One in four. That’s a sister, a coworker, a daughter, a friend, the clerk at the grocery store, the woman who sells you your makeup, the man sitting next to you on the subway, the homeless woman whose face you might avoid. Two of these people have lives that have been shaken apart by domestic violence.
“The sobering truth is that one in four women in the U.S. is directly affected by domestic violence, and one in 18 men as well,” said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee.
One of them is Sandie Carner-Shafran, a lively and dedicated school-related professional who was once a terrified domestic violence victim. She knows about the exacting price. She will be a panelist for NYSUT’s planned 2017 Women’s Conference speaking about her experience living in a women’s shelter for three months in order to escape an abusive relationship.
“It doesn’t define me, but it’s made me stronger, wiser and a tad more cautious,” said Carner-Shafran, who is a member of the NYSUT Board of Directors and the NYSUT Women’s Steering Committee.
Being in the Saratoga-area shelter “was the safest I ever felt,” she said, noting that she received counseling, support, and had peers there with whom she could share stories and bond. “There were a lot of rules but it was for our safety.”
The NYSUT Women’s Steering Committee started a Twitter campaign for October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “We have prioritized the issue of domestic violence in our work. Please follow us on Twitter @NYSUTWomensComm, where we have been issuing daily tweets on this important topic,” said Magee.
Domestic violence can lead to a lost job, homelessness, loss of transportation, isolation, being stalked, loss of friends, terror, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe bodily harm, disability, panic attacks and anxiety, visits to the emergency room, lying and alienation from family. It can lead to death.
“Domestic violence thrives when we are silent…” National Network To End Domestic Violence
Carner-Shafran was given a domestic violence hotline number from a sheriff whom she had called for help one awful night. She spent that night in a hotel, and then called the number the next day. From there, she moved to the shelter.
She had just become chair of the NYSUT SRP Advisory Committee and, when she had to provide a phone number to the union, it was the number to the shelter because she did not have her own phone. “They were very supportive,” she said. “They checked up on me.”
"I see this as a civil rights issue - everyone has a right to liberty and justice. Domestic violence has removed these right," said Kerry Broderick, president of the White Plains Teachers Association and member of the NYSUT Women's Steering Committee. " Given the current political climate, it is time for women (and men) to stand up to the bullies and thugs who have no regard for the liberty of others."
Actions that could be taken in this regard include a civil rights march, a law establishing the equity of pay, money earmarked for victims legal support, and physical support and emotional support, said Broderick.
Retired Schroon Lake teacher Jeannette Stapley, also a member of the NYSUT Women’s Steering Committee and Board of Directors, said domestic violence “remains a hidden epidemic, at least in rural areas. Women and men are afraid of the judgment, embarrassment, humiliation, and stigma from co-workers, community members and family members. Domestic violence is not limited to just physical abuse.”
The New York State Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-942-6909 (multi-language) or 711 for Deaf/Hard of Hearing for information about residential services, including domestic violence shelters, safe homes and safe dwellings. Non-residential services, including hotline assistance, information, referral, counseling, advocacy, community education and outreach services are available online.
More resources, better training, and more hands-on assistance for victims are needed, Stapley said. Education is also essential.
Learning about some of the warning signs of domestic violence can also help avert a crisis: It is important for a teenage girl, for example, to learn that a boyfriend who is jealous, controlling and pulls her away from her friends is not someone who is devoted to her, but someone who will likely harm her.
If you are physically unwell, you are more likely to be “brainwashed” by the perpetrator, Carner-Shafran points out.
Domestic violence victims are often mentally abused and convinced that the abuse is their fault.
Teachers often see the effects of violence in the home, and then work with a team at school to help counter them.
Stapley remembers an elementary student who was a victim of violence from an alcoholic father. The mother was also alcoholic, she said. One of the first steps was to make sure that, if the youngster exhibited any negative behavior, it would NOT be reported to the parents “because the situation was so bad for the child,” she said.
Staff cared for him as a team, she said, with patience. “We counseled him and made him aware that it was not his fault. The caring, attentive, highly qualified staff took exceptional care with this student. He graduated, made a career in the service and has never returned to visit his family. I credit the school staff with helping this man to be successful.”
NYSUT’s health care professionals in schools and hospitals often see first-hand the effects of domestic violence and they are an integral part of that team.
“Whether it is a nurse at an emergency room, a school nurse or a mental health counselor/social worker in our profession, the physical and emotional effects of domestic abuse can be staggering on the adults or children we see on a day in/ day out basis,” said NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale, who oversees the union’s health care issues. “Our members in the health care profession continue to step up and deliver the much-needed services and resources for the population we serve.”