SARAH ALLEN MISSIONARY SOCIETY HOSTS A
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS WORKSHOP
On October 5, 2019, the Love and Peace (LAP) Unit of the Sarah Allen Missionary Society hosted a domestic violence awareness workshop. The workshop opened with a welcome from LAP’s chair, Celeste Garcia, and a prayer by Antoinette Russell. Ryane Nickens served as moderator. The workshop featured excellent and insightful presentations by Olivia Blythe from DC Safe (Survivors and Advocates for Empowerment), and Angelina Harvey from Domestic Violence Wears Many Tags.
Ms. Blythe provided an overview of domestic violence and shared available resources. DC SAFE has been supporting survivors of domestic violence since 1997, and it is the only 24/7 crisis intervention agency for domestic violence in Washington, DC. DC SAFE’s supportive advocates provide court-based advocacy, not legal advice. They help survivors to: navigate the civil and criminal court systems; draft petitions; provide short-term case management; access crime victims’ compensation; and accompany clients to court. DC SAFE’S On-Call Advocacy Program assists survivors with: access to emergency temporary protection orders; police ride alongs; emergency overnight shelter; emergency lock changes; court process information; transportation assistance; food vouchers; and other immediate assistance. The SAFE Space component of DC SAFE provides clients with up to 20 days of emergency housing in apartment-style units.
DC SAFE provides services only to victims of domestic violence in intimate relationships with a spouse or boyfriend. These relationships, Ms. Blythe stated, “end with the victim being killed in 70 percent of the cases.” She indicated that’s not the outcome of domestic violence in the majority of sibling and parent-child relationships. Ms. Blythe pointed out that, “we are all impacted by domestic violence, and it is the responsibility of everyone in our community to promote safety, respect, and accountability.”
Ms. Harvey is a survivor of domestic violence. Workshop attendees were shocked to hear that Ms. Harvey is also a recovering abuser. She described four victims of her abuse. She became an expert in using verbal attacks and emotional abuse to achieve her goals; but she never resorted to violence, because she didn’t want to ever face the consequence of imprisonment for domestic violence. She turned her life around when she saw herself mirrored in her adult daughters and especially in her adolescent granddaughter, who she overheard tell someone, “Don’t worry, Grandma will take care of them.” Ms. Harvey now leads the Domestic Violence Ministry at Community of Hope AME Church, where Rev. Tony Lee is Senior Pastor.
Ms. Blythe shared a video that featured a moving testimony by a domestic violence survivor, Leslie Morgan Steiner. Ms. Steiner tackled the question that everyone asks concerning a domestic violence victim: Why does she stay? Why would anyone stay with a man who beats her? Ms. Steiner first mentioned that she doesn’t look like a typical victim. She was a 22- year-old college graduate with a BA degree in English and an MBA in Marketing from Wharton Business School. She had her first job as a writer and editor, her first apartment, and her first American Express green card when she met her husband. She spent most of her career working for Fortune 500 companies. She also had a big secret: the man that she loved and thought was her soul mate held a loaded gun to her head and threatened to kill her more times than she can remember. She found herself in a psychological trap disguised as love. Her husband had earned an Ivy League degree and worked at a prestigious Wall Street firm. He idolized her, believed in her like no one else ever had, and he wanted to know everything about her. He was a smart, funny, and sensitive man. Without any hint of violence, control, or anger in the beginning, he created a magical atmosphere of trust.
Ms. Steiner’s first message was that domestic violence happens to everyone – all races, religions, all income and education levels. One in three Americans experiences domestic violence. It can be in the form of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. Her second message was that everyone thinks it’s a women’s issue, but it’s not. Eighty-five percent of the cases involve male abusers. Her third message was that domestic violence happens only in intimate, interdependent, long-term relationships, specifically in families - the last place we’d want to find violence. Women ages 16-24 are 3 times as likely to be domestic violence victims as women of any other age. Over 500 women in this age group are killed every year by abusive partners.
Ms. Steiner indicated that the first stage of any domestic violence relationship is to charm and seduce the victim. The second step is to isolate them. Her husband moved her to a small town away from her family and friends. The next step in domestic violence is to introduce the threat of violence and see how the victim reacts.
Why did she stay? First: She thought she was “a strong woman in love with a deeply troubled man” and only she could help him face his demons. Second: It’s incredibly dangerous to leave an abuser. Over 70% of domestic violence murders happen after the victim ends the relationship, because then the abuser has nothing left to lose. Other outcomes include long-term stalking; denial of financial resources; and manipulation of the family court system to terrify the victim and her children who are forced by family court judges to spend unsupervised time with the man who beats their mother. Ms. Steiner was able to leave after a final beating that broke through her denial. She realized the man she loved was going to kill her if she let him. She broke the silence and told everyone – police, family, friends, neighbors, even strangers.
Now knowing what abuse looks like, Ms. Steiner had this to say to everyone: “Abuse thrives only in silence. You have the power to end it by shining a spotlight on it. Recognize the early signs. Conscientiously intervene. De-escalate it. Show victims the safe way out.”
On behalf of LAP, Ms. Garcia expressed heartfelt thanks and appreciation for the useful information that the presenters provided “about the various forms of domestic violence, strategies to support those who are suffering, and guidelines to secure a protective order.” The workshop attendees left the workshop with a heightened awareness of domestic violence and information that equips them with the knowledge to recognize the signs of domestic violence and to help stop the violence by intervening with a safe exit plan when necessary.