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“But I’m a doctor…”

Not to sound cliche, but I remember it like it happened yesterday.  I had come in for a night shift at the hospital where I worked and soon after my shift began my patient began to run into some troubles. An Intensive Care Unit is often a busy place but never more so than when a person needs resuscitating and it was 'all hands on deck' for a while.  It can be pretty hectic at times, in a controlled chaos kind of way and I remember being so busy that I didn't really have time to pay much attention to anything but the job in hand.  It wasn't till everything had stabilised and I needed to get the doctor to write some orders that I got the shock... the doctor in charge of the Intensive Care Unit that night, the one who we all respected and loved for her brilliance and kindness - she had a black eye. "But I'm a doctor..."

Why does this sound so shocking to us?  If I had said that I saw a lady on the bus or a lady  outside of the food bank with a black eye, would it have the same impact?  I would like to think that most would feel the same compassion for them as we would for anyone who bears the physical marks of an abusive relationship.  Would we think it had something to do with the fact that they are poor...because hey, that woman on the bus must not be able to afford a car and well, the food bank is a dead give-away.  Why do some think that people who earn less than others experience things like domestic violence more?  It's a serious question that has bothered me for a long time now...since then to be exact.

My daughter came home from a University class the other night and shared with me something that she found disturbing.  It was in a social work course, where people were sharing their views on class and the distinctions between them.  Here is the gist of what was said:  there are lots of differences between people in the middle class and those in the working class...in the middle class people 'talk' their problems out, theirs is a quiet discussion; in the working class people tend to yell and be very loud and angry.  Basically what was said was this:  people in the lower, working class  handle angry feelings differently than people who know better.  Seriously?

The doctor at my work became a very dear friend of mine after that incident.  I supported her decision to leave her abusive husband and followed the situation closely.  I shared her triumph as she succeeded in slowly collecting up items of value and smuggling them out of the home... baby photos, books, a favourite frying pan.  One day she was able to leave for good and though the next couple of years were rough for her and her children, she made it.  The sad thing?  Our friendship ended because of my husband.  In retrospect, he drove a wedge in between us because my friend knew the signs... she could see what was happening even before I could.  I was in an abusive marriage myself and I defended him.  She tried to talk to me about it but I chose him, I chose my abusive husband.  I understand now that this is often what happens in these kind of relationships, wedges are driven to isolate you from potential supports, from family members and friends who see what is happening.

So I guess at the end of all of this I want to challenge us to really examine how we think about Domestic Violence and social classes.  We all know the right answers to the questions, "Of course class doesn't make a difference, DV doesn't discriminate".  But would we be more bothered by  seeing  a black eye on our dentist or  lawyer than on someone working at a convenience store? What if we went to Family Court one day and the Judge had a black eye?  Do we think she knows better than to be in an abusive relationship?  Would we be more willing to believe her if she said she had run into a doorknob?  They are interesting questions aren't they?  Even more interesting is what we think about the answers.

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About cjw

A mother of three and a survivor of domestic violence, I am passionate about helping women who feel isolated and alone, women who may have children that are profoundly impacted by the trauma of domestic violence and women who need to understand where they can go to get help for themselves and their families. I am a registered nurse who has worked for the last 16 years in a critical care area only to have to flee to a women's shelter and have my whole life changed. I know fear, I know pain and I now know food banks...I'm in good company.

5 Responses to “But I’m a doctor…”

  1. Melinda October 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    Wow — that does raise some difficult questions! Thanks for such a thought provoking post, and for keeping this issue before us. God bless your journey.

  2. Kaye Dennan October 3, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Such an interesting topic because I believe that DV does not discriminate. It has nothing to do with money but all to do with attitude and sometimes mental health and/or emotional control.

    On the other side of the issue is the person who is being abused, to me that too is an emotional or attitude issue, again nothing to do with money.

    They say there is some correlation between the way a person is brought up and how they behave. Don’t know, I am not a doctor, but I do believe that we act out in the way we are used to.

  3. Emily October 3, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Truly thought provoking! I realize the “correct” answer is it can and does happen to everyone, but I wonder is their a correlation to the behavioral side of people living what they’ve learned? Perhaps, people who grow up in violence are more likely to be in a violent relationship as an adult, regardless of what career path they take or how much money they have.

  4. JEP October 4, 2012 at 3:38 am #

    Personally, no…I would not believe a judge or other professional any more than I would a woman in a lower socio-economic bracket. I think that upbringing CAN have an effect, but our past doesn’t always = our future.

    This is one big reason I got out. Not only to preserve my mental health and overall well-being, but so that my childen do not grow up believing in the same warped values my abuser holds.

  5. cassie October 14, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    You provide so much information to consider on your blog. I’m following it (found you via the Ultimate Blog Challenge) partly because I write for a local non-profit group who focuses on assisting victims and educating the public about domestic violence, so your blog has become a great resource for me.

    I also wanted to let you know I included this post on my top 5 UBC blog posts for the week: I also wanted to let you know I included this post as one of my favorite top 5 posts for the week (for the Ultimate Blog Challenge). 🙂
    It’s at http://www.cassiehartwriterblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/ubc-favorites-list-week-2.html if you care to view it.

    Thanks for all you are doing!

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