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.


NC Pre-K and the cost of child care March 21, 2012

As I think this blog does a good job of showing, interpersonal violence (IPV) is not fought against on only one front. There are an array of factors which must be overcome before an end to IPV can be fully achieved. On this blog we have discussed issues such as gender rolesbeing an active bystander, and challenging IPV stereotypes. One of the most prevalent questions concerning IPV is why does s/he stay? Well, one reason a person might stay in an abusive relationship is because of her/his children.

Economic abuse is often connected to other, more readily “visible” abuses such as physical or emotional. Perhaps the abusive partner will not allow the other to work, or the abuser controls/monitors the family banking accounts, or everything (lease, car, utilities, bank account, credit cards) is legally under the abuser’s name.  When any of these apply, financial considerations are not minor when deciding whether or not to leave an abusive situation. If there are children involved, financial considerations are compounded because it is not only the individual’s well being which must be provided for but also her/his children. Most people leaving an abusive situation would rely on their current job or becoming employed and keeping that job; their livelihood and their childrens (if present) will rely upon it. If the IPV survivor has children than there is an added challenge: childcare. If the children are school age than that care might not be as big of an obstacle, but if the child(ren) is below the age of five, childcare can be a huge challenge.

Right now, the cost of childcare for a four year old in NC is on average more expensive than one year’s tuition and fees at a NC public university. Current legislation is seeking among other thing, to cut the state tuition assistance eligibility for NC Pre-K by over 50%. Currently, a family of four earning about $50,000/yr would be eligible for assistance. With the new proposal, a family of four would have to make $22,000/yr for a child of four to be eligible. The 2012 poverty guideline designates a family of four to live in poverty when they have an income of less than $23,050/yr. So, in NC a family would have to live $1,050 under the poverty line in order to gain tuition assistance for their four year old. After a public outcry against the  legislation it has been drastically revised. But the issue of tuition assistance and at what income the cap is going to be is still undecided.

I want to highlight two things from this:

1) Childcare is not only an issue for parents or caregivers to worry about. Like IPV, childcare is a community and public health issue. It’s just good practice for a society to take care of its children, to care for the most vulnerable who are unable to care for themselves.  In addition, the legislative proposals for NC Pre-K would drastically cut funding for families in need and that – besides being an issue for society at large – could be a huge factor in  an IPV survivor’s decision about leaving or staying with her/his abuser. Affordable childcare could be one more tool in helping an IPV survivor leave their abuser for good.

2) Look at what can happen when people speak up! I found out about the NC Pre-K proposal a few days before it was supposed to be voted upon. The organization MomsRising was encouraging people to write to their legislators to voice their opinion about the new proposal. Thanks in part to that organization as well as other efforts on the part of educators, school officials, parents, and concerned citizens the legislation has become a list of recommendations AND one issue, the privatization of NC Pre-K, was completely taken off of the proposal.

There are SO many things that individuals can do. Like this – be politically aware. Read a newspaper. Make a point to know about the policy changes and proposals being made on local, state, and national levels. We, as advocates, are SO powerful! Our voices are strong and when we use them great things can happen. We need to remember that.  And use it to our advantage.  How do you call attention to something that you feel is wrong?  Leave us a comment and let us know.


Paid Sick Days Provide Essential Resource to Survivors August 23, 2011

Workers’ rights activists across the country have been building support for mandated paid sick days for the past several years at federal, state and local levels. Requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave for employees, typically around seven days per year for full-time workers, makes sense for employees, businesses and the general public.

Paid sick leave is a public health issue – the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), which has done much of the most-cited research on paid sick days, found that employees who came to work while infected with H1N1 in 2009 infected over 7 million patrons, customers and coworkers. Paid sick days would enable these workers to stay home when they fall ill (or when they are needed to take care of sick family members), preventing the spread of disease.

Lower-wage workers are less likely to be provided paid sick days by their employers, even though they experience more obstacles than higher-salaried workers in finding childcare or taking off work and losing valuable wages that may force them to choose between medicine or groceries for the pay period.

Often missing from the discussion about paid sick days is its important value for individuals involved in abusive relationships or who are survivors of sexual assault. Violence prevention advocates often refer to paid leave as “paid safe days.” They can be used by survivors of abuse to seek medical treatment, counseling and shelter without losing pay or fearing retaliation from employers for missing work.

Allotting paid safe days to employees, especially knowing that abusers are often repeatedly physically, emotionally and sexually violent within their intimate relationships, seems like an undeniable resource survivors deserve. But Mike Rosen, a radio personality in Denver, where a referendum on paid sick leave will likely appear on the November ballot, dismissed the importance of paid safe days in a Denver Post editorial. He charged that because more women than men will be forced to take advantage of them, the policy isn’t worth employers’ support: “This is essentially about…female constituents. The paid ‘safe’ days are related to domestic violence issues. Men won’t be taking many of these.”

Although it’s true that men’s violence against women would comprise most need for paid safe days because of its frequency in comparison to violence perpetrated by women, Rosen flippantly misses the mark. We need to provide victims of intimate partner abuse, most of them women, any resources possible to empower them to seek help and simultaneously preserve their incomes, not selfishly dismiss their struggles because they are more frequently victimized than men.

Thankfully, paid leave coalition builders have achieved considerable success despite some detractors, having passed mandated sick days legislation in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and even most recently in the state of Connecticut. They are now targeting the cities of Denver, Philadelphia, Seattle and New York.

Advocates from the NC Justice Center attempted to pass mandated sick days in North Carolina in 2009, but the proposed law was defeated. However, an overwhelming 69% of voters nationwide supported paid sick leave laws in an IWPR study, and coalitions across the country continue to build steam and gain legislative victories. Hopefully the tides continue to turn toward policy that would protect survivors in our state, where more than 66,000 citizens received domestic violence support services in 2009 and 2010.


It’s Everyone’s “Business”: Alaska Gov. pitches anti-violence initiative to business sector March 3, 2011

In early February, Gov. Sean Parnell (R-Alaska) appealed to Alaskan business leaders to do more to assist victims of domestic violence, as part his ongoing campaign to help eliminate DV and sexual assault in Alaska.

On February 15th, the Alaska Dispatch reported that Gov. Sean Parnell unveiled his latest proposal in his “Choose Respect” campaign to combat domestic violence and sexual assault in his state.

During a meeting with the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Gov. Parnell asked leading business members to take an active role at combating DV and sexual assault in their workplaces.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are invisible marauders in the workplace,” Parnell told business leaders, adding that employers have a role to play in recognizing and stopping Alaska’s epidemic of abuse against women and children.  According to Parnell, businesses are uniquely placed to offer protection and aid to victims of domestic violence, and encouraged them to do so not only out of moral compassion, but enlightened self interest.

While the true cost of domestic violence is “impossible to quantify” in real dollars, Gov. Parnell did offer some estimates to outline the economic impact of domestic abuse.  Nationally, he says, sexual violence against adults costs an average of $127 billion per year; intimate partner violence, an average of $19 billion per year, and the indirect costs of all child abuse nationally roughly $90 billion per year. “Think unexplained absences or inability to concentrate. Think lost productivity. Sick leave. Medical care, mental health services, chronic health problems,” he said, in addition to the staggering amount of taxpayer dollars that go to deal with the consequences of abuse.

But rather than punishing victims, or causing them to lose their job for performance issues that may be abuse-related, Gov. Parnell urged business leaders to support victims, and provide them with access to resources that can help them to stay safe. He asked them to link his “Choose Respect” website (see link above) from their homepage, and to also include resources and links to agencies involved in helping women and children in crisis.

Realistically, the governor admits these measures are only treating the “symptoms” of a phenomenon, not the cause.  In order to truly protect victims of domestic violence, the governor said, Alaska needs to change its tolerance level for abuse against women and children, and he likened the need to transform people’s thinking to the social shifts that have in the past taken place with respect to people’s opinions about littering, smoking in public and drunk driving.  Still, Gov. Parnell remains hopeful that by enacting simple, workplace-based measures to help assist victims and raise awareness of domestic violence, such radical social changes can eventually be achieved.

From a domestic violence perspective, Gov. Parnell’s proposals are significant because they not only include proactive, actionable steps to help support victims of domestic violence (e.g. increasing access to DV resources, and helping victims keep their jobs), but also outline the importance of raising awareness of DV, and helping change the culture and conversation on the subjects of DV and sexual assault. Even among people who know that violence and abuse are wrong, many who witness (or experience) abuse are reluctant to speak out; sometimes out of fear of reprisals, but often out of fear that they simply will not be believed–or that even if they are believed, that nothing will be done about it. As Gov. Parnell explains, domestic violence is tolerated in part because  social conventions permit it.

While bystander indifference does not, by any means, cause relationships to become violent, it does send the message (both to victim and perpetrator alike) that people who batter their partners can do so at a whim, with no fear of reprisal or social intervention:

  • Every time a passerby pretends not to see a “lovers spate” that’s come to blows, we send a message that violence (maybe just “some”)  is “to be expected” in some relationships.
  • Anytime a neighbor decides that the noises from next door are “none of their business,” we send a message that DV is “a private matter,” that should not be discussed or confronted openly.

Every time we ignore an opportunity to reject violence, and speak out against abuse, we unwittingly succumb to–and perpetuate–a culture that is permissive and tolerant of relationship abuse.

FVPC sponsors community education programs that not only promote healthy relationship behaviors among teens and young adults, but also help bystanders to understand their role in creating a culture of understanding and action.  The hope is that by teaching young people appropriate relationship skills, we can prevent young men and women from becoming victims, or abusive partners, themselves.  And by teaching the general public to speak out in defense of victims who are being abused, we can create a society where abusers begin to understand their behavior is unacceptable and has real consequences, and where victims feel safe enough to speak out, knowing they will be heard, protected, and believed.

To learn more about domestic violence, and how you can become involved in creating a culture of belief and mutual respect, call our hotline at (919) 929-7122, or visit our website at


“In Kindness” Donations: Five Simple Ways to Celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Week February 16, 2011

The "garden cosmos" is the official symbol of the World Kindness Movement, an international collection of national kindness movements whose purpose is to promote small, random acts of kindness throughout the world

Monday marked the beginning of national “Random Acts of Kindness Week” ; a time when everyday people engage in spontaneous random acts of kindness aimed at near-total/perfect strangers.

Sponsored by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, participants are asked to engage in as many Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs) as they are comfortable with during the campaign’s one-week duration, either overtly or anonymously, in the hopes of precipitating other RAKs by other people in a cascading cavalcade of compassion, cooperation, consideration and good karma.

In the spirit of this week of kindness, and all random acts thereof, we at FVPC have come up with a list of possible RAK suggestions, which are not only within reach of the casual RAKer, but also keep in mind the victims of DV in Orange County.

RAK Idea #1: Donate a $20 grocery or gas card to FVPC for use by a victim and her family.

Transportation is a critical component of most safety plans for victims–not just because it provides a means of escape from dangerous situations, but because it empowers victims to make their own decisions about their own lives and destinies.  Transportation provides victims with the means of controlling when and where they go out, and for how long, as well as providing them with the means of traveling to and from jobs and job interviews–not to mention the safety and peace of mind that comes from picking up and dropping off your kids yourself.

Groceries too, are of great help for victims attempting to create a safety plan for themselves, especially for victims who are wholly or partially reliant on their abusers, financially.  In these situations, even if a victim wishes to leave an abusive situation, if he or she (for whatever reason) finds themselves with limited funds, and/or few employment opportunities with which to obtain greater funds, such realizations can dissuade some victims from taking action–especially if there are young children or other dependents involved.

Even something as simple as a full tank of gas and/or a bag of groceries in the back seat can have a powerful effect on a victim’s sense of empowerment, motivation, and commitment to taking action, and can mean the difference between moving forward to something better, or doing nothing for want of better options.

If you are interested in donating grocery or gas gift cards, they can be dropped off at the FVPC office on the corner of Rosemary and Henderson Streets in Chapel Hill.  For more information, visit our website.

RAK Idea #2: Clean your closet and bring clothes to The Stock Exchange to consign for FVPC’s benefit.

The Stock Exchange is a clothing consignment store that allows consigners to donate a portion of the proceeds of their merchandise to the charity of their choice.  People interested in donating to FVPC simply bring their consignment goods (in-season, late-market clothes that are undamaged and in good condition) to The Stock Exchange, and rather than enter in their own account number, indicate that FVPC should be the beneficiaries of their items’ sale.  If goods do not sell, however, there is still the possibility that your donation can help assist the victims of domestic violence.

When customers consign with the Stock Exchange, any unsold items can either be returned to the owner, or kept by the Stock Exchange to be sold at lowered prices during a bi-annual charity bargain sale, of which a portion of the proceeds benefit FVPC.

RAK Idea #3: Donate non-perishable food stuffs like mac and cheese, pasta, sauce, biscuit mix, tuna, soup etc. to our food pantry.

FVPC operates a small on-site food pantry with canned and dried goods for use by victims seeking temporary assistance with day-to-day living considerations as they make the transition from their current situation, to a more fair, equitable and stable living arrangement.  Often times, victims who are leaving abusive relationships struggle with some of the day-to-day expenses associated with newly-independent life.  This can include struggles to both arrange living space, and essentials like food and utilities, and frequently access to reliable and nutritious food staples can go a long way towards helping victims re-establish themselves, stabilize their living arrangements, and begin reclaiming some of their lost independence.

To that end, FVPC will be accepting donations of canned goods, dried goods, pre-packaged foods and other non-perishables that do not require freezing or refrigeration.  These items will be distributed to FVPC clients who need temporary assistance with arranging meals, particularly those who are transitioning from one housing or living situation to another.

RAK Idea #4: Donate an old or unused cell phone to help support victims of domestic violence

One of the most common patterns of emotional abuse and domestic violence, is limiting victims’ abilities to ask for help and reach the outside world.  Often times, batterers will keep their victims isolated, refusing to let them drive, work outside the home, or in extreme cases, to even use the phone or go outside.

In these situations, and particularly when there is a danger of physical violence, simply having the means to call for help can be difficult if not life-saving, and just having access to a phone can be of great emotional and psychological comfort to victims, in addition to a practical safety consideration.

That’s why we at FVPC offer free “911 phones,” which have no plans attached, but can still be used for emergency communication like dialing 911.  These cell phones allow victims one more element of control in their lives, and empower them to not only seek help, but also protect themselves should a situation become dangerous.

Members of the public interested in donating old or unused cell phones may do so at our office, or can call our hotline to find the FVPC collection box nearest to them.  Wherenever possible, phones intended for use as 911 phones should be accompanied by the appropriate charging cable.

However, even damaged phones, or phones without charging cables, can still be donated to FVPC, and will be recycled for components by a local charity, who will then make a reciprocal donation to our office, proportional to the value of the phone and salvaged materials.  These donations will then be used to help provide critical services to victims of domestic violence, including community education campaigns designed to help prevent violence from ever occurring.

To learn more about cell phone donations, go to our website at, or call our office at (919) 929-7122.

RAK Idea #5: Write a letter to your representatives, indicating your support for victims of domestic violence.

Recently, the President Obama signed into law the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), whose provisions are designed, at least in part, to help the victims of domestic violence, and their children.

While this is a fantastic start, and a big leap forward in the advancement of victims rights and woman’s issues, there is still more that can be done.  Write to your Congressman or Senator today, indicating your support for the CAPTA and FVPSA acts, and to encourage them to support further measures aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence, and their families.  If you feel comfortable, write about why these issues matter to you, and how you would like your government to respond to the reality of domestic violence in our community.

To learn more about domestic violence, and how agencies like FVPC serve and help victims, visit our website at

To learn more about who your Congressmen and Senators are, and how to contact them, go to the US House of Representatives website here, and type in your state and ZIP code, or go to the US Senate website here, and type your state.


Celebrate Spring with a Good Book February 15, 2011

Now that the sun is finally out, it’s time to break those winter ruts and head outside with a good read. But before you reach for the latest Twilight book we at FVPC would like to challenge you to read a book that will not only entertain you but will educate you about the realities behind domestic violence as well. We recommend Not to People Like Us” by Susan Weitzman. After years of research into violence among upper class women, Weitzman published “Not to People Like Us” in order to break the myth that domestic violence is a problem pertaining only to the lower socio-economic classes.

In her book, Weitzman discusses the characteristics of what she labels “upscale violence” as well as the problems particular to that specific area of abuse. Weitzman acknowledges the statistically small number of upscale violence cases but points to various explanations for that phenomenon rather than dismissing its importance. For example, one reason for the low number may be that women in higher socio-economic classes may have the resources to seek help from private therapists or may already know what resources are available to them. If that was the case they would not necessarily feel driven to seek help from a domestic violence agency such as the Family Violence Prevention Center and would go unreported and potentially unnoticed. We should not let the relatively low number of reports on domestic violence in wealthier families fool us into thinking that it doesn’t happen. It has been our experience at FVPC that domestic violence does not discriminate on any grounds, including wealth.

Another interesting contention of  Weitzman’s is also regarding domestic violence victims: that wealth may actually work against a victim instead of aiding in his/her removal from the situation. Weitzman uses the example of domestic violence agencies failing to affirm the needs and/or concerns of wealthy victims. Some domestic violence agency workers are simply unprepared to handle such cases and cannot understand some of their special needs. For some victims, the potential loss of money and status may be enough to cause them to question whether they should leave their abusers. This is not something that should be written off as trivial for it can be considered abuse manifested through financial control and the threat of social isolation.

Here at FVPC we believe a core component of raising community awareness lies in breaking down the myths about domestic violence. The myth that domestic abuse can only happen to poor people is one such myth. Consider reading “Not to People Like Us” to gain a greater understanding of upscale violence and to learn yet another way that domestic violence affects everyone in our community. And as always, we are here to listen to your concerns and experiences as well as to help you in any way possible. Our doors and phone lines are open to you regardless of your socioeconomic status.  Please call us at 919-929-7122.


DV Advances in Washington January 24, 2011

Washington's Attorney General, his assistant (right) and Miss Washington (left) after the signing of the new Domestic Violence Act.

A great advance for domestic violence victims and their allies was made in Washington state recently when a woman got her job back after being fired for taking leave when her husband violated his protective order. Hers was the first case to take advantage of Washington’s Domestic Violence Leave Act which allows victims as well as family members of the victims to take reasonable time off to obtain help from police and/or doctors. We at FVPC celebrate the coming of this act and hope other states will come to embrace similar legislative recourse for victims.

By enacting the Domestic Violence Leave Act, Washington state has become one of only about a dozen states across the country to have acts specifically geared toward protecting employment rights of domestic violence victims. These state statutes will work in combination with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. While the federal act gives broad guidelines for various reasons for qualified leave, these state acts hone in on the specific needs of domestic violence victims. State acts also provide more protection for victims because they give employers more direct standards as to how much time can be taken off, for what reasons victims may be granted leave, etc.

The need for statutory protection for domestic violence victims is unquestionable. The advocacy group, Legal Momentum, reports that on average domestic violence victims lose 137 hours of work per year. During an abusive relationship the loss of work can come as a result for the abuser’s need for absolute control. An abuser may cause visible injuries to their victim in order to cause him/her to lose a day of work. Other non-physical actions that may cause a victim’s loss of work include but are not limited to intentionally ruining plans for daycare, taking the family car and calling in sick for the victim. However, victims are also often pushed to take off time for work at the end of a relationship. Sometimes it may simply be because of the extreme fear the victim is undergoing at this most dangerous time of the relationship. Other times a victim may have to spend time during the work day meeting with medical and/or legal professionals or  filing police reports.

The decision to leave an abuser can be a long and difficult process. We think that it is laudable that other sectors of society are beginning to acknowledge the complexity of such situations and hope the trend continues. We see states’ attention to domestic violence through these acts as a sign of greater community awareness. If you are an Orange County (NC) resident, you have the opportunity to take advantage of the many community education programs FVPC hosts. Please continue to check our blog and website for updates on our events.

If you are interested in hosting a community education event for your workplace, place of worship, school or other community group please contact our Volunteer and Community Education Coordinator, Elizabeth Johnson, at And remember, it’s not too late for you to become a hotline volunteer at FVPC. Training starts on February 15th and will be every Tuesday and Thursday evening until March 24th. Please click here for the volunteer application.