Ideally, the house should be warm. But for the 10 million people who suffer domestic violence every year, home can be a scary and unsafe place.
On average, nearly 20 people in the U.S. are physically abused by an intimate partner every minute. As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, forcing people to stay indoors, that number may be growing. Estimates suggest that three quarantine months could result in a 20% increase in intimate partner violence, according to United Nations Population Fund. Although in some cities direct line calls were less frequent throughout the pandemic, experts say The Marshall Project they believe it is because people have less opportunity to seek help. Your attackers may not be leaving the house to go to work, for example, removing a critical window that could allow them to break free.
A fact that is usually left out of the intimate partner discussion of violence: survivors have a increased risk of being incarcerated, and are often treated as offenders by the state. During "Solidarity Night", a fundraising event on May 13 that helped raise money for domestic violence prevention organizations (full video here), a woman shared how she was arrested while planning to flee a violent partner. You can watch a dramatic reading of your story here. This was his very common experience.
Growing up, I felt like a princess from the backlands. Ken pushed the princess to hide. Ken was my husband. I married him trying to fill the void of an absent father. There was never really love between us. He got me high and I gave him sex.
His callused hands were as hard as the beats that occurred six months after our wedding. Two and a half years after the first hit, I found myself alone, pregnant, at my grandparents' house.
I looked at myself in the mirror. My makeup it was darker than it should have been. My dark pink blouse, long enough to cover the yellow marks of each kick on my back, stomach, ribs. Looking at myself in the mirror, something changed … I would be a mother now. My baby had to have a better life. I had to get rid of Ken.
I started looking for a job. So I would look for domestic violence shelters. I put my apps. It was the beginning of a plan.
It turns out that God had a different plan.
Ten weeks after my son was born, I woke up in the middle of the night to Ken screaming, "Call 911, call 911". Your niece stayed with us. And she was hurt.
The doctor said it was something like shaken baby syndrome. Ken and I were arrested. I was accused of threatening the child. The court said I was just as guilty as he was because I was at home with children and knew he was an abuser.
I received a five-year sentence. Ken received six. The judge gave me early release. He realized that the mistake had been made in my case. The problem is that I had no home to return to.
It is easy to have a relationship with your abuser again after you are released.
I was lucky. I was released to a shelter. I took classes that helped me talk about what I had been through. The support was tremendous.
Being a criminal, you ask yourself, "Who's going to hire me?"
I found a job in the food service industry. At the bar where I work, everyone is super supportive. From bosses to regulars. They know about my past and welcome me with open arms.
Ken leaves next year. That scares me. But in recent years, I have learned to listen to what I want. And I don't want to waste another day – another day in the shadows of my mistakes.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.
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