach that may include mobile clinics or tele-health services.
Community policing that would involve law enforcement personnel that are trained in dealing with domestic violence and can be sensitive to the needs of the community’s cultural makeup. The hope is that by using all of these tools, society does not just provide reactive relief but also can empower individuals with the needed tools to escape cycles of abuse. This will allow them to build healthier relationships and futures for themselves.
If anyone is in an abusive relationship, or if you know someone that is, it is best that they reach out to a loved one outside of the relationship, a medical professional, or a trusted confidant. The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-799-7233.