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McGuire: Removing the mask of domestic violence

Community voice

Each day she puts on the mask: the happy mom, the competent worker, the able volunteer. The mask is there for a reason. It enables her to get through her day, while hiding the hurt, fear and confusion she feels. The cause? Domestic violence.

One in four women experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and Family Shelter Service was established to help survivors of domestic abuse rebuild their lives and break the cycle of violence for themselves, their families and future generations.

Our clients often tell us that they were forced to don these "masks of normality" to make it through their daily routine. And children also learn at a very young age that they must wear the mask, as one of our clients so aptly wrote:

"The most challenging part about the masks is that once Mom has put hers on, she has to lean down and put a tiny little mask on each of her children as they step out the door. She then has to pray that they have the strength to keep it on. As they grow, they begin to put on their own mask.

"When you are finally out, and as you begin to trust and feel safe, slowly you can put the masks into a box. At that point you are no longer looking through the small constricting holes of the mask. The most wonderful day Mom will ever experience is the day you see the true, unhidden beautiful faces of your children, faces filled with love and peace."

To honor the courage of this woman and many people like her who have found hope and healing at Family Shelter Service, this year's annual gala fundraiser will take place April 11 at The Abbington, Glen Ellyn, and is named "Carnevale: A Celebration of Hope." Elaborate masks have traditionally been the signature feature of the Venetian Carnevale, and for Family Shelter Service, this theme symbolizes the importance of removing the mask, so that the healing can begin.

As a community, we do not talk openly about domestic violence, and if we do, it is in whispers and hushed tones, shrouded in secrecy — similar to the mask.

Like cancer, AIDS and other social issues that were once taboo, we need to talk about the proverbial "elephant in the room." When we talk about domestic violence, we validate to survivors that the issue is real, that the "crazy making" and pretending must stop. Only then can we help these individuals take off the mask, and, in the words of our client, "see the beautiful sights right in front of us, right now."

Maureen McGuire is the marketing and communications representative for Family Shelter Service.

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