But what does it mean to escape, to exit from such a situation, especially in Utah? That's a question Utah Domestic Violence Coalition
executive director Jenn Oxborrow asks.
In answering the question, she comes up with another. "To reclaim one's basic right to dignity and safety? Not such an easy thing to manage. Especially in Utah, where women have considerably more children, considerably less earnings, higher likelihood of victimization, minimal supportive services, tons of cultural pressure and stigma about escaping/exiting/leaving, and lower likelihood of attaining justice."
I witnessed that struggle of a survivor last year while we were sitting in a fast food restaurant. She was convinced, not for the first time, that her longtime partner, a dangerous, controlling man, would kill her. It was only a question of when. She was so tired of being hit and deeply scared for the future of her son because he saw him do this to her repeatedly. "What can that teach him?" she asked.
She had seen how the justice system appeared to have little interest in holding him accountable for what he had done to her in the past and that there was little in the way of supportive services to turn to. She'd call her local police department's victim advocate many times and only had one call-back, which she missed, in response.
I had urged her to go to a domestic violence shelter, but she said that her son didn't deal well with new places or faces. I suggested she try the DV hotline run by the UDVC. So she called them and talked to a counselor, who recommended South Valley or the YWCA and tried to talk her through her options. The survivor knew that her partner was escalating in his violence, but even though she listened to the counselor carefully and took notes, she did not go that route.
I don't know what happened to her—her phone number is disconnected and when I went to where she lived, she had moved. I hope that she did what she said she would, namely leave the state. But as I scour headlines each day, somewhere at the back of my mind I hope her name won't appear as a homicide victim.
September 30 kicks off Domestic Violence Awareness month and UDVC's Oxborrow is hosting a fundraiser centered around storytelling by domestic violence survivors.
Here's the event details:
“1 in 3” Stories of Domestic Violence in Utah (the 1 in 3 refers to the number of women in Utah who will experience domestic violence in their lifetime)
7-10pm, Friday, September 30 at Publik. Coffee Roasters (975 S. West Temple)
Cocktail hour with live music, appetizers, and cash bar.
Storytelling followed by UDVC Awards Ceremony.
Space is limited. $25 general admission seating. 21+ event. Find tickets here
Over the last 10 years, I've heard many stories from the lips of domestic violence survivors. They are always compelling, deeply emotional, revealing of the male abusive use of power—emotional, mental, financial and physical—and both frightening in the way they document time and again how someone is stripped of all her support, and yet life-confirming in that the individual found the support, the resources and ultimately the will to finally escape a nightmare from which there was seemingly no exit.