A man grabs his girlfriend around the neck, puts her head under the bathtub’s faucet and threatens to turn it on. He holds the woman’s cellphone in his hand, convinced she is talking to other men. In actuality, he cheated on her and frequently abused her.
She breaks up with him, cuts off all contact and moves far away. But she never reported what her ex-boyfriend did to her.
This story belongs to a friend of Brenna Belcher, a 19-year-old engineering student at Santa Fe College.
Belcher said she wished her friend had reported her perpetrator. The relationship was a “vicious cycle” — the boyfriend would abuse her friend and be nice immediately after, she said.
Experiences like that were addressed at a Santa Fe College event Monday to raise awareness about domestic violence against women and men as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Students made T-shirts, and a conference was held on campus to show support for domestic abuse victims.
The conference was hosted by Student Life at Santa Fe and consisted of eight speakers, each from different organizations aimed at supporting and helping domestic abuse victims and perpetrators. Santa Fe’s Police Chief Ed Brook was also there to speak.
Teresa Drake, Director of the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic, said “one in every three women in this country will face domestic violence.” This means in a room with more than a dozen women, it’s likely that three of them are victims of domestic abuse, she said.
As Bruce Ferris, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor at the Village Counseling Center of Gainesville, later said, domestic abuse involves more than just battery — power and control are also big factors.
Some often wonder why victims in abusive relationships don’t leave, and Alachua County’s Bureau Chief for Trauma Intervention Laura Knudson explained it’s often difficult.
“When you become so isolated, so alone ... it is hard to get out of relationships,” Knudson said.
Ferris said other domestic violence factors can include low self-esteem and the misguided belief that the abuse is normal and OK.
“There is a lot of blaming of our victims and survivors,” Ferris said.
He said there is a dynamic of why survivors stay.
“Just because (the victim) stayed doesn’t mean it’s (his or her) fault.”
Sometimes they have nowhere to go.
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 10/7/2014]