Research indicates that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives. Domestic violence affects women of all races, ethnicities, ages, and economic classes – with an estimated 1.3 million women being physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year.
Domestic violence is about exerting power and control. In addition to physical and sexual violence, abusers threaten and intimidate. They abuse pets, destroy belongings, and threaten with weapons. Abusers use economic abuse, controlling all the family income. Abusers shift the blame, saying things like “you made me hit you” and “you’re no good.”
Why do women stay in abusive relationships? Women don’t leave because they are afraid. They fear revenge and the possible abuse of their children. They fear losing their home or income. Women are embarrassed. Often women believe that the situation will get better – particularly if the abuse cycles with the perpetrator showing care and affection sometimes and being abusive at other times.
Each day, women living at Calvary Women’s Services begin the process of healing from the abuse and trauma they have experienced. Tracy’s story is an example of the challenges that women face and the strength they have to build better lives for themselves.
Though the details aren’t clear, there was certainly violence in Tracy’s childhood home. She says that from early on she dated men who were abusive. She used alcohol and drugs to mask her fear and depression. Tracy always worked – cleaning hotel rooms and working in restaurants, making enough to pay the bills most of the time.
When I met Tracy she had been living on the streets or on friends’ couches for almost a year. She had fled the apartment where she had been living with an abusive boyfriend. Tracy moved into Calvary but didn’t stay long. She went back to her boyfriend. But one day, after being beaten badly, she came back to Calvary. She says she knew she had to make a change or she wouldn’t live.
Tracy turned her life around. She connected with a case manager who offered her resources and personal support. She got serious about her sobriety and started meeting with a therapist who helped her start talking about the violence she had experienced. By the time Tracy moved into her apartment, she had secured income, re-established relations with her family, and stabilized her health.
Tracy is one of the over 100 women served at Calvary each year. In June, after we move into our new home on Good Hope Road, we will be able to serve even more women like Tracy who have experienced domestic violence – providing them not only with safe housing but also support to overcome their challenges and start again.