A woman recently contacted the crisis line at My Sister’s House and said her husband had punched her while she held their child. “Is that domestic abuse,” she wondered.
A high school student said her boyfriend slammed her against her locker. It’s how he shows he likes her, she said.
As the executive director of My Sister’s House, the only shelter for abused women in the tricounty area, Tosha Connors hears a lot of devastating stories from women who are being abused by their partners.
“A lot of people don’t know what a healthy relationship is,” she says.
South Carolina was the fifth most deadly state for women killed by men according to the Violence Policy Center’s study released last year. Previously, the state had been ranked first in the country for the number of women killed at the hands of men. Domestic violence is pervasive problem and touches women of all ages, races socioeconomic backgrounds and relationship statuses.
There’s still a damaging perception in some communities that domestic violence is a family matter and that no outside intervention is necessary, Connors says. She says suburban women might have more resources to hide the abuse than women in rural communities, but she says both groups of women are just as trapped and their lives are just as endangered.
She says the most important thing advocates can do is stand up and speak out to help eliminate the stigma associated with domestic violence, to help teach people that controlling behavior and violence in a relationship are not acceptable.
“We have to find ways to talk about it so it’s not taboo,” Connors says.
Do you think you might be in an abusive relationship? Do you know someone who is? Here are some warning signs to look for and some ways you can help.
Warning signs that you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship:
- Your partner checks on you and your whereabouts multiple times a day in an effort to control your movement and interactions.
- Your partner restricts your access to bank accounts and cash.
- Your partner is verbally abusive, denigrating you as a person, lowering your self-esteem so you don’t feel you have the power or strength to seek help.”
- Your partner finds ways to separate you from your family and friends, insisting that he is the only person you can rely on.
- Your partner harms or kills your pet.
- Your partner shoves, hits, punches you and/or sexually abuses you.
What you can do if a friend or family member is in an abusive relationship:
- If a friend or family member comes forward to share that she is being abused, the first thing you should do is believe her, listen to her story.
- Do not say, “I would leave, if I were you.” Sometimes, the first step is for the woman to share her story with someone else. She might not be ready to leave the relationship.
- You should say, “There are resources available. Are you interested in pursuing those? Is that something you would like me to help you find?”
- You should say, “You are wonderful. I love you. I’m here for you. When you are ready, I’m here.”
- “It’s really about asking that person what they are able to do at this moment,” Connors says.
In the meantime, she says, provide daily reaffirmations to your friend that she is worthy and strong.
Resources available at My Sister’s House:
- My Sister’s House serves Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.
- The crisis hotline is 843-744-3242 or 800- 273-4673.
- Find information about how to develop a safety plan at mysistershouse.org/domestic-violence/safety-plans.
- My Sister’s House offers a shelter for women and their children who are abused. The shelter houses about 400 women and children a year.
- Representatives from My Sister’s House can pick up women who are abused from a safe location, including a police station or a hospital.
- Case managers help women identify their goals, such as finding housing or employment, and help identify resources to help them meet those goals.
- Court advocates are available to help women navigate legal proceedings.
- Support groups meet regularly.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes
Men slip on stilettos (or flip-flops) and join women to walk a mile in her shoes to raise awareness about domestic violence and abuse and help support My Sister’s House in its mission to provide resources for women and children survivors. 9 to 11 a.m., Gahagan Park, 184 W. Boundary St., Summerville. $20. To register, visit mysistershouse.org.
9 to 11 a.m. Park Circle, North Charleston. $20. To register, visit mysistershouse.org.