Feminist author Audre Lord famously stated, “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”
In the context of relationships with friends and family, speaking up can be complicated. It’s sometimes hard to know if and when to speak, and the exact words to use when we fear our loved ones have put themselves in unfortunate situations.
West Haven, CT mom Corrinna Martin, the subject of Investigation Discovery’s “Impact of Murder: There’s No Winning In Murder” that aired October 1, found herself in this predicament with two of her daughters.
Tragically, Martin’s eldest daughter Chaquinequea was murdered along with Martin’s granddaughter, by her boyfriend in 2017. Four years earlier, Corrinna’s second youngest, Alyssiah, was murdered by her boyfriend.
Her wounds still raw, Martin dissolves into tears more than once during the gut-wrenching episode. However, Martin indicated that she felt compelled to do it. “It was an opportunity,” she said in an interview with MSR, “to talk about domestic violence in the Black and Brown communities. We’re dying in astronomically high numbers and no one is talking about it.”
Although it’s shocking, it shouldn’t be. According to the Bureau of Justice, “African American females experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of White females, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races.”
Both Corrinna and her youngest daughter Oree, during the program, discussed having reservations about both men. Both decided at one point or another, not to push as hard against the men as they wanted to.
Finding out Alyssiah’s boyfriend was much older than the then-17-year-old Alyssiah gave Martin pause, but she held her tongue at that point. In the documentary, Martin states, “I figured, she’s already been seeing him, there’s not too much that I can do. She will be 18 in a few months.” Martin shares that during the course of the relationship, she did say something, but by then it was too late–her daughter was already in the cycle of abuse.
Martin, who started the anti-domestic violence non-profit Mothers of Victims Equality (MOVE) in the aftermath of Alyssiah’s murder, said there is a way to speak up that lessens the chances of a conflict. She explained, “You want to let them know you’re hurting and fearful for them, but you don’t want to put it in a judgemental or condemning way.” It’s even more important because the person might be in denial.
The community at large, Martin suggests, must also undertake a shift in attitudes if we are to see a decrease in domestic violence. Martin offers that the community sometimes downplays the abuse. “Stop accepting the belief that ‘men gotta be men,’” she emphasized, “if they’re psychologically, emotionally making you feel less than.”
Many women are murdered when they try to extract themselves from a relationship. “It’s the most dangerous time for any woman,” said Martin. “The person, by all accounts, might be a good person, but they don’t want to lose you.”
Eastern Connecticut State University professor Brenda Westberry, who appears in the program, agrees. “I think it is the most pivotal and dangerous time, because the batterer is losing power and control.” She suggests victims have a safety plan in place. “Having a safety plan is paramount. A plan that puts you in a place where you have access to multiple resources such as counseling and shelter.”
The norms in the Black community must also be shifted in the ways we groom young women for adulthood. Looking for signs of potential abusive behavior is a crucial part of young women vetting of potential partners. “When you’re already involved, it’s a different dynamic. You have to address it before it starts,” said Westberry.
To that end, Martin’s organization created a petition proposing a National Violent Offenders Registry. Martin explained, “It’s public information that would be a useful tool for determining if the person you are trying to date has arrests that indicate if they could be a violent partner.” Such a tool, Martin states, is more important now when many people are meeting via dating apps.
Martin urges the public to get more active politically and bring the issue to the attention of legislators. “Many of us aren’t aware of how much voting power we have. Honestly, this is our constitutional right. We have the right to the pursuit of happiness.”
You can now watch the episode with an ID cable subscription at IDGO. The show is found here: www.investigationdiscovery.com/tv-shows/impact-of-murder.