No doubt you've heard by now that Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry died yesterday, falling from a moving vehicle in what police are terming a domestic dispute. If you want more details our sister blog CincyJungle has a pretty good summary with links. Normally we don't range into the NFL realm in our discussions but I'm making an exception in this case because it highlights something that might be valuable to remember during this holiday season. We don't know the particulars of the Chris Henry situation and I'm not going to speculate about them here. But we do know that domestic violence is real, it happens at all levels of society, and you seldom see it or hear about it until events like this when it's too late and something tragic has happened. But there are people who work quietly to help out, to prevent, to educate, and most importantly to provide a safe place for people to go if they or their family are experiencing this situation.
When someone gets trapped in a violent situation the first thing people ask is, "Why don't they just leave?" It's a little known fact that the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is precisely when they do leave. The person causing the violence often feels like they're losing control of the situation at that point and sometimes are willing to do anything to get it back. That means when you do make the decision to leave you have to go quickly, quietly, and leave everything behind. You usually need a safe place to stay for a while. Families aren't always suitable because the perpetrator knows where they live and might threaten them as well. That's where domestic violence organizations come in. They provide shelters for families who have to leave but can't go anywhere else safely.
Right now somewhere in houses we don't know about there are moms (sometimes dads) who had to make the decision to leave their home, their possessions, their lives behind to move into an anonymous room that they can't tell anybody about. Right now there are children who have lost the only home life they know, who have left toys and friends and pets and beds behind...plus a parent. Even if they know it's the safer decision, one can only imagine how that feels, especially now with Christmas coming.
Here's what I'm getting at. Nobody can stop the sadness of what happened in the Chris Henry situation. But there are other people who haven't gotten to, and God willing never will get to, that point...who haven't made any headlines but are just as much in need. Part of my response when I read stories like this is to see if I can do something in addition to being sad and shocked. We may not be able to intercede directly, but knowing that there are families out there who have lost everything and aren't going to get it back soon, maybe we can make it a little better for them in the coming week.
I called my local domestic violence organization yesterday. I asked them if people staying in the shelters might need anything for the holidays. They said nobody had any holiday food. So Monday there's going to be turkey and ham, potatoes and stuffing, the holiday fixings delivered to their office. Maybe there's a kid in your area who's not going to get a present because mom can't access the checking account. Maybe there's a mom who won't be able to get much for her child and is feeling overwhelming guilt even though she's doing the best thing for her family. Maybe there's a family looking at Top Ramen for Christmas dinner, all because they had to do this to be safe, to put a stop to it, to not be a headline. Maybe if you're out shopping, thinking about the Chris Henry headlines or any of the other relationship-driven violence that we've read about in the past year, and have a mind to you can help.
Here is a list of domestic violence organizations in Oregon. If you're not in the state you can find one by internet searching the name of your area plus "domestic violence shelter". You might give one a call and ask if any families they have sheltered need anything for Christmas. (Be sure to use the office number not the crisis line unless you're actually in need of the crisis line.) This is one of those areas where anybody can help and even doing a little could make a big difference.