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‘Domestic violence is real’ — don’t ignore it
The chilling story of LaShonda Childs, an African American Ohio teen allegedly shot and killed by her 28-year-old ex-boyfriend Trendell Goodwin, reverberated on social media last week. Prior to her death, Childs had posted on Facebook about the constant threat of danger she felt. “If you see the signs, don’t ignore it, y’all. Domestic violence is real,” she warned on Sept. 21.
Childs was shot Oct. 2 and died early the next morning, two days shy of her 18th birthday. Her ex-boyfriend has since been charged in her murder. Her tragic death serves as a poignant start to Domestic Violence Awareness Month — a painful reminder of the need for open and honest dialogue about the issue.
Sister Spokesman’s “Sisterhood of Survival” event on Oct. 6 provided a space for such a conversation. Community members packed a room at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in Minneapolis to hear expert panelists Ethylon (E.B.) Brown, Saran Cryer, and Manu Lewis expound on the topic.
Domestic abuse survivor and author Jamieya Bolin-Johnson, accompanied by her young daughter, rounded out the panel. The afternoon was punctuated by spoken word performances from Marie Chanté, isis, and Alcina Washington-Fowler.
The one-hour discussion touched on various aspects of domestic violence, ranging from systemic and generational trauma and how to break the cycle of abuse to identifying abusive behaviors, prevention tips, and the importance of self-love and care.
Lewis, a facilitator and case manager at NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center, opened his remarks on a conciliatory note. “I want to apologize for a lot of things that we [men] have done,” he said, his face wet with tears. “I consider learned behavior how we treat each other, and I do believe we can learn something different.
“But, as a man, I realize how much we have broken our women down. And to start the healing process, we have to recognize what we have done,” he said.
Bolin-Johnson furthered the theme of healing as she explained how, in learning to forgive her abusive ex-husband, she opened the door to self-love and acceptance. She also sought help from professionals and the church to aid in the healing process. “I had to be courageous; I had to fight for my peace,” she said. “I had to fight for my children and fight [generational trauma]. Through forgiving him, I was free to love… I started to teach my children about signs of abuse.”
Panelists cited red flags to look for including possessiveness and emotional manipulation. Brown, program director of Oasis of Love Crisis Intervention Center, encouraged people to assess their relationships and take stock to see if their basic needs — praise, approval and acceptance — are being met. Brown implored attendees to ask themselves, “Am I getting [those things] out of this relationship? I don’t have to ask for them? I don’t have to perform for them?”
Cryer, a mental health therapist at Tubman, added that both women and men need to be diligent when looking for a mate. “You want to find out more information and not get into the emotional piece, but stay in your head. If they’re talking about a young lady that they have children by and they’re calling her out of her name, well, they’re going to call you out of your name, too.”
“It’s an interview,” she continued. “You’re interviewing them into your home, into your body, and when that happens, you become part of their trauma.”
Cryer advised attendees to be mindful and discerning at the onset of a potential relationship to avoid becoming entangled in a painful web because, “It’s not easy to leave. It just isn’t. It’s so emotional.”
Tamara Webb, a longtime Sister Spokesman attendee, said she was glad she came out to the event. “I got a lot out of it,” said Webb. “[Domestic violence] really plagues our community. We definitely need to see those signs and deal with it honestly with ourselves individually and in a group as a whole.”
Webb said although she had never been in an abusive relationship, she was glad to see the show of support and resources available for survivors of abuse.
Many support services for women victims of domestic violence, as provided through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), actually hang in the balance. The measure was set to expire Sept. 30, but as part of a stop-gap spending bill, Pres. Trump extended it to avoid a government shutdown. That extension only lasts through Dec. 7.
The continuation of the VAWA is all the more critical when considering the Violence Policy Center’s annual report that shows Black women are disproportionately killed across the country, being murdered by men at a rate of more than double White females. The report, based on 2016 findings, the most recent year for which information is available, notes that most often, Black females were killed by males in the course of an argument.
Attendee Ella Chapman, a survivor of abuse and now a motivational speaker, also stressed the importance of support for domestic violence victims. “During the time period when I was going through my situation, 20-something years ago, there wasn’t a lot of resources, and so now there’s more awareness, but we need even more,” she said.
Chapman revealed that she decided to break free from her abusive marriage after she stumbled upon a startling revelation: “It was the discovery that my [children] were plotting to kill their father if he had jumped on me again — that was my breaking point,” confided Chapman, her eyes brimming with tears.
“That was my wake-up moment,” she continued. “I saw that they hadn’t made their bed and I removed their pillow and saw all these weapons…
“That was the first time that I went and got a restraining order. It started the process… So that gave me the opportunity to escape and leave town, and that’s how I ended up in Minnesota [from Des Moines, Iowa].”
Chapman encouraged therapy for survivors. She also advised women currently in abusive relationships to make a plan. “Be smart, plan it out. Make sure you’re connecting with the right people to help you and gather all the important things you want to take with you. Be very intentional about what your next step is going to be.
“My suggestion for anyone who is experiencing a violent lifestyle is to plan to leave and know that you deserve better. You really do deserve better.”
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Domestic Violence Resources
Paige Elliott is the digital editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.