The Faces of Domestic Violence Survivors May Not Be What You Expect

Domestic violence victims came together at the 2021 ESSENCE Festival Of Culture Virtual Wellness House to discuss the power in facing fear after surviving their ordeals.

In a panel lead by New Orleans local morning news anchor Sheba Turk, Dr. Alisha Reed, a domestic violence survivor, and New Orleans Family Justice Center Community Outreach Director Sharon Henry sat down for an intimate discussion about what having courage after experiencing violence at the hands of a partner can do and to explore what we should be thinking of when we say “domestic violence”.

“We [Louisiana] rank first or second every year in the rate or women killed by men,” explains Turk as she opens the panel.

But why?

“Lack of resources here, education, not knowing how to build healthy relationships within our community,” explains Henry. “And poverty is one huge aspect of it. That’s why we see it here.”

The numbers across the United States are even more staggering.

“At this rate, 2-4 million women killed at the hands of abusers within the United States yearly, and first and foremost we want to identify what domestic violence is,” says Henry. “What does it look like? Actually, it has no face. Actually, it has no face. It’s an abusive behavior, and typically it’s targeted, and we just take for granted that we’re just looking for bruises, but it’s not. It can be financial. It can be emotional. It can be psychological. It can be many things.”

Often emotional abuse is impossible to see from the outside of a relationship.

“Emotional abuse is right up there with physical abuse and when someone emotionally abuses you, they have control of your mind,” says Dr. Reed, a New Orleans based mother, pharmacist and success coach.

Dr. Reed says those who meet her are shocked to learn that she was once a survivor of domestic violence. Which is part of the problem.

“A lot of people are surprised when I share that part of my life,” explains Reed, who studied pharmaceuticals at Xavier University. “The truth is, there is no face for a domestic violence survivor. At first, I didn’t know what the signs were because I didn’t think that that could happen to me. It first I thought it was cute. Oh, he’s just overprotective. He wants to spend all his time with me…Then we gotten into a small argument and it resulted in me getting hit.”

Even after a victim survives his or her abuse, there can still be a lot to unpack, with fear being a primary factor.

“Most often times it is fear, it is a retaliation, that abusive relationships do continue,” explains Henry.

Watch their entire conversation above.

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