The Cost of Support for Domestic Abuse

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Editor’s Note: This is the third story in a three-part series examining domestic abuse in Raleigh and Wake County. Five of Raleigh’s 16 homicides this year were related to domestic abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women has been a victim of severe physical violence by a partner. It is likely that every resident in Raleigh knows a victim of domestic violence, whether they know it or not. Learn more about domestic violence in Raleigh in part one of this series. Learn more about how domestic violence cases are handled in court in part two.

To protect the privacy and the safety of our sources who were victims of domestic violence, we are only using first names and identifying information is intentionally vague.

Nationwide, 60 percent of domestic violence shelter residents return to their abuser.

InterAct, an organization for people who are victims of domestic abuse, boasts much lower numbers.

Executive Director Leigh Duque said 89 percent of women who are involved with InterAct never return to their abusers.

The InterAct Family Safety and Empowerment Center is a 60,000-square-foot complex that houses eight organizations that focus on victim services, including InterAct itself. The center is based in the old YWCA building on Oberlin Road, less than a mile from where Kathleen Ann Bertrand was murdered by her husband Christopher Bertrand in September.

InterAct is the only provider of its kind in Wake County; 80 percent of its clients are county residents.

In the past, victims of domestic abuse would have to travel to different locations for different services. Crisis counselors, legal assistance, substance abuse treatment and a hot meal could all be in different parts of the city and the county.

With the exception of housing, InterAct has its partners all under one roof.

Duque said InterAct has experienced a tripling in demand for its services. After the center opened in its current location three years ago, three families a day would walk through InterAct’s doors.

Today, InterAct employees could see 23 families in a single day.

The increase in demand is something that Duque views as a good thing.

An increase in demand means that more people are seeking out services rather than continuing to suffer in silence, she said. It also means that the center’s visibility in the community has also increased. The center has been able to provide help to people it wouldn’t normally be able to.

“This is a model that works,” Duque said. “It’s really making a difference.”

Free Services Aren’t Free
Running this model isn’t cheap.

“We’re going to do everything in our power not to turn people away,” Duque said of future funding challenges.

While InterAct has partnerships with different organizations located under its roof, it still has to pay for many of its own programs; three of them operate 24 hours a day.

InterAct operates a shelter for women and children who need a safe place to stay. About 60 percent of the shelter residents have children with them. In the past three years, the shelter was able to expand from 15 to 45 beds.

While the shelter doesn’t house pets, InterAct makes arrangements for animal sanctuary as well. Duque said abusers will often use pets to manipulate their victims. Removing pets decreases the power of the abuser.

The center also operates two crisis hotlines. One is for domestic violence and the other is for rape and sexual assault. Hotline operators are available 24 hours a day.

The number of calls has increased from 10,000 to 17,000 during the past three years.

A unique program is InterAct’s Solace Center.

The Solace Center is the first and only free-standing forensic exam center in the entire state and it operates around the clock, every day of the year.

When someone is a victim of sexual violence, she often goes to the emergency room for an examination and to collect evidence of the crime. Duque said this can be even more traumatizing for a victim. Emergency waiting rooms offer little privacy and long waits, especially if the attack didn’t result in severe injury.

Nurses may or may not have special training to deal with sexual assault victims.

The Solace Center provides these types of exams and employs nurses who are specially trained in sexual violence. Except in medical emergencies, a victim can walk into the clinic or be brought in by a police officer.

[media-credit name=”Ariella Monti” align=”aligncenter” width=”600″][/media-credit]
The Solace Center, located at the InterAct Family Safety and Empowerment Center, is the only stand-alone forensics lab for victims of rape and sexual assault. It’s open 24 hours.

On the business end, InterAct employs about 50 people to keep the center running and provide services for victims.

Since InterAct owns the building, it charges rent to its partner organizations. As a landlord, InterAct is also responsible for the upkeep for the building, such as fixing a leaking roof.

The majority of InterAct’s $3.3 million budget is funded by public sources.

Local, state and federal funding makes up 23 percent of the total budget. InterAct also raises revenue through individual and corporate donations, its two thrift stores and private foundations.

The City of Raleigh provides $25,000 for the shelter and kicked in $50,000 last year to fix the roof. Wake County allocates $125,000.

Duque recently appealed to the City Council for increased funding. Ideally, she would like the city to match the county’s allocation.

She said domestic abuse is a public safety issue and public safety is the role of government. While Duque said she doesn’t want InterAct to be reliant on government funding, they are providing a critical service to the city’s residents.

Along with local government, Duque said that it’s important for the community to pay attention.
“We can’t do this alone,” she said.

Culturally and historically, domestic abuse is not something easily discussed in public. Duque said most people have difficulty with it because it is the ultimate betrayal. No one understands how someone could be hurt by the person who is supposed to love them, she said.

Seeking an End to Victim Blaming
Domestic violence support advocates say while things are getting better, there is still a societal problem of blaming the victim for abuse or presuming the victim is trying to take advantage of the system.

As a managing attorney for Legal Aid of North Carolina, TeAndra Miller represents many victims of domestic violence. One of the biggest trends she sees is the perception that these women are trying to play the system for other civil matters.

At first glance, outsiders might just see a vicious custody battle and a woman using domestic abuse as an excuse to win custody of her child.

“It’s not unusual … for a child to motivate someone to take action,” said Miller, who is also the project director for Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative.

Fear of future child abuse could be the reason a mother needs to escape a bad relationship.

InterAct On Site Services
Easter Seals UCP — Mental health services for women and children
Inter-Faith Food Shuttle — Operates commercial kitchen and provides culinary job training
KIRAN — Outreach, peer support and referrals for South Asian immigrants
Legal Aid of North Carolina — Legal assistance and legal clinics
Raleigh Police Department — Headquarters for the Family Violence Intervention Unit
Solace Center — Forensic exam services for victims of sexual violence
SouthLight — Family substance abuse counseling
YMCA — Operates the pool and after school and summer youth programs.
InterAct 24-Hour Crisis Lines

Domestic Violence: (919) 828-7740
Rape: (919) 828-3005

Ann-Marie, who we introduced in part one of this series, was verbally and emotionally abused by her husband for three years. When he became violent in front of their 3-year-old son, she began fearing for her child’s safety. That fear was her motivation to leave the relationship and seek safety in Boston with family.

Duque said people often ask what the victim could have changed about her situation, or ask why the victim didn’t just leave the relationship.

It’s the question that Ann-Marie hates the most.

“I hate when people say, ‘Why didn’t you just leave?’ It’s just not that easy. You don’t understand that unless you lived it,” she said.

In many cases, the moment a victim decides to leave is the most dangerous time in the relationship, Ann-Marie said.

“It’s complicated. It’s not just that simplistic,” she said.

Ritu Kaur, who does community outreach for InterAct, said friends and family need to be more supportive of victims when they come reach out for help.

“Friends and family need to be non-judgmental,” she said.

Instead of blaming the victim, all the advocates we interviewed said the community needs to start asking how the abuser can be held accountable.

“The burden of the abuse needs to be on the perpetrator,” Kaur said.

With one in four women being victims of domestic violence, that that amounts to more than 100,000 women in this community that are suffering in silence, said Christina Brewer, InterAct’s Development and Communications Officer.

InterAct served more than 8,300 direct victims last year.

She echoed Duque by saying that domestic abuse is a community issue and the community needs to end the silence.

“It’s our issue because it’s happening right here in our community,” said Brewer.

6 thoughts on “The Cost of Support for Domestic Abuse

  1. InterAct is a blessing to the community. They helped me escape a bad marriage 9 years ago.

    Sometimes the victim CAN’T call the police. He said he’d injure himself if I did, so I would end up being the one arrested, not him. He watched me constantly, making it difficult to get away. This man was well-known in the community and highly respected in his field. Nobody would believe me over him. Most still don’t. InterAct did, and helped me formulate an escape plan.

    Thanks to InterAct, and to my then-boss for telling me about them and giving me time away from the office to go see them so my husband wouldn’t know. I got out alive. So many women don’t.

    God bless you, InterAct.

  2. Domestic violence is a back burner issue with the Courts. My lawyer told me that I had to have a knife in my back or gun to my head to be taken seriously. By then, it is to late. My husband was a Doctor and no one would believe the abuse. Like the previous comment, I got out alive and my children are safe and stable. A good book to get so folks can understand what the REAL issues are, is called, Women who love Psychopaths, The Sociopath Next Door and Without Conscience inside the mind of a Psychopath. It is only when the Courts and Public is educated about this Cluster B Pathology that we will understand that women can be in danger and NO ONE will believe her until she is dead. I thank God that I got the support to get out safely.

  3. I concur with Carol’s (12-15-12) comments and the resources that she provides are excellent. Several additional points:
    1). Domestic violence knows no boundaries. It occurs in every socioeconomic group, race, and educational level. I should know, I have advanced degrees, a great job, and am well-respected both socially and professionally and yet for years, I was a victim of domestic violence.
    2). In spite of receiving even less attention, emotional/verbal abuse is still abuse. The “Abuse Cycle,” fear, and the overwhelming need for control are the common themes. Because the core issues are the same, emotional and verbal abuse often evolve into physical abuse. No matter what the delivery method, mistreatment is never OK.
    3). Although it receives even less attention, MEN can also be victims of abuse, but they are even less likely to come forward. Gentlemen, in this situation: Do you really want to risk having false charges pressed against you and losing your children?
    4). If you are in an abusive situation, get help and get out. Things will not get better. The problem is not you. The problem is an internal issue within your partner. My children lived in chaos for years as a result of my misguided fear. My youngest is now expressing anger at me for not getting out sooner and I will have to live with that knowledge for the rest of my life. Do you honestly want to be responsible for enabling another generation of abusers?
    5). Secretly document and prepare as much as possible prior to your departure. Once you get away, your partner will use any weakness against you but amazingly when you are finally able to escape and “go no contact,” you will begin to see more clearly. If you can stay strong, your abusive partner will, in the vast majority of the cases, back-down. The abuser only looks powerful, Internally, s/he is actually very weak. YOU are the strong one.
    6). Even though my former partner was never diagnosed as having BPD, the following resources were very helpful to me along my path to freedom and healing: BPD Family, Dr. Irene’s Verbal Abuse Site, and Shrink4Men.
    7). You are not alone. You are stronger than you can imagine. You just have to take that first step.

  4. Good piece overall.

    However, while there certainly are dirtbag, bottom-rung-of the ladder men who abuse women, to Susan’s point #3 above, men can be on the wrong end of things.

    My ex wife was homeless in NY with my 15 yr old daughter (she has refused to work full time for at least 5 years, and works only 20-25 hours a week in retail at $10 per hour, yet chose to continue to live in THE SINGLE MOST EXPENSIVE region in the whole country, and oh yeah, she has a common-law carp husband who was arrested and spent 60 days in county lockup for driving with a suspended license after ignoring SCORES of parking tickets accumulated over nearly a decade!!!!).

    And as a result, they have been evicted THREE TIMES in 5 years–including by scumbag hubby’s own sister last July, after they repeatedly lied to her, and occupied her two room shack she gave them free of charge for NINE MONTHS, after they went crying to her in the wake of their SECOND EVICTION in September 2011, without being able to get back on their feet!!!

    And when I tried to help my ex, her husband, and their other little 11 yr old thumb-sucking kid (yes, the parents have somehow allowed the kid to get to age 11 and still suck her thumb–“how adorable!!!” is their take) get into a homeless program here in Raleigh in July, they repaid my act of kindness by lobbing a patently false allegation of molestation against me, alleging I molested my daughter while sitting on the living room floor, FULLY CLOTHED, with AT LEAST 300 watts of light illuminating the room, and in front of the other two adults and the other kid.

    I’m sorry, but if I had been stupid enough to do something so heinous, in such a public way, I would have deserved to be executed–for the rank stupidity alone if nothing else.

    That allegation just didn’t pass the smell test, and EVERYONE KNEW IT, yet, I was called down to RPD on a Friday evening in July to be interrogated for THREE FREAKING HOURS by a Det. Sgt. and another detective, in a small room with three chairs, one light and a small table–just like on TV. Obviously, their investigation found nothing. It was a total waste of resources when those detectives probably had 50 other perps they needed to be chasing and arresting.

    So, they made their allegation, fled back to NY, and now I am $10,000 in the hole for travel and legal expenses as I try to wrest my daughter from the clutches of her beyond-evil mother. And oh yeah, because she refuses to work full time, my ex is eligible for COMPLETELY FREE legal representation in this process. In Yoda-speak, “Crazy like a fox, she is”.

    And apparently, there are no repercussions for my ex wife and her husband for making such knowingly false allegations. In that case, why don’t we all just run up and down the streets, making false allegations against each other all day long, wasting all kinds of law enforcement time, and taxpayer money–“WHEEEEEEEE!!!!!!”. In the words of the late comedian Yakov Smirnoff, “Is this a great country or what?”

    And yes, the child has told her law guardian repeatedly that she wants to be with me in NC, as opposed to living with a mentally ill mother (manic depression/BPD and REFUSES to take her meds) in a depressing homeless shelter, where her laconic stepfather calls her names, “piece of garbage” was his latest a couple of weeks ago, and where her brainwashed half sister tag-teams her with her mother.

    And I just opened her progress report from school, and not shockingly, her grades are now suffering.

    But I STILL have to beat the drum (with absolutely no guarantee that justice will be done and my daughter will be allowed to live with me), and wreck myself financially, to merely ATTEMPT to get my daughter out of a place she does NOT want to be, where the system is forcing her to live with people she DOES NOT WANT to be with.

    And my ex flat out told me months ago that if I took action, she’d drag it out with her taxpayer-funded free attorney, expressly so it would destroy me financially. I told this to my attorney, the law guardian, and to nobody’s surprise, NOBODY GIVES A CRAP.

    And because there are SO MANY men who are dirtbags, and who do abuse their wives and kids, nobody gives a crap that this child is suffering in EVERY WAY possible, since apparently possession of the child by my ex wife, is 9/10ths of the law.

    Men who abuse women (not shockingly, my ex was verbally, emotionally and physically abused by her father, which has made her the toxic-waste oozing train wreck of a human she is today) should be summarily shot on sight. Period. I tried to bait her tyrant of a father into taking a swing at me more than once, but he would not. He wouldn’t dare swing at somebody who could swing back. Cowardly piece of human waste that he is.

    But I guess my point is, it is possible for men, and in cases such as this one, the children involved as well, to get the short end of the stick in these situations too. Right now, I’d sever each of my limbs, one by one, with a dull knife, if it meant my daughter would be freed from her misery.

    And like my ex wife, there ARE women who purposefully, and in a diabolically clever way, “play the system”, who use the system (which has itself set up to be easily used) against decent men like me, and who make it difficult for “real victims” of male abusers to get the help they so desperately need.

    I had to put my daughter on a plane back to her own personal purgatory yesterday, pending another conference (and more legal expense I can’t pay for) on the 16th, where MAYBE a common sense decision will be made, but maybe it won’t be made either. That is why I’d be willing to give up my limbs to free my child from this mess.

    And we men don’t organize as well as women do, and as a result, politicians do not live in mortal fear of alienating us as a voting bloc, as they do with the possibility of saying or doing something that could be in any way construed as being “anti-woman”. John Boehner and Harry Reid would pee in their respective $5,000 suit lacks if some women’s group so much as suggested they would campaign against them for ANY reason.

    So, there will never be any sympathy for us, or resources such as InterAct, available to guys like me, and the kids will continue to suffer in silence as a result.

    Can you imagine if anyone dared to open a “Men’s Center” similar to InterAct? The place would be picketed, and probably fire-bombed–if it could ever even get built.

    I applaud and support the work InterAct does, but maybe somebody should allow for the possibility that not EVERY guy in these situations is “guilty until proven innocent”, as I was, and that is as is the case with my ex wife, maybe it CAN be the woman in a relationship who is the narcissistic, abusive control freak–and NOT the man.

  5. ^^ InterAct works with men, too! The only service they can’t provide is housing them in the shelter, but they work to find men placement at a facility that is able to do so. Unfortunately opening a men’s shelter is a problem because most men who have been victimized feel they can’t or shouldn’t come forward for many reasons.