As A Domestic Violence Survivor & Advocate I Am Working Even Harder To Sound The Alarm During COVID-19

By Kaitlyn Carpenter

Last October during domestic violence awareness month, I wrote an article for GirlTalkHQ sharing my own experiences and the horrifying statistics of domestic violence in the United States today, with the hopes of raising public awareness.

I am a mother of two and a survivor of domestic violence. Growing up I had a single mother who was a drug abuser and very abusive to me and my three brothers. I was basically the mother who raised them. I was molested at the age of 12 by a family babysitter.  At the age of 15, my brothers were taken and dropped off to their biological Father, and not too long after I followed to escape my household. That was the first time meeting my dad the day I moved in. 

There, the abuse only furthered and I was sexually abused by him. Through all of this, I found someone who I fell for and we had a daughter. I was with him for 2 ½ years. He cheated on me countlessly and towards the end, he started putting his hands on me in front of our daughter. He would violently push my head into the floor and cover my nose and mouth so I couldn’t breathe, would push me around, break down doors to get to me, and called me every name you could imagine. At this time my mother had been reaching out trying to contact me saying she had gotten clean and wanted a relationship.

Finally, after having enough, I took the chance, and I moved to New York to be with her. While I was there everything was fine for about a month, then one night we had a disagreement regarding my daughter and she broke my phone, smacked my face, threw a candle at me while I was holding my daughter and it exploded everywhere. Thank God I was covering my Daughter, or she could have been hurt severely. She threw a bunch of my clothes in the sink and set them on fire.

After I called the police, she was arrested. The next night I packed everything up and decided to leave (even though I had nowhere to go and nothing but the clothes I packed). I ended up going into a women’s domestic violence shelter called Liberty Resources. It was such an amazing place that helped me in so many ways to get on my feet and have a fresh start. There, I began having a passion to help other women like myself.

I ended up meeting an amazing man who was one of the founders of a local nonprofit providing programs for women victims of domestic violence (who is now my Fiancé) and was introduced to the great organizations I am now involved in. Being in the shelter, I saw the need for jobs so desperately. They helped with everything else, but when it came to jobs you were on your own and most women would return to their abusers because of not being able to be financially stable. I’m so excited to be a part of this journey and the women we will be able to help!

I am on the Board of Directors of Your Nuhorizons, Inc. and was recently elected to the Board of Directors for Right Beginnings, a nonprofit organization which currently operates a Jobs for Women Program for women victims of domestic violence who are residents of the District of Columbia and is planning to expand its programs by operating a transitional housing facility and expanding the Jobs for Women Program. 

Covid-19 has negatively affected all of our lives but the most vulnerable are negatively affected in ways besides the pandemic itself.

“On March 16, 2020, the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) began collecting data to track how COVID-19 impacts victims and survivors of domestic violence. We know any external factors that add stress, isolation, and financial strain can create circumstances where a survivor’s safety is further compromised—this pandemic has elements of all three. Even more concerning, shelter-in-place orders meant that many would be in closer and more frequent proximity to their abusers,” outlines www.thehotline.org.

During the March-May time period contacts to the Hotline increased 9% and over 6000 contacts cited COVID-19 as a contributing cause.

“By citing COVID-19 as a condition of their experience, this means a contact noted COVID-19 impacted their situation – whether that means an abuser was using COVID-19 to further control and abuse, or if a resource, like a shelter, was unavailable due to COVID-19. In some cases, sadly it was both.  Contacts usually cite two or more types of abuse in their individual situations, and COVID-19 was no exception to that. 90% of all contacts answered reported experiencing emotional or verbal abuse, where their abuser used threats, intimidation, or humiliation to gain power and control. 24% of all contacts reported economic or financial abuse in their situation – this is also something that may increase in the face of growing unemployment and the long-term economic challenges as a result. One caller had tested positive for COVID-19, and the abuser was keeping them from contacting family and threatening them with deportation. To see someone’s health and immigration status weaponized shows that an abusive partner will use anything they can to isolate and control. We know that isolation is one of the strongest tactics an abuser can use,” again from www.thehotline.org.

WHAT IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE?

Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, threats, economic, and emotional/psychological abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence varies dramatically.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • In the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually. 
  • 1 in 4 women experience sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime with ‘IPV-related impact’ such as being concerned for their safety, PTSD symptoms, injury, or needing victim services. 
  • From 2016 through 2018 the number of intimate partner violence victimizations in the United States increased 42%.
  • In 2018, partner violence accounted for 20% of all violent crime.
  • 1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence. 

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)  www.ncadv.org

The Jobs for Women Program operated by Right Beginnings at the Freddi House emergency shelter this past year made a meaningful difference in the lives of 90 women. I am pleased to be a part of Right Beginnings as the organization expands the Program through more shelters and completes its plans to operate a transitional housing facility.

If you need help or you know someone who you believe needs help, call  The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 or visit  www.thehotline.org.

Kaitlyn Carpenter, 20, is an advocate and member of the NuHorizons Board of Directors. As a single mother who experienced her own personal circumstances, she is an advocate of raising public awareness of domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, and to help raise the resources necessary to operate the first-of-its-kind pilot program NuHorizons Jobs For Women Program to provide job training, experience, and assistance in qualifying for, locating, and securing self-sustaining permanent community employment for women victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. You can contact Kaitlyn at kaitlynnuhorizons@gmail.com or visit www.stopthepainnow.org.

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