By ROBERT JUMPER
One Feather Editor
“Domestic abuse, also called ‘domestic violence’ or ‘intimate partner violence’, can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. It can occur within a range of relationships including couples who are married, living together, or dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, faith, or class. Victims of domestic abuse may also include a child or other relative, or any other household member. Domestic abuse is typically manifested as a pattern of abusive behavior toward an intimate partner in a dating or family relationship, where the abuser exerts power and control over the victim. Domestic abuse can be mental, physical, economic, or sexual in nature. Incidents are rarely isolated, and usually escalate in frequency and severity. Domestic abuse may culminate in serious physical injury or death.” (www.un.org)
As many of you know, the One Feather runs a story contest every Halloween to give our readers the opportunity to exercise their writing muscles and have a little fun with the season of thrills and chills. We enjoy the contest as much as you do, because every year we receive a variety of great tales of fright from you.
But there are real stories of real horror, and many go untold right here on the Qualla Boundary. And it doesn’t matter what time of year, because these tales of terror play out the whole year-round. And while the Spooky Story contest is a fun, safe activity, the real stories of terror are not fun or safe, and there is hardly ever a happy ending.
This month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic abuse or violence, according to the National Coalition on Domestic Violence. According to the National Institute for Justice, a survey in 2016 showed that “more than one in three American Indian and Alaska Native women (39.8 percent) had experienced physical violence in 2015. This includes 14.4 percent who have experienced sexual violence, 8.6 percent who have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner, 11.6 percent who have experienced stalking, and 25.5 percent who have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner. Overall, more than 730,000 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime.” Native men, according to the survey, also had high victimization rates.
The numbers are large and impersonal. It is hard to have a sense of urgency when you are looking at those statistics with no names. But it is very personal to those victims, survivors, and families. When you are being abused, it is very personal. Below are examples of true stories that have been shared by survivors who hope that their openness will help others in similar situations and help others to identify with and reach out to those who need support. These are stories from the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria (DVRCV). While the stories are real, the names are not. These are not stories from our community; however, they are representative of the kinds of situations and relationships experienced by those involved in abusive relationships.
“I was a single dad with children and remarried. What an idiot I was. I should have spotted the warning signs.
“Whenever anything went wrong, she’d blame me. Anyway, it turned into a living nightmare within a year of being married.
“She took every opportunity to belittle me.
“When in a temper, she often hit me but never on the face. I thought I deserved it because I was withdrawn and a bad husband – that’s what she kept saying. She forced me to have sex to become a good husband for her. I couldn’t leave because that would have meant leaving my children.
“I tried to tell my mother but what little I told she said, “What are you doing to make her behave that way?” I felt abandoned by everyone except the kids. After several years my wife said she was leaving. Everyone said the breakup was my fault. I never told anyone what really happened.
“Years later I finally had the courage to tell a counsellor that I went to because of depression after I lost my job. I had no close friends by then.”
“I lived in a violent marriage for years. I was very naive at first and really didn’t know people like him existed. He would kick me, slap me, push me, trip me over, throw things at me, stand on my feet, yell abuse, call me names like ‘social cripple’, the list goes on and on, but he never punched me.
“In fact, he would say to people that he couldn’t stand ‘wife beaters’. He would tell me that he didn’t want the children to play with so and so’s children because they were a bad influence.
“He tried to isolate us from all those who loved us and new people we met would go through character assassination by him.
“Life was continuous hell, fear and horror and he always blamed the children or me for his violence.
“Things got a lot worse towards the end. He would threaten to run us all off the road in the car and kill us. The violence became a daily occurrence if not several episodes a day”’
“She and I met when I was in my twenties and she in her thirties. We basically met and moved in. She didn’t like my place in the city, so she brought me 20 miles away from my life. I became a stepmother right away to her child (whom I adored) and everything I did had to be revolving around her…and she was the one that said she never wanted me to lose myself in her. She told me she wanted me to have my own opinion and when I did, she got angry that I disagreed.
“She didn’t like my close friends, or my job and so I gave those up. She drank more and became more violent, verbally, and physically, always begging for forgiveness afterward and showering me with love. That allowed me to forget the pain.
“I didn’t want to lose her or her child, so I stayed and tried to change my views to suit her. I became so dependent on her approval and money and home and love that I had forgotten what I needed in life to make me happy. I was so understanding but to a fault and when the threat of my leaving came, she threw me out.”
Books and the internet are full of stories like these, and the stories of children and elderly family members who have suffered and are suffering pain-from name calling to neglect to brutality. Some only get out of these abusive relationships when they stop living. According to lapdonline.org, 4000 victims of domestic violence are killed every year.
Whether you are a victim/survivor, family member, or concerned citizen, you are key to stopping the pattern of domestic violence. Reach out to your individual community law enforcement agencies If you need help finding a program that will help you either get the resources you need to get out of an abusive relationship, or, if you are a concerned bystander, law enforcement will take your report and possibly end a horror story for someone else. On the Boundary, in emergency situations, call 911 immediately. You may also call Cherokee Police Dispatch at 497-4131. The Ernestine Walkingstick Domestic Violence Shelter is also an important resource for those in abusive relationships. You may speak with a specialist that will help you by calling the EBCI Domestic Violence Hotline, day or night, at 359-6830, or toll-free 828-264-9611.