Did you know that 1 in 4 will become a victim of domestic violence? Did you know that 1 in 15 children is exposed to intimate partner violence every year and that 90% of them witness the abuse? These are just a few statistics on how domestic violence has quietly become commonplace in our society. That’s why this month, YWCA’s across the world are promoting a Week Without Violence, from Oct. 17-21. We want to shed light on this critical issue by focusing on education and awareness.
From a woman beaten with a baseball bat, to a woman being raped by a family member, YWCA Oahu’s case managers have heard dozens of horrific stories from the women in our work furlough program. The majority of incarcerated women that come through our Fernhurst residence have been victims of domestic violence (DV). As a result of the violence they have experienced, some women have turned into perpetrators, often starting for the purpose of self-defense.
Kelcie-Anne Watson is a full-time Case Manager and Roshian Lafaele is Assistant Manager at the Fernhurst YWCA in Makiki. It’s mandatory that they meet with the residents twice a month, but sometimes they meet much more frequently. Women talk to them about problems stemming from work, other residents, their family, and a variety of personal matters, including their troubled pasts.
“What we get is the aftermath of getting abused,” Kelcie said. “They’re not wanting to deal with the domestic violence issue right then and there because it’s not an in-the-moment situation. We’re guiding them through being a domestic violence survivor and talking about being confident, loving yourself and realizing that people don’t treat people like that.”
The repercussions of domestic violence can remain with victims for years. According to Kelcie and Roshian, women develop trust issues, lose confidence, and struggle to parent their children without becoming violent or angry. They begin to believe that their abusive relationships, which are often with someone who also has an arrest record, are all they’re good for. One of the biggest effects of DV is that victims become perpetrators, and many victims turn to drugs to numb themselves as a way of coping, which results in their arrest.
“For some of these residents, the only time they were sober is the time they were locked up. It’s the only real time of trying to handle things soberly,” Roshian said. “Our job is to make sure that if they are ready to revisit the past, we have to make sure there’s enough time to provide support so that she’s not just opening up a can of worms and then just leave it at that. There has to be a positive outcome.”
To help work furlough residents begin the healing process and transition into the community, women are invited to participate in life skills classes about maintaining healthy relationships, self-love, and self-care. The new S.E.E.D.S. Initiative will also help women make positive lifestyle choices through a customized model focusing on social connectivity, exercise, education, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep. One of the biggest challenges for case managers is trying to change women’s attitudes and perspectives—to understand that they don’t deserve to be mistreated.
“We’re changing lives and it’s hard. It doesn’t always go the way we want it to go,” Kelcie said. “Women are going to fall short sometimes and make mistakes, but all we can do is try to pick them up, shake the dust off their shoulders and move forward.”
As for what the community can do to help reduce domestic violence, Roshian suggested that there should be equal advocacy for men as victims of domestic violence, while Kelcie said that people need to stop turning a blind eye to potential DV situations.
“I think turning a blind eye is the worst thing someone could do,” Kelcie added. “You don’t even have to see anyone hitting, even if you hear someone going off-the-wall crazy, it’s important to call 911.”
If you want to take action against domestic abuse, please click here. You can also visit Laniākea YWCA during the Week Without Violence (Oct.17-21) to view our Clothesline Project--raising awareness of the impact of violence against women, celebrating a woman's strength to survive, and providing another way for women to break their silence surrounding domestic violence.