With October serving as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a new report from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that an estimated 1.3 million American women experience domestic violence or intimate partner violence each year. Women make up 85 percent of the victims of domestic violence and some of these cases are never reported to the police.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that violence performed by an intimate partner is often more fatal for Black women than White women. It is estimated that a woman will leave and go back to her abuser six or seven times before she leaves for good.
“There are a variety of reasons, depending on the circumstances, everyone’s situation is different. Sometimes there are kids involved,” said Jazmin Carter, who works at the Jenesse Center Inc., a nationally recognized, non-profit, domestic violence prevention and intervention organization in South Los Angeles.
“They (women) may have never worked before or not have the education, or financial security. There’s psychological and emotional abuse, where their self-esteem is very low, so they think they won’t find anyone else. Each situation is different.”
Zoe Flowers, a domestic violence activist and writer for the Huffington Post, writes about her own experiences with abuse and shares the experiences of other women in her book “From Ashes to Angel’s Dust: A Journey to Womanhood.”
“In many cases, we don’t ask for help because we have internalized this idea that we need to be strong,” Flowers said. “This idea of ‘strong Black women’ is rewarded and is something that can even be a source of resilience. But, it can also leave us feeling like we have no one to turn to.”
There are several theories on the origins of domestic aggression. Some men were taught at a young age to hide their emotions. Oftentimes, these distorted emotions turn into uncontrolled anger towards their partner.
It’s not uncommon that many violent men experienced physical abuse themselves from their parents or caregivers when they were young.
Another theory suggests that men who have been incarcerated adopted a “toxic masculinity” because while they were in the prison system the only choices were either being dominant or being subjugated.
Domestic abusers are protected in many communities. It is frowned upon in some communities to “badmouth” a partner or “snitch” on a neighbor or relative by calling the police and landing someone in jail.
There is an unwritten “code of silence.”
According to Jenesse’s website, some of the key factors cited by women who left abusive relationships include:
—Receipt of strength or support from someone in order to leave
—Interactions with law enforcement
—Use of social networks to disclose the violence (told neighbors, friends, relatives)
—Learning about themselves and about the truth of their victimization including the batterer’s responsibility for the violence helped them to take action against the violence
—Use of shelters, clergy, women’s groups, community support services
—Recognition of the repetition of the pattern of abuse in their children; this insight was often the impetus for leaving their abusive partner
Jenesse suggests that women who are in a violent situation should build a safety plan to protect themselves from their abuser. They should keep a list of important telephone numbers handy for themselves and their children, including teaching them to dial 911; to call trusted friends, relatives, or ministers; and to know the name and contact information of primary physicians.
The plan should also include identifying someone they can confide in about their situation. Leave a “crisis stash” with that trusted friend, to include extra money, car keys, clothes and copies of important papers. Identify a place where they can go if they leave their home. Open a separate savings account and plan an escape route that can be used quickly and decisively in order to avoid further injury.
A complete “Safety Escape Check List” — Important items to take upon leaving — is available at https://jenesse.org/domesticviolence/safetyPlan.html.
After leaving the violent situation, it’s suggested that the victim do the following:
—Go to court and get a “protective order” and keep a copy at all times. Copies should be given to the police
—Provide their child’s school or caregivers with critical information. They should get copies of any personal protection order
—Tell a trusted co-worker or your boss about your situation and have your calls screened. They should also get copies of the protection order
—Select different stores, banks and other businesses from those habitually used during the time they lived with their partner
—Find someone to call when they feel despondent, afraid or sad. Find some workshops and support groups to attend so that they can gain support and better understand their situation
The CDC suggests better screening in doctor’s offices and bystander training can help reduce or prevent domestic violence. Bystanders, neighbors, friends and relatives in the community can help break the “code of silence” and save women and their children from domestic violence.
If you are a victim, know a victim, or witness a victim of domestic violence, trust your instincts. Call the Jenesse Center hotline at (800) 479.7328; or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799.SAFE (7233); or visit https://jenesse.org. Your actions may save someone’s life.