I am a year-round reader, but I especially love passing a sunny summer’s day with a book in my hands and sand under my feet. I read all kinds of books – mysteries, autobiographies, memoirs, crime fiction, “chick-lit”. As an aside, if you, too, like to read, consider joining the adult or teen book clubs offered by The Empowerment Project of A Woman’s Place (AWP).
Anyway, over the weekend (yes, with my toes in the sand…after watching both my sister and my sister-in-law kick butt in the Surfside Sevens rugby tournament), I started a book called “Lest We Forget” by Leo Jenkins. At the tender age of 19, Jenkins made the bold decision to become a U.S. Army Ranger Medic in the global war on terror. For him, this decision was a total no-brainer. After all, he figured, “Why should I get to sit back for the next 20 years wrapped in a cape of freedom and security that has been provided to me by the exertions of better men than myself?”. And although my inner “Grammar Policewoman” was dying to proofread all 133 pages of Sergeant (Sgt.) Jenkins’s writing, his stories are incredibly real, raw, honest, and downright humbling. His firsthand accounts of the rigorous training process (rigorous is not nearly a strong enough word), the brotherhood he found in our armed forces, and the grave reality of deployment in Afghanistan and Iraq serve as a sobering reminder that freedom really isn’t free. It is brave men and women like Sgt. Jenkins who make it possible for the rest of us here in the good ole’ U. S. of A. to continue enjoying the freedom our forefathers fought so hard for nearly 240 years ago. A freedom I just celebrated earlier this month by eating lots of grilled meats, potato salad, and chips as fireworks lit up the night sky. But the more I read of “Lest We Forget”, I couldn’t help but think of those who are living right here in this progressive, first-world nation we call home – in fact, right here in Bucks County, PA – who are waging their own war for freedom. In their own homes. Every. Single. Day.
I’m thinking, of course, of the 1 in 3 women, 1 in 4 men, and 1 in 3 young adults who are or will be victims of domestic violence in their lifetime. Silently struggling for their right to enjoy the freedoms that many of us take for granted in life – the right to choose what we wear, who we socialize with, where we work, what we spend our hard-earned money on. The right to be respected in our relationships, the right to make mistakes without fearing punishment at the hands of those who claim to love us. The simple right to call home a sanctuary, rather than a lion’s den of power and control. For that’s what abuse is all about: power and control.
Here at AWP, we’re all about empowerment, options, and equality. I don’t think I could ever do what Sgt. Jenkins did abroad, nor do I think anyone would want little 5-foot me out there defending our country. But I am fortunate enough that my country affords me privileges that women in other countries only dream about, including the freedom not only to earn a living but to choose my profession. And I am proud that going to work every day means an opportunity to stand with AWP – alongside our bold and creative staff, our fearless and selfless volunteer force, our many brave and endlessly strong clients – offering a path to freedom for the many men and women who are oppressed by their abusive partners. I certainly don’t mean to downplay the valiant efforts of Sgt. Jenkins and his brothers in arms, but it is an honor to do my small part here on the home front, where we’ve lost an estimated 11,766 American women to domestic violence between 9/10/01 and 6/8/12. Lest we forget that some of our own have been stripped of the very “cape of freedom and security” our brothers and sisters are out there fighting for.
Director of The Prevention Project