By Jenna Song, Contributing Editor
Women In Transition, a nonprofit organization based in Center City, Philadelphia, helps domestic violence survivors break free from abusive relationships and substance abuse, as well as, provides education and resources to help survivors cope.
Philadelphia recorded 22 murders due to domestic violence in 2019. Domestic violence tends to soar in negligence and silence. Many domestic violence survivors are kept in the dark and have a hard time finding the time and space to reach out for help.
While Philadelphia is fighting the pandemic, domestic violence has worsened. Calls for help increased overwhelmingly during the beginning of lockdown. Since people spend more time at home because of COVID, domestic violence survivors had to think outside of the box to seek help.
Callers are becoming creative to find the time to call. Call times are all over the place, said Irene Brantley, Program Director of Women In Transition.
The pandemic put a pause to many survivors’ plans. Sorting out their living situation was becoming increasingly hard as the pandemic worsened. They had to alter their plans and find different ways to stay safe while staying in the household.
Brantley explained that people can’t leave their household without a plan, especially with kids, and the communal environment isn’t a preferred housing option because of COVID.
While Women In Transition has some programs that can help with the security deposit, survivors can’t really afford housing if they get laid off from their job. There’s no other option they can fall back to unless they were able to save up some money.
Substance abuse is the topic that often comes up along with domestic abuse. Substance abuse may intensify domestic abuse. If an abusive partner has a problem with drugs or alcohol, they may be more violent. If survivors are abusing drugs and alcohol, they may not be able to make safe choices to exit the abusive relationship.
“There’s no cause and effect, but there’s definitely a correlation,” said Brantley.
Women In Transition run multiple support groups for the survivors. The goals for their support groups are giving them the sense of community and sharing resources with one another.
Sister Circle is for survivors who identify as a woman. Peer Empowerment and Recovery Support Groups are open to survivors of all genders. All their groups are designed to support survivors who lived through domestic violence who may have been impacted by substance abuse as well.
Education is an aspect Women In Transition focus on for the prevention side of work. They hold workshops hoping to prevent abuse and show what healthy relationships look like. They hope to educate as early as eighth and ninth grade to prevent those from being trapped in the pattern of abuse.
“If you’ve never had anyone say a kind word to you, and everybody abused you as a child, how are you going to make healthy choices as an adult?” said Brantley.
Domestic violence is a combination of complex problems that need attention and care from our society.
What are some things we can do to help?
Brantley urged people to educate themselves about the dynamics of domestic abuse. People are quick to “victim blame” and wonder why they didn’t do certain things. People judge without fully understanding their situation. They need to educate themselves properly to understand the dynamics between the abuser and the survivor.
There are many websites you can get resources from. The Women In Transition website has answers about what domestic violence and substance abuse look like. Once you’re familiar with what abuse looks like, it’s time to pay attention.
“Keep your eyes open. There are people who are in our families, who are going through this and nobody knows. Because nobody’s looking.” said Brantley.
Intersectionality may be an unfamiliar term to many people, but it’s something we have to understand in order to stop “victim blaming” and understand domestic violence better as a society. Intersectionality is a combination of social categories such as race, gender, etc., converging with one another which ends up creating different types of discrimination.
Intersectionality ends up limiting people’s choices. Depending on their social categories, they may not be able to escape domestic violence because they may not have the right resources and economic stability.
Many inequalities have nothing to do with their relationship, but have everything to do with their options, added Brantley. There’s a lot of economic and racial injustice going on. If people can’t get the promotion or a raise they’re supposed to get because of their race, they can’t put food on the table. All that impacts their families who’ve already been impacted by domestic violence.
Women In Transition is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. If you’re interested in contributing, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to donate cash, goods, or your time. For general inquiries, email email@example.com.