By Liz Lopez
Domestic abuse is a pervasive force in our society and the lack of adequate laws to protect victims is disturbing to say the least. 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner.
Women’s Resource Center
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and across the country activists are bringing attention to the plight of victims of physical assault. The Women’s Resource Center screened the documentary, “Private Violence”, directed by Cynthia Hill.
The story is centered around domestic abuse survivor, Deanna Walters, and victims’ advocate, Kit Grulle, as they navigate the treacherous world of domestic violence and the complex waters of the legal system. As they struggle to capture and prosecute Walters’ predatory husband, who kidnaped and violently abused Walters across state lines, the viewer is exposed to the life of fear, pain, and insurmountable obstacles that survivors of domestic violence deal with in their everyday lives.
In one of the first court scenes, we see a photo of Walters and the horrific disfiguring bruises that she sustained at the hands of her partner. Her kidnapping and beatings were the result of her standing up to her partner and saying no. It’s common for women to stay with their abusive partners because they threaten to harm their children and family members who want to help them.
Even after beating a woman to a pulp, viewers of the documentary learn that abusers get a maximum of 150 days in prison, only to be released to terrorize their victims all over again. This short prison sentence is the best a woman can hope for in state court and most women are not even that lucky. It was up to Walters to find a doctor that would take the stand on her behalf, because it was necessary to validate that the bruises she received were indicative of internal injuries. Each state has their own laws and in many cases the crime is only considered a misdemeanor.
One of the most visceral moments is experiencing “the look,” from a predator. If you are fortunate enough, not to have the personal experience of domestic abuse, you may not even know about “the look.” Police officers often don’t notice either, so when they separate the victim from the abuser during a domestic violence house call, police don’t realize that the abuser already put their victim on notice with a stern “I’m going to kill you if you say anything look.”
Survivors who choose to defend themselves and harm or kill their domestic partners, even in self-defense, are serving long or life sentences. The plight of the survivors who find themselves in the justice system is steadily becoming a public concern.
Project Survive and Poetry for the People
Project Survive and CCSF Poetry for the People sponsored “Speak to Me: Poetry for Survivors.” A large group gathered for this virtual poetry reading. It was beautiful to see a supportive community holding space for one another. Students were free to express their truth, pain and hopes in a caring atmosphere. It was a powerful experience and participants noted that being able to read their poetry in this supportive atmosphere is a catalyst for healing.
“When testifying against their abuser, there are always the same questions: “why didn’t you ask for help?”, “why didn’t you leave him?”, “maybe you provoked him”, says Poetry for the People student Vané Velasco. She is concerned that many victims don’t have a community, a loving mother or caring father to go back to. Her hope is that, as a society, we can rid ourselves of the domestic violence stigma, become more empathetic and give survivors an unlimited amount of chances to seek help without judgment. She says, “Sometimes people need a lifetime of support to free themselves.”
“Rates of domestic violence have gone up during COVID due to economic stress and also survivors being isolated from outside support networks,” says Adele Failes-Carpenter, Project Survive Coordinator. “We can all make a positive impact in the lives of our friends and loved ones by staying in touch and knowing resources that can help survivors of domestic violence plan for their safety.”
Carpenter notes that “The Violence Against Women Act” expired in 2018 and its renewal was opposed by conservative Republicans who opposed the provisions protecting LGBT and undocumented survivors.”
In 2020, if you’re still asking, “why doesn’t she just leave him?” it’s time to become informed and the Women’s Resource Center and Project Survive are here to help.
What does it make you do
Does it make you so immune
To the idea that bad is good
They love you
Keep thinking that
So you don’t cry at night
Thinking that the shit/stuff they mentally and physically do is alright
Thinking the shit/stuff they emotionally put you through is alright
What does it make you do
Does it make you crave them after an argument because now you’re all alone
Does it make you hate them because they don’t put effort into helping you not feel alone
Confusion lost of connection
oh wait but did i mention
The tension they gave you after you did something wrong
What is it
What can you do to make the person care to listen
What is it
You’re not bright or perfect enough
Get all sorry and insecure because you don’t feel pretty enough
Going through some things they cant tell
No instead they put you through this love you call hell
You still don’t know what is it
Questioning is this really it
Some just get played because they become the fool
Some will never know
they have been used
Because some got mentally, emotionally and physically abused
Is that love ?
Poem by Nana Escobar
One good local resource is WOMAN Inc, which has a 24 hour crisis line and keeps a count of all available shelter beds in San Francisco. Their line can also be used as a text line, which may be a better option for people who need support but are stuck at home with someone who is abusing them.
City College Resources:
WRC Zoom Office Hours are Monday through Friday from 12 PM till 4 PM
Anyone can log into their zoom link if they would like to talk to someone or need resources
San Francisco Women against Rape (SFWAR)
short-term peer counseling and referrals
(415) 647-RAPE (7273) (crisis)
(415) 861-2024 (office)