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Community Conversation: Surviving domestic violence

Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 7:25 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The month was launched in America back in 1981. It is a time to raise awareness and educate people about the signs and dangers of domestic violence.

Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States and on a normal day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

This week’s Community Conversation deals with domestic violence and the resources to help people escape the abuse.

Domestic violence survivor Melody Gross talked to WBTV about her three years of abuse with her partner.

“My experience with domestic violence started before I was an adult,” Gross said. “Cause I grew up in a home where it took place a lot - a lot of the women in my family were victims of Domestic Violence and then some of the men perpetrated violence as well. Thankfully they are all safe now and I didn’t expect to see myself in that situation of abuse, but as I got older I did. I met a man who I thought was great, loving, and caring - but eventually, those different signs of Domestic Violence started to take place and I found myself in that situation for three years.”

Gross said it was a long three years.

“The type of violence I experienced was economic abuse,” she said. “So basically that means he would call and harass me at work. He wouldn’t pay his portion of the bills and so that left us in some financial troubles at times where bills were late. Also experienced a lot of emotional and mental abuse - name calling - things like that and then also physical abuse. It actually did get physical where at one point I was on crutches.”

Gross found herself going back to him and not pressing charges.

“I got a temporary order,” Gross said. “But I never did go through with it. I didn’t. So eventually I said no - it’s not even worth it - just leave. Sometimes I regret that but other times the issue with it is - we don’t necessarily want them to go to jail - we just want them to stop abusing.”

She finally said enough was enough.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back, unfortunately, wasn’t the physical abuse,” Gross said. “It was the financial abuse because for me we are struggling to pay bills - if I’m going to struggle to pay bills with someone - I can struggle by myself. So I decided enough was enough and I left. And it was not without challenges.”

Gross said her partner stalked her and constantly sent emails and text messages.

Safe Alliance helped her get through the abuse. Safe Alliance has been around since 1909 helping victims of abuse. Leaders say there’s more work to do. They say during COVID there was increased worry.

“Over the two years of the pandemic,” Safe Alliance Director of Corporate and Community Engagement Tenille Banner said. “We definitely saw an increase in our survivor’s need for help. Some of it was I am stuck at home with someone I can typically go to work each day and escape and be away from them throughout the day...At one point we saw an increase in hotline calls coming into our Greater Charlotte Hope Line.”

Banner says the work Safe Alliance does is free and is open for help 24/7 through the Greater Charlotte Hope Line.

“Safe Alliance depends a great deal on the community’s support,” Banner said. “So everything from donating and giving financial support to providing those basic needs and essential items to toothbrush and toothpaste and bed linens and things like that - that when people are leaving quickly, fast and in a hurry to escape a situation and they come into our shelter in the middle of the night - maybe they have a bag of clothes maybe they come in with nothing. So we have to provide all those basic needs for them so there are so many different ways the community can support.”

Gross believes if Domestic Violence would have been tackled in her home while growing up - she thinks her situation may have turned out differently. She now knows the importance of teaching young people the difference between good and bad relationships.

“If we start young and we educate young people on what that looks like,” she said. “Like what a healthy relationship looks like - boundaries - taking no for an answer...Domestic violence is a learned behavior and so if we can break that - break that cycle and get them to understand what that looks like - then we can have a better chance of reducing the risk of domestic violence and relationships.”

Gross says she is in a much better space. She tells people if they need help - ask for it - don’t wait as she did. She says it was a process to get to her healing.

“I did counseling for a while,” Gross said. “But then therapy is expensive so I couldn’t afford it at the time - so what I did was I did a lot of natural stuff. I started to journal a lot more. I started to write a lot more. I started to speak about it - that was healing for me.”

If you or somebody you know needs assistance call the Greater Charlotte Hope Line at 980-771-HOPE. It’s available 24/7.

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