Domestic violence affects countless men, women and children nationwide, even here on the Peninsula.
Last year, the Transitions Family Violence Services in Hampton received 1,541 calls on their 24/7 crisis hotline and 173 people used the shelter.
“We learned that domestic violence is learned in the home,” said Sanu Dieng, executive director of Transitions.
Domestic violence can be anything from emotional and psychological behavior like gaslighting, to threats and physical violence.
“It’s not only what you see on Lifetime where they are just highlighting the extreme cases,” she said.
The nonprofit organization provides services to victims of domestic violence including counseling, shelter, legal services, outreach programs and advocacy. All of those free services are available to men, women and children regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.
Dieng said a majority of people who use the services are black and white women between the ages of 18-32 with children, however, there has been an increase in men with children using the center as well.
Juanita Graham, director of outreach services at the Avalon Center in Williamsburg, agrees.
“It does happen to everyone —it happens across the board,” Graham said.
The Avalon Center also offers similar services to its clients, which includes connecting people to workforce development resources, visiting schools to talk about domestic violence and starting a male sexual assault survivors group in the spring.
Graham said she has seen some common themes in their clientele such as those who suffered from financial abuse, having their children used as leverage and being forced to stop taking birth control or forced to terminate a pregnancy.
The center is working with the William & Mary’s Graduate Public Policy program to implement a longitudinal study about domestic violence and both Avalon and Transitions work with local law enforcement.
Onicka Daniel used Transitions services six years ago when she decided to leave her abusive relationship of 13 years.
“Transitions saved my life,” she said.
In the early stages of their relationship, whenever they disagreed, her husband would call her a “bitch” and she would excuse his behavior thinking perhaps he had a bad day at work. The man started isolating her from her family, lowering her self-esteem by discouraging her from pursuing a master’s degree and would cheat and blame her for it.
But she was too embarrassed to tell her family and she married him because, she said, it was the right thing do to since they were already living together.
After they got married, the abuse became physical. He would choke her, drag her from end of the house to the other and one time, put a gun to her head when she pregnant with their first son. She left him and came back two weeks later because he apologized and she thought it was better to have a whole family than be split up.
“You can’t just leave it’s almost like you’re in bondage of the mind,” she said.
She finally told her mother everything after she gave birth to his second son and met Dieng at Transitions. Within two years, she got custody of her children and a divorce.
Daniel had published a series of four books about her experiences, The Holiday Boys, and gives a portion of the proceeds to Transitions.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call the Transitions Family Services Center Center 24/7 hotline at 757-727-7774 or call Avalon Center 24/7 hotline at 757-258-5051.
If you are not comfortable calling local resources, the National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 800-799-7233.
Why do people stay?
- lack of of support system
- fear of being alone or the unknown
- low self-esteem
How to help
If you know someone who is a victim of domestic violence, you can help the victim by listening and believing their story, reminding them they don’t deserve to be abused and there are free resources available, Dieng said.
If you would like to donate to either Transitions Family Services Center or the Avalon Center, visit their website or check out the list of need below.
Transitions Family Services Center – Hampton
- volunteers – hosting dinners, court advocacy, answered the hotline, helping kids with homework, etc.
- household items (pots, pans, towels, pillows, toiletries, blankets, sheets, etc.)
- gift cards – ie, grocery stores, bus tickets, etc.
- art supplies
Avalon Center – Williamsburg
- gift cards – ie, gas, grocery stores, Uber, etc.
- pro-bono lawyers