By Roxanne Epperson
Domestic violence is a public health issue that is permeating our communities at epidemic proportions and affects women and girls around the world regardless of race, ethnicity, or financial status. One-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives. [The Commonwealth Fund. (May 1999) Health Concerns across a Woman’s Lifespan: 1998 Survey of Wo m e n ’s Health.] Moreover, every day, at least three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country. [Rennison, C. & Welchans, S. (2000). Intimate Partner Violence. (Publication #NCJ178247) Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report, OJP.]
Like victims, batterers come from all professions, educational back- grounds, ethnic backgrounds, socio- economic classes, and religious affiliations. However, batterers do have some characteristics in common, including a belief in the use of violence and the use of defense mechanisms to justify abusive behaviors, extreme jealousy and conflicting personalities . [Wilson, K.J. (1997). When Violence Begins at Home. Hunter House Inc.] It should also be noted that females do batter, and domestic violence does occur in same sex relationships, as well.
My personal ordeal ended in November 1993, after my abuser almost took my life. I told him that I asked a friend of his if they were having an affair. In a rage, he told me that it was none of my business, spit profusely in my face, smothered me, dragged me toward the bathroom, punched me in the head, and choked me. I blacked out and when I awoke, I was sitting on the side of my bed in a daze. This was the beginning of my new life! The punch in the head was my “wake-up” call. It was as if I had awakened from amnesia or his failed attempt to brainwash me. There were no visible signs of abuse, which is common, other than the sadness in my face. I was able to hide from my family and friends the nightmare that I was living for one and a half years. It is by the grace of God that I am alive. I was given a second chance at life! Thank you, Lord!
Until recently, I felt trapped in a world of bitterness because of words and actions of another. The experience of forgiveness is one I am pray- ing for. Spiritually, I know that I must forgive him. I understand that he has a serious problem and needs help. However, nine years later, the struggle to soften my heart towards someone who almost killed me continues. I will have to continue praying on this one! Because of my experiences, combined with being a survivor of such violence, it has become my mission to help other females get out of – or never get into — such relationships. To fulfill this mission, I founded Women Against Abusive Relationships (WAAR), which provides awareness and education programs for teens and college students and is a resource and referral center, as well as a healing space for adults.
As I reflect on this relationship, there were signs that indicated an escalation to physical abuse, but I did not recognize them. Through my organization, I want to ensure that others know the many types of abuse and characteristics of an abuser. Although the person who abused me is some- one who I at one time wished off the face of the earth, I understand that he has a serious problem and needs help unlearning his abusive behavior. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.