Washington Post
Washington Post 22 Apr 2020

Domestic violence survivors on the dangers of life in quarantine


Two women who survived domestic violence talk about the peril facing those who are trapped at home with their abusers during the coronavirus pandemic. "There will be a date when you will get out, so keep the hope," said survivor Serena Chiboleka.

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-I actually remember him saying,
"I can beat you now that you don't have the child in you.
I was holding back because you were pregnant,
but now you're not."
And I remember standing one day with our child,
who was less than a week old,
holding him in my arms, holding him in my arm.
And then were physically tussling,
you know, trying to push him back and all of that.
And I remember him holding my night dress like this,
and he proceeded to slap me so hard.
-I nearly lost my life.
I nearly lost my life by the partner
that I was with who choked me with his hands,
as well as picked up two computer cords
and put them around my neck.
-I don't think I ever recovered from that.
Like, those were, like, some really hard, nasty,
you'll-never-forget-it type of slaps.
-But I fought for my life that day.
I actually fought for my life
because I did not want my family or my friends
to get a call that next morning and say,
"Yvonne was killed last night."
That wasn't gonna happen.
That just was not gonna happen.
-I called my sister, and I said, "I can't stay here anymore.
He's either gonna kill me,
or I'm gonna end up killing him."
So I grabbed all my most important documents,
my baby's clothes and diapers, and that's how I left.
-In situations of crisis,
it tends to escalate domestic violence.
In particular in this situation, what really concerns me
is the idea of being quarantined and being in a space
with a partner that is abusive.
-I just couldn't imagine a woman who's been assaulted or offended
who's in or isolated with someone.
-Some of them might be having
the time of their life with this,
just making their partners look as crazy as possible.
I would have been trying to survive the best way that I knew
how, which was, don't ruffle any feathers.
There would have been no way to even talk to my friend now
if she would call and say, "Hey, how are you really doing?"
I wouldn't have had moments
to myself to go into the next room
and cry in the way that I needed to cry.
-What I think of immediately is just the toll,
the emotional toll that abuse takes on somebody.
And if you can think of a situation
where you might have some space to decompress with that --
like, you might go to work and come back
or you might be doing things with your children
and come back -- versus a situation
where you can't ever get away from that person,
it can emotionally and mentally become really daunting.
-If you're in the house
and if you both of you lost a job,
not going to work and so forth, you're there together.
So it's like, "How is it going to react?
What's gonna come out?"
-That additional stress
of perhaps having economic instability,
given the situation, could also escalate it.
-The lack of financial stability I know
would have really made things really worse.
Like, the person, my abuser, would have turned it on me
to say, "Why aren't you doing something about this?
It's your fault that we're in this situation."
-You really do have to protect yourself.
-Do what you can to keep yourself safe.
If that means the abuser likes the house clean,
clean the house.
Don't feel like anyone's going to judge you
for doing what you had to do to survive.
Right now, get all your documents together,
all your most important documents,
if you can put them in one place.
Do the little you can to take care of yourself.
If you can take a shower and think for a few minutes
of something beautiful
that's meaningful to you outside of your abusive situation,
go to that place in your mind.
The possibility of you having a different life
after this is real.
-There is a percentage of our population that we know
is at higher risk for re-assault or homicide.
And that is really, to me, the population that we need
to make sure we are continuing to protect.
-Domestic violence is a silent killer --
killer, killer.
I am lucky to be alive.
-There will be a date when you will get out, so keep the hope.
Keep the fire of hope knowing,
"One day I won't be in this situation."
And when you get out, do not go back.

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