As I was growing up, I viewed your chiding as restrictive, but now that I am older, I wanted to thank you for teaching me to be safe and secure. Thank you for reminding me not to talk to strangers, for picking me up from school on time, and for setting a curfew when I went out with friends. Most of all, I want to thank you for showing me what it meant to be in a healthy relationship, and the importance of economic security as a solid foundation for that relationship.
This Mother’s Day, I want to honor the time, energy and affection that mothers like you give to their children, which ultimately has an enormous impact on their futures. Now that I work in the domestic and sexual violence field, I fully realize the negative impacts that witnessing family violence has on children, including the prolonged damage caused by survivors staying with their abusers.
Countless studies show that children are more likely to be involved in abusive relationships in the future if they witness unhealthy and abusive relationships in their homes when young. Studies also show that youth are experiencing dating violence and sexual violence at increasingly younger ages, often starting in middle school and high school. With these facts in mind, it is critical to model healthy relationships for children and to educate them on ways to prevent dating violence.
With all of the negativity, it is easy to lose sight of the positive lessons that mothers pass on to their children. You taught me about the importance of being independent, both emotionally and economically, and you led by example. You encouraged me to have my own dreams about my education and career, and supported me as we pursued good jobs that enable me to live independently of others while saving for the future. Because of you, I know the warning signs of unhealthy relationships, such as isolation, and I learned early on about the dangers of sharing passwords, GPS tracking on cell phones and both physical and electronic stalking.
In recognition of this holiday, women everywhere should open up and initiate conversations not just with their own children, but with women of all ages about independence, safety and economic security.
Far too often, we assume that the topic of physical safety is relevant only to abused women, but the truth of the matter is that economic security empowers even those of us in the healthiest, most positive relationships. In addition, the clear link between socioeconomic status and domestic violence, the undeniable connection between a survivor’s safety and her economic security, and the fact that 1 in 4 women are abused at some point in their lives means that economic security is truly a form of violence prevention.
In both my personal life and in my line of work, I have learned that the tenets of safety and economic security are undeniably important. Passing them on to children early and often is essential, and doing so may ultimately protect those you love. So I say again: Thank you to my Mom, and moms everywhere for sharing these life lessons. I am sure that one day I will pass them on to my children.
Special Populations Project Associate,
Wider Opportunities for Women