October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We talk to a non-profit helping victims of abuse in Jones, Craven and Pamlico Counties.
October is breast cancer awareness month, its national diabetes month, and it also domestic violence awareness month. The US Department of Justice defines Domestic Violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Once a person becomes a victim of domestic violence, it can be difficult for them to get the help they need.
"I met my husband while we were in college and we got married about two years after college and everything was exciting before then for me. Once we got married, closer to the time we got married, that's when I started to notice things. In retrospect, I see there were a lot of red flags."
Erica is a thirty something mother of two. She sat down with me on Monday to talk to me about her experience as a victim of domestic violence. Erica received counseling at a local non-profit we reached out to. She agreed to speak with me as long as I only used her first name to protect her privacy.
"for me, it wasn't a daily situation where he constantly physically abused me but there was a lot of mental abuse going on and financial where he controlled all of our finances and I have I would have to ask just to go get groceries or just do anything I would have to ask his permission."
Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological. Like Erica, many people don't even know they are victims until a family member or loved one intervenes.
"It actually, the worst time I guess for physical violence, I only left for a week. I actually stayed. It took my parents stepping in. I came down for a friend's wedding and being able to get outside the situation because I was isolated I wasn't around (my) family, I was just around his family and around my husband, so it took me getting outside the situation for me to understand how serious it was what I was in."
Another factor that empowered Erica to seek help was her children.
"My daughter and my son, they were not even five by the time this stuff happened. At the same time, your children can see it. I always thought they don't know what's going on your children know and it's something that's going to impact them and very well determine the relationships that they have."
Erica found solace and education at the Coastal Women's Shelter, which serves Craven, Jones and Pamlico counties and reaches out to victims of domestic violence. Martha Hardison is the executive director.
"The Coastal Women's Shelter provides counseling services on an individual basis on one to one, it also has support groups that are held twice a month for those that are victims of domestic violence and they are held in all three counties."
The shelter also provides a 24 hour Crisis Line, court advocacy, monthly support groups for women and children, transportation, and employment resources. They also operate a safe house where victims can stay at a secret location until they get back on their feet.
"we actually shelter those women and children that are on the run that need safety. We actually provide the housing, education, and let them stay with us for 60 to 90 days so that they can rebuild their lives."
The Coastal Women's Shelter is primarily funded by state and federal grants, as well as churches, other non-profits, and fundraising events. The shelter also runs Helping Hands Boutique in James City to help generate funds.
In 2011, the agency sheltered 648 women and children. Through counseling services and referrals, the Coastal Women's shelter estimated it served over 5000 people. Executive Director Hardison says a person may come to the shelter multiple times to receive services.
"Statistics report that it takes seven or eight times before the individual makes the final break from their abuser. And we try to continue to support them in their efforts to be strong and to be self-sufficient to make that move."
Unfortunately, not all domestic violence victims escape their abuser. According to the North Carolina Department of Justice, state and local law enforcement reported 106 total homicides in 2011 related to domestic violence. About 18 percent of those incidents occurred in eastern North Carolina.
Compiling statistics can be difficult because domestic violence cases often go unreported. Still, Hardison says there has been a surge in domestic violence so far this year.
"I think because of the economy today, because of the stress, because of the job market, these type of things bear very heavily on the family deployment those kind of things.. We are seeing an increase in domestic violence in families in our area."
The Coastal Women's Shelter targets females specifically because in 85 percent of domestic violence cases, men are the abusers. Still, males can be victims. Speaking as a survivor of domestic violence, Erica urges ANYONE to get help if they are being controlled or abused.
"No one has the right to abuse you whether it's financially, whether it's mentally, no type of abuse does a person deserve but it's really finding that strength within that you don't deserve it. And that's what it took for me and even leaving, I still struggled with wanting to go back to that situation. But we have to love ourselves enough to know that that is not okay no matter if it's a man or a women, it's not okay and you have to really find that strength, and there are so many resources out there to help you."
If you or someone you know may be a victim of domestic violence, you call and get counseling thru the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799- (7233). You can find more information on the Coastal Women's Shelter at www.coastalwomensshelter.org. I'm Jared Brumbaugh.