by Stacey J. Smith —
There are numerous books, movies, songs, poems, studies and news articles and advocacy groups focused on domestic violence and its prevention.
Yet, it continues to be the culprit in dysfunctional families, intimate partner relationships, and strained marriages.
The Alpha Eta Zeta DOVE Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Memphis Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, which is dedicated to improving the lives of others, focused on the issue Oct. 28 during its annual Domestic Violence Awareness Forum at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church.
Beverly Anderson, the Alpha Eta Zeta DOVE Foundation Board chair, stressed the importance of continuing to have forums and events to bring awareness to the “silent killer.”
Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of controlling behavior that consists of physical, sexual and/or psychological abuse or assaults committed by one intimate partner against another.
Domestic violence often occurs because a partner wants to control the thoughts, beliefs and conduct of his or her significant other. (see family safety center.org)
Many victims of domestic violence escape it, some do not survive it, but then there are others who endure it.
“Why don’t they just leave?” many ask.
It is not as easy as it sounds. Many want their children to have a two-parent household. Some want to be in a relationship, regardless of the abuse. Others simply do not have an escape plan.
There is help, whether the abuse is mental or physical.
According to Shelby County government statistics, more than half of crimes against persons are domestic violence related.
Tennessee ranks seventh overall in the nation for the number of women killed by men.
What can we do?
Ms. Yolandria Taylor, chair of this year’s events, gathered her committee and asked them to consider having events throughout the month of October.
Since October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month, sometimes the purple gets overshadowed by the pink.
Taylor said, “We wanted to offer events that would be helpful, educational, and impactful to the entire community.”
The group offered a self-defense class at the Whitehaven Branch Library, donated toiletries to the Memphis Safety Center, held a Night Walk from the UT Health Sciences Park to the Crime Victims & Rape Crisis Center. The finale for these events was the Domestic Violence Awareness Forum.
The forum featured speakers from the Memphis Crisis Center, the Family Safety Center, the Love Foundation, and Sexual Victims Unit of the Memphis Police Department.
Each speaker was riveting as they discussed their services and accounts of victims’ stories.
Holly McCaskill, executive director of the Memphis Crisis Center, said their volunteers operate a 24-hour hotline that is completely confidential.
“It is a compassionate lifeline for anyone in distress,” McCaskill said.
Fannie Griffin, the outreach liaison at Family Safety Center, said the center helps in filing the Orders of Protection, a document issued by a judge or judicial commissioner that orders a domestic violence assailant to say away from a victim or face legal consequences, and finding emergency shelter for victims.
“We also help mostly women navigate the many services available to them,” Griffin said.
Barbara Love’s testimony about being a victim was moving. She started the Love Foundation as an outlet so others could find victory over the violence.
“I want victims to know that you’re not alone and that it’s not your fault,” Love said.
Rev. Barbara Farmer-Tolbert, a retired special victims unit detective, became an advocate for vulnerable persons because of the prevalence of domestic violence in Memphis.
She has received accolades for her work and has gone through numerous training sessions to increase her awareness and credentials.
“I have traveled to more than 75 countries, and I will continue to do so in order to become a beacon of light for those who are victims of abuse and human trafficking,” Farmer-Tolbert said.
(If you are aware of someone who is being abused or are seeking help, you can call 2-1-1, the Family Safety Center at 901-249-7611/ 901-222-4400, or call 901-CRISIS-7 or the National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.)