A young woman meets someone she thinks is the man of her dreams. He is strong-willed, confident and charming.
Things go well for the first few weeks or months. But, then, the unthinkable happens: The man reveals his true colors and begins to abuse the woman.
This scenario happens tens of thousands of times a year across Chicago, according to data collected by the Chicago Police Department. In the 11th and 15th Police Districts, where Austin is located, the occurrences of reported domestic violence can range from 20 to 40 calls each day.
Joy Baynes decided it was time to get the word out. She reached out to her friend and sister-in-law — New Word Church Pastor Mary Duncan — to hold a domestic violence workshop Oct. 25 at the church.
“We have got to keep pushing; we have got to keep making people aware,” Duncan said. “We want these people to come out of domestic violence. We think, ‘We can’t be these women.’ But we can be.”
One tool used at last Saturday’s workshop was acting. Members of the church’s drama team performed skits that pointedly highlighted domestic violence for the crowd.
The skits elicited some passionate emotions from the audience. One person in the audience, Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), even felt compelled to share her own personal story.
“The abuse starts when they start (verbally abusing you),” Mitts said. “They start tearing you down, and then you’re a ‘yes person.’
“Well, I got rid of that man. I didn’t even look back. It wasn’t until I separated myself from that environment that I was able to elevate myself over to the side where the Lord could use me,” Mitts said.
Getting the word out about resources available to victims of domestic abuse was a major reason Baynes wanted to put on the workshop. She, too, is a survivor of domestic violence from a relationship she had in high school.
“I really wasn’t aware that was the type of situation I was in,” she said. “It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized this was a situation I didn’t want to be in.”
Patricia Burton, community advocate for Sisters Assisting Families for Empowerment, handed out pamphlets with information and phone numbers to call for those in domestic violence situations.
A representative from the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy was on hand to facilitate a discussion about what constitutes domestic violence.
“Any person who hits, chokes, kicks, threatens, harasses or interferes with the personal liberty of another family or household member has broken Illinois’ domestic violence law,” said Sgt. Roger Powell, a CAPS officer.
In the end, it’s all about control, Powell said. The abuser wants complete control over the victim. Being able to read the early warning signs and having an escape plan to get out of the relationship can make all the difference, he said.
If you suspect you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, you can call a national help hotline at (877) TO END DV (877-863-6338), or the Chicago Office on Domestic Violence at (312) 747-9972.