All of the statistics released about domestic violence aren’t influential enough to deter abusers from scarring their victims.
In an effort to educate the public about various populations who deal with different forms of violence, State Senator Roxanne Persaud hosted her annual Domestic Violence Awareness event at the Bayview Cornerstone Community Center with guest speaker – famously referred to as “America’s Psychologist” – Dr. Jeff Gardere, who joined the forum via Zoom.
The theme of this year’s session, with October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, was entitled the B.E.S.T. You (which stands for Boosting Your Courage, Empowering Yourself, Strengthening Your Relationships and Transforming Your Future).
Dr. Gardere addressed how each age group and sexuality uniquely experiences some sort of domestic violence – through actions that might not even be detected.
“There is a growing elderly population being abused,” he said. “Senior abuse can include not being fed by their caretakers, someone controlling their finances, being neglected – and any type of pushing or hitting.”
The renowned doctor also said that there is a growing number of people in the gay community facing abuse who are already marginalized and don’t know where to turn for help.
“Many with gender identity crisis are also at risk of being abused,” he said. “There’s a different dynamic to their relationship than there is with heterosexual relationships, so a lot of the gay community feels people won’t listen to them or believe that they’re experiencing domestic violence.”
Another angle of combating domestic violence pertains to how houses of worship can help those suffering from this detrimental behavior.
“When it comes to the church’s role, many are taught to obey and love their partner, stay with their partner no matter what – and follow the sanctity of marriage,” he said. “So when there is abuse in the marriage, some feel ashamed to come forward or share it with their churches.”
While houses of worship honor the sanctity of marriage, they must also encourage equality in a relationship, reinforce the values of respect and let parishioners who come forward know their legal rights if they are experiencing domestic abuse.
Domestic violence survivor Anisah Sabur-Mumin shared her battle with attendees, touting the importance of seeing signs of abuse and breaking away from the fear of judgement.
“I was a victim for 17 years,” she said. “I used substances to try and relieve the pain and I wound up in prison fighting for my life. I was too afraid to tell anyone my story. To this day, I still have pains all over my body from the physical abuse that I endured. But I’m grateful to be alive and try to give strength to those who are too afraid to speak up.”
Those who are facing any form of abuse, whether it’s intimidation, isolation, numerous threats, extortion and various types of control mechanisms, the public was encouraged to take advantage of city and state services and to share information with those who may show signs of being victims.