One in Four…

Raising awareness about issues related to domestic & dating violence

Why Do They Stay? May 4, 2012

Filed under: child custody,divorce,domestic violence,financial control,Why do they stay? — Women's Studies Intern @ 10:11 am

A few weeks ago we blogged about SPENT, an online program that challenges users’ notions of poverty as they attempt to survive life’s challenges as a low-income individual.  We urged our readers to test themselves and play.  That got us thinking; why not create our own questionnaire that challenges our readers to think about why victims stay in abusive relationships?  Leaving an abusive relationship is not as easy as simply walking out the door.  It is a process, and the motivations and results vary according to each woman or man.

Imagine you are a victim of domestic violence and answer Question 1.  Then, follow along as you begin to think about why victims of domestic violence might stay in their abusive relationships.  Click on “RESULT” to learn more about how the scenario can affect a victim of domestic violence and the statistics surrounding that affect.

  1. Are you married to your abuser? (If yes, go to Question 2)

    Are you dating but living together with your abuser? (If yes, go to Question 2)
    Are you dating but living apart from your abuser? (If yes, go to Question 3)
  2. Do you have somewhere at which you can stay if you decide to leave? (Go to Question 3)

    Do you have the financial abilities to afford to rent an apartment or home? (Go to Question 3)

  3. Do you have a child or children? (If yes, go to Question 4.  If no, go to Question 6)
  4. Is your abuser the father or mother to your child(ren)? (Go to Question 5)
  5. Do your children require child care? (Go to Question 6)
  6. Are you employed? (Go to Question 7)
    Are you unemployed? (Go to Question 7)
  7. Do you have health insurance? (If yes, go to Question 8.  If no, go to Question 9)
  8. Is your health insurance dependent on your continued relationship with your abuser? (Go to Question 9)
  9. Do you speak English?
    Are you non-English speaking?

These few questions reflect just some of the situational reasons why a victim may stay with her or his abuser, but there are a multitude of emotional reasons as well.  Some of these include fear of the abuser, love, believing no one can help, or being isolated from friends and family members by the abuser.  Ultimately, it is the victim’s choice whether she or he wants to leave an abusive relationship.  Safety should be prioritized.  We must validate the experiences of the victim and allow her or him to make her/his own decisions.

We would love to hear about your experiences following along with this blog post.  What are some other things that may keep a victim from leaving an abusive relationship or keep her or him from speaking out about her/his experiences?  Leave your comments below.


Free Family Law Clinic at El Centro Hispano April 9, 2011

Filed under: child custody,children,divorce — Johnson Intern @ 11:21 am

Next Tuesday, on April 12th 2011, from 5-7pm at El Centro Hispano in Carrboro will be hosting a family law workshop focusing on custody and divorce.  The workshop will be presented by a local attorney, Sarah Carr, and will cover topics including parental rights and responsibilities, legal procedures, the law and its alternatives.

The clinic will be open to the public, with English and Spanish services available.  Attendance is free, however it is requested that attendees call in advance so the workshop organizers know how many people to expect.  Members of the public who are interested can go to El Centro Hispano’s website, or contact Jose Torres-Don, at (919) 945-0132 (ex.t102).


Domestic Violence Knows No Age February 18, 2011

Alamance County Sheriffs arrested Robert Broom for the shooting of his wife, Danna Broom. Robert Broom was later convicted of his wife's attempted murder, and the murder of his unborn daughter Lily, who died as a consequence of the shooting.

In October 2008 when Danna Broom was shot in the stomach by her husband, Robert Morris, her first thoughts were for her unborn child, still developing in her womb.  Although the bullet missed the baby, doctors were compelled to extract the infant early so that they could try to save the life of her mother.  Thirty-one days later, the 26-week-old Lily Broom died from complications related to premature birth.  And later, in 2009, Robert Broom, 39, was charged and later convicted of her murder, receiving a sentence of life in prison without parole.  (Broom also received 13 years for the attempted murder of his wife, Danna Broom).

As terrifying and shocking as this story is, the above incident, as recounted in Sunday’s News & Observer is nevertheless an important reminder of the prevalence–and danger–of abusive relationships.  And it is an important reminder that domestic violence defies racial, cultural, and socioeconomic stereotype, and can occur sometimes unexpectedly, suddenly and without warning.

Danna Broom she says she didn’t even know she was in an abusive relationship until it nearly took her life, and in her own retelling, her life with her husband had always been a bit of a fairy tale, at least at first. The couple first met in Charlotte, in 1997, while both were working as paid professionals in an engineering firm.  They were married five years later in 2001, and three years after that, their first daughter, Emma, was born.  But, after Emma was born, Danna says she suffered crippling postpartum depression, and said that she and her husband began drifting apart.  By 2008, the couple began fighting and fighting often.  Then in the spring, Danna Broom became pregnant again, this time with Lily. Initially, Danna says, she and Robert promised to work harder, and try to make their marriage work.  However, what she didn’t realize is that her pregnancy put her in the greatest danger of all.

During pregnancy, irrational feelings of jealousy, fear, possessive/ownership and stress (elements which are sometimes underpinning and all-too-common in most abusive relationships) often lead men who are abusers to erupt in some of the most violent and unpredictable ways.  Statistically speaking, women are most likely to suffer violence and abuse during pregnancy than at any other time in their lives. Research has shown that homicide is the leading cause of traumatic death for pregnant and postpartum women in the US--accounting for as much as 31% of death resulting from injuries to pregnant women.

In October 2008, just moments before the tragic events that nearly cost her her life, Danna said that she and Robert were in their upstairs bedroom, talking about their future.  They discussed divorce.  They fussed, and began arguing.  Robert (while testifying on his own behalf), said he threatened to leave.  Then, while Robert excused himself to go to the bathroom, Danna says the next thing she knew, she felt the muzzle of the .45-caliber pistol pushed against her stomach, and a blast that blew her onto her back.

Through the afternoon and night, Broom said, her husband held her hostage, refusing to call for medical help.  She fought sleep, and says she survived simply by sheer force of will, and drew encouragement from every little movement her unborn daughter made.  Finally, twelve hours after the initial shooting, she made a deal with her husband–“If you call for paramedics, I’ll tell them it was an accident.” Mrs. Broom repeated the “accident” explanation several times over the next few days, even though doctors immediately saw through her story, saying that because the wound had already begun to heal, she had to have been shot at least eight hours before the 911 call was placed.

Eventually, police arrested Robert Broom, who was charged and eventually convicted of Danna’s attack, and Lily’s murder.  Broom’s lawyers have recently appealed the ruling, arguing that because Lily wasn’t directly injured in the attack, and died (they claim) as a result of the actions taken by the doctors trying to save Danna’s life, Robert”s conviction of first-degree murder should be overturned. But regardless of the legal criteria, sentencing guidelines, and arguments arising out of this case, one fact remains undisputed: an innocent life was lost as a result of a violent attack.

As tragic as the incident in Alamance is, it is also a painful reminder that similar incidents are playing out in homes across the state and the nation–and even here in Orange County.  It is important to note that at least to outwards appearances (and indeed, even to Danna Broom’s own recollections), the Broom family didn’t fit any of the stereotypes of a “domestically abusive household”: they were both white, educated, trained professionals, of middle- to upper middle-class means, and had no discernible history of substance abuse, alcoholism, or mental illness.  They were, in effect, an outwardly “normal” couple.

This gets at the uncomfortable truth underlying many abusive relationships; that there is no group of individuals prone to domestic violence and that often the most shocking (and most dangerous) instances of domestic violence come with little warning, from the people we least expect. It is critically important to build communities of understanding which victims of domestic violence feel that if they do speak out, that they will be not only heard, but also believed. Because only when victims feel comfortable speaking about their situation can they ever be expected to seek help for it.

FVPC offers crisis counseling and a 24-hour hotline to aid victims of domestic violence who wish to seek help.  But even beyond these services, FVPC also offers information about healthy relationships, and how to identify when a relationship has become abusive, in addition to safety planning for victims on how to keep themselves safe, both in an abusive relationship, and after leaving one. If you believe you or someone you know might be in an abusive relationship,or if you’d like to learn the warning signs of a relationship that’s become abusive give us a call at 919-929-7122.


Tragedy in Apex: A Case Study in Grief, and Domestic Violence February 14, 2011

Wake Co. Sheriff's deputies arrested F. John Evans last Wednesday, for allegedly shooting his wife. According to the victim's sister, the couple were in the process of ending their marriage, and the victim had already taken steps towards leaving the relationship.

On February 3, 2011, an Apex man was charged with first-degree murder, after a confusing and tragic episode that led to his hospitalization and the death of his wife.

On a recording of the 911 call, a man (F. John Evans) can be heard saying, “She shot me,” in reference to his wife, Donna Evans, who was found dead at the scene.  Initially, Mr. Evans reported that he had been shot in the stomach by his wife, who later turned the gun upon herself.

However, sheriff’s investigators were immediately suspicious of John Evans’ story on the day of the shooting, when they found that his wife had been shot twice, according to a search warrant application unsealed late last week by a Wake County superior court judge.  And authorities later arrested Mr. Evans after his release from the hospital, following an autopsy report conducted by the NC Medical Examiner’s Office, which concluded that both shots would’ve been fatal, and thus highly unlikely to have been self-inflicted.

As tragic and senseless as this violent episode is, it nevertheless serves to underscore the reality and prevalence of domestic violence–and in particular, the dangers faced by many women experiencing domestic violence, particularly while making preparations to leave.  According to Donna Evans’ sister, Dale Tulloch, the couple’s marriage was ending.  Indeed, Tulloch told the investigators that her sister had already begun taking steps to facilitate her exit, such as placing important documents and other personal property in a safe deposit box at a local bank.  Sadly, Mrs. Evans was unable to make her exit, before tragedy struck.

This tragedy underscores an unfortunate reality that many victims of domestic violence face–the reality that even if a victim recognizes their relationship is abusive, and even if a victim wants to leave a relationship, the very act of leaving is itself incredibly stressful, and can sometimes be more terrifying (and dangerous) than the relationship abuse itself.

In light of this, we at FVPC never encourage a victim to leave a relationship until they ready to do so.  And even after a victim has made the decision to leave, we offer extensive counseling and safety planning services, advising victims on protective measures and steps they can take to help keep themselves, and their family, safe and secure during their transition.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, you can reach us on our 24-hour hotline at (919) 929-7122.  And if would like more information about safety planning, identifying abuse, and ways you can help protect and assist the victims of domestic violence, visit our website at


Domestic Violence and Custody Issues July 21, 2010

Filed under: child custody,divorce,domestic violence — Women's Studies Intern @ 2:17 pm

A southern California mother recently found her two children reported missing 15 years ago using Facebook.  The Huffington Post reported that the children’s father, Faustino Utrera, took the children in 1995.   The children are currently placed in custody by the State of Florida.  Initially, the daughter did not wish to re-establish a relationship with her mother.  Utrera has been charged with two felony counts of kidnapping and violating child custody orders.  Stories like this one illustrate the complications of child custody,  both legally and emotionally.  Our Court Services Coordinator, Lindsey, discussed her experience with custody issues and domestic violence with me.

It is more difficult to get custody of one’s children than most people realize, even if someone is the victim of domestic violence.  While victims (and DV advocates) understand why they ought to be awarded full custody, judges do not always agree with giving one parent sole custody of a child(ren).  But, as we know, domestic violence is a learned behavior.  Many batterers either become abusive towards their children or begin teaching their children abusive behaviors. So, leaving children with an abusive parent can be dangerous for the child in more ways than the obvious.

Additionally, child custody issues require an attorney, a cost that many victims cannot afford.   Victims are often left to rely on informal custody agreements which can be broken without penalty.  If both parents have legal rights to the child*, one parent can take the child to another county or even another state without informing the other.  Many times victims will call the police if their abuser takes the kids away but if no formal custody agreement exists, no legal recourse exists. Victims also often feel frustrated with the duration of custody battles.  While many victims might feel the need to leave abusive situations immediately, fear of losing their children can keep them in a violent, unhealthy environment.

Sadly, while victims can take their children and leave their abusers without any legal difficulty, victims who leave their children to escape abusers can be charged with abandonment and often have an extremely difficult time gaining custody of their children in the future.

How do you feel about how difficult it is for abuse victims to gain custody?  Leave us your thoughts!

*meaning both parents are listed on the birth certificate