In the Shadows of the Holidays
By Eddie Baza Calvo
Merry Christmas, my fellow Guamanians,
It's the holidays. It's a very happy time for most people. Our lives wind down after a hard year at work. We see our friends and family more often. The kids' smiles seem to be a little brighter. For most people.
Data shows that crimes like child abuse, child neglect, domestic violence, burglary, vandalism and theft spike during the holidays. It's a sad reality on Guam. In a season centered upon the birth of our Savior, which empowers a sense of goodwill, peace, family and love like no other time of the year, there is often a deafening silence about those who are suffering. Sometimes this suffering is borne out of poverty. For example, many people steal so they can have things they can't afford, and people suffer. Sometimes the suffering is caused by a bad situation. People feel they have no way out. Children suffer. They do not feel the goodwill, peace, family and love that engenders this season.
I'd like to speak up today for those children and victims without a voice. It is their abusers who I'd like to talk to through this article. I ask you, the neighbors and witnesses to the abuse, speak up with me to stop the violence, the abuse, and the harsh words.
We can't stay silent while people suffer. It is what the abusers want. It is extremely hard for victims of abuse or neglect to speak up for themselves. We can't believe that victims of abuse or neglect can handle the violence just because they won't speak up for themselves. We can't ignore children screaming in the other house before walking out the next day with new bruises. As citizens, we have a responsibility to speak up. And it's not about minding our business. It's not about gossip or making trouble. When you know something is happening, please, say something. You have the power to stop the suffering. You can save a life.
The more voices there are against violence, the more we can stop it.
I want to speak directly to the abusers: I don't know why you resort to violence. I don't know what or who hurt you so badly in your life that you resort to abusing those you are supposed to love. For God's sake, it's Christmas. It's a time, like no other time of the year, when your family is yearning for love. It's a time when children are supposed to be more joyous, more playful, more grateful for the lives they have. How can they, when you are abusing them? How do you find your own inner peace, when you inflict violence and abuse? If you feel remorse and you want to stop, please call the Crisis Hotline and someone will help you with your anger or stress issues. If you don't care and you won't stop, I assure you it's just a matter of time before someone speaks up. This government will put the full pressure of the law to make sure you can never hurt a child or woman again.
If you're the victim of abuse and you want to speak up, or at least just talk to someone in confidence, please call the Crisis Hotline, VARO or Sanctuary. And for whatever reason you won't leave someone who is abusing you, please quietly prepare an escape plan for when things get worse. Keep your important documents, like your passport, driver's license, and social security card… some money you're able to stash away… and your car keys… in your purse. If you have infants or toddlers, keep a couple diapers, and whatever medication your child needs close to the door. Whenever the time comes for you to leave, run fast, don't look back, and whatever you do, don't feel bad and go back to the house. An abuser becomes most violent when he knows you're going to leave, or you've already left. Going back home, no matter how remorseful or charming he sounds, is certainly not a good idea. Call the police. Call VARO. Call a neighbor or family. Get out of the situation and stay out of it.
I don't pretend to know why people hurt others, or why some people feel especially depressed during the holidays. But, I am the governor, and I do implore you to take advantage of the services the government and non-government organizations offer to help you.
If you're a victim of violence and abuse, if you're depressed or you're thinking about ending your life, or if you're a violent person and you want to stop being violent, please call the Crisis Hotline, VARO, Sanctuary or the PEACE office at the numbers scrolling on the screen right now.
And if you see or hear someone being abused, someone's home or property being robbed or destroyed, or someone trying to commit suicide, call 911 IMMEDIATELY.
Together, let's all make this a very Merry Christmas for everyone.