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Domestic violence: It’s not always simple to walk away

By Bleu Bell | Staff Reporter
On February 12, 2019

College students are more likely to experience intimate partner abuse than they think.
Photo Courtesy of LoveIsRespect.org.

Why didn’t she just leave?

It’s not that simple when it comes to domestic violence. Just ask the 1 in 3 women who will be victims of some form of domestic physical abuse in their lifetimes.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), domestic violence is most common among women between the ages of 18-24, making this an unfortunate reality for many FAMU students.

“I always knew it was domestic violence but the thing about toxic relationships is it’s not always simple to walk away. They twist your mind and emotions to always empathize with them. It’s a vicious cycle,” shared a FAMU student who asked to remain anonymous.

A victim’s reason for staying in an abusive relationship is often extremely complex, but usually includes some sort of fear of the aftereffects. Some stay in fear of losing financial support or of the violence increasing. The student who shared her story, however, compared her experience to being brainwashed at the age of 21.

“I was so brainwashed, I was spending every single night with him at his house. He was very emotionally abusive, too. He would even ejaculate inside of me without my permission to try and trap me into a family,” she said.

For five months, her reality was having her wrist grabbed in public, her phone calls monitored, and having her partner show up at her job to intimidate her. He was controlling, frequently took unprescribed Xanax, and would commit self-harm to “demonstrate his love.”

I remember he slit his arms twice over me; one just scratches, the second one carved out to say ‘love.’ At his worst, he was putting his hands on me,” she said.

When she finally decided to leave him, she would have friends spend the night in fear that he would try to break in. While not all cases are as extreme as hers, domestic violence is a multidimensional problem that can take form in more ways than physical abuse.

“Many people do associate domestic violence with marriage or even sharing children, but domestic violence is actually the presence of repeated power moves within any intimate relationship,” said Taylor Novak, community education director at Refuge House in Tallahassee. “Some people identify more with the phrase ‘dating violence,’ but either way, the issue extends to countless college students we interact with.”

In a study done by Sherry Hamby, a research professor of psychology at Sewanee, University of the South, Less than 2 percent of domestic violence offenders ever receive any jail time. This statistic in itself is discouraging.

On average, it takes a woman seven times to leave an abusive relationship, and much of the violence goes unreported. One common reason for this is because victims feel no one will believe them, and for good reason.

When someone recants, it challenges the credibility of all other victims. Although the phenomenon of men being falsely accused is rare, only about 1 in 4 cases of domestic violence are even reported to the police.

Situations like those of former FSU starting quarterback Deondre Francois and Diamond Lindsey further fuel the growing movement of allegedly falsely accused men self-victimizing. Confusion arises when victims use social media as a communication tool instead of filing an official report. Reputations get squandered and lives can be ruined, but the real short end of the stick is drawn by all the real victims who now will not come forward in fear of being just another “bitter ex-girlfriend” vying for revenge.

In a statement via Instagram, Lindsey’s family claimed that her account was hacked when it posted a recant apology claiming that the video of Francois abusing her was fabricated and that he never laid hands on her. The account was later deleted.

For the rest of her life, Lindsey will face people not believing her. Whether her allegations are true, or the account was or was not hacked, she is forever the woman who got FSU quarterback Deondre Francois dismissed from the team.

Her switch from “I lost my first child because of all of the beating and “I suffer from postpartum depression,” to “If it was actually serious I would have took legal action instead of making a Instagram post… I was mad and made a decision out of anger,” is part of why the battle to stop domestic violence is a difficult one.

No one wants to come forward, and if they do, no one will believe them –  or at least, this is the myth so many victims believe. Also, many college students do not know the signs or can appropriately identify domestic violence even if it’s staring them in the face.

Resources like Refuge House offer reliable, safe support to those looking for a non-judgmental way out.

“We will not judge their situation. We are here to support your needs, 24/7/365. You are not alone, and we believe you,” said Novak. “Abusers seek power, control, status, and domination. Often times, abusers are so charismatic and nice that no one would ever see the abuse coming. This can be a strategic move of the abuser to continue serial abuse. Their common tactics of abuse include preying on others' power and taking it for themselves through isolation, humiliation, manipulation, and intimidation.”

The FAMU student who shared her story acknowledged the difficulty of acknowledging you are in an abusive relationship.

“If I were the woman I needed at the time, I would tell her to ask her community for strength in leaving. It is cruel to leave but it's even more cruel to stay. There are people who are out there willing to protect you because they love you. It’s less scary on the other side,” she said.

Domestic violence can affect anyone regardless of race, age, gender, or side of the tracks. Wherever there is an imbalance of power, someone could be at harm. While properly reporting the incident and having a consistent story is critical, safety is the most important aspect when seeking a way out.

To learn more about domestic violence and how it affects college students, visit https://ncadv.org/statistics.

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