Domestic violence plagues the homes, lives, and families of many Americans.
“As a nation, state, community, family and couple, we hide this dirty little secret, telling ourselves that it’s not that bad or it’s really no one else’s business,” said Leona Chapman, Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency case manager.
Chapman has counseled women facing unplanned pregnancy, answered rape crisis phone lines, worked in a shelter for abused women, and offered family support services to homeless and low income households.
She also is the case manager for residents who live in a transitional housing program. These jobs have shown her the ugliest side of the “skeleton of domestic violence buried in the closet,” Chapman said.
In her work, she said, she constantly hears about family and relationship violence.
“I believe it is time that we research the statistics, hear the stories, and take action to stop this tragedy happening in our neighborhoods,” Chapman said.
In October, about 45 people attended a campus presentation on relationship violence.
Erin Walker, YWCA Outreach and Volunteer Services director, guided students on how to leave a violent relationship — or how to help someone else make the decision to leave.
When approaching a victim of domestic violence, Walker said, it is important to initiate the conversation without forcing the victim to stay somewhere or by telling her what she must do.
Walker said to encourage the victim to make her own decisions while stressing the facts and promoting the realization that you, and others, fear for her safety.
Even as a friend or peer, you can help the victim out of her harmful situation.
“We need to recognize domestic violence as a community issue,” she said.
Both Chapman and Walker reach out to the community to educate victims, informing them they have professionals to talk with, places to go, and ways to stay safe as they escape the grasp of domestic violence.
Both women reiterated the importance of getting help before violent incidents increase, escalate, or spread into all aspects of their lives.
Abuse victims never have to feel like they are isolated in their situation, Walker said.
Domestic violence doesn’t always end in death, she said. But it always leave emotional scars that become deeper and darker the longer the abuse continues.
Walker said domestic violence isn’t just in the physical marks it leaves.
It also is present in emotional abuse, isolation, denial, blaming, intimidation, and threats, made by one person deliberately taking away another person’s power and control.
One in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, Walker said.
Chapman stressed the idea that domestic violence is multifaceted.
“If I had one thing to share with others, it would be that domestic violence is behind many social problems including substance abuse and mental illness,” Chapman said.
“It is often the root that is fueling many social issues. This epidemic is hurting every human being.”