A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Exploring Domestic Violence and It's Impact on the Family Structure: To Stay Or Not To Stay?
By Michelle Ottley

This report on domestic violence was submitted by The AFRican writer, Michelle Ottley. Michelle has been involved in exploring the family structure and has been an avid supporter of anti-domestic violence groups. Through personal experiences and ethnographical interviews with subjects of domestic violence, Michelle compiled a report, which she presented at the New York State City Council Meeting on Delinquent Youth and Department of Juvenile Justice.

Report 4/03:
Exploring the dynamics of unhealthy relationships and the perpetual violence in urban areas, I've found that many women fall victim to unhealthy relationships for various reasons: depression, separation anxiety, childhood trauma, codependency and denial. Some women were molested as children and this experience has made them emotionally frozen, stoic, and apathetic to others. I hope to shed light on some of the societal issues that help perpetuate this cyclical family crucible. Before we explore the feminine scars - we must first look at the male rationale and psyche. These cases are real, and each show how domestic violence is a terror for society, and how it destructs the family structure. I previously submitted this report at the New York State City Council Meeting on Delinquent Youth and Department of Juvenile Justice.

Corey R.
Corey R. is the firstborn of a crack-addicted mother. Corey's mother was abused while she was pregnant with Corey and years after he was born. Corey witnessed his mother being verbally and physically abused often. Corey stopped going to school around 13 years old when his mother left him and his brother home for days on end. He was raised by his grandmother, but she could not keep him out of the streets and the fast life. Corey never finished high school and when he was 15, he was shipped to Rikers Island and did an 8-year sentence in upstate NY. Corey never had a relationship with his father, who left the home when Corey was only five years old. Corey is now 31 years old and he is not employable to secure a job due to lack of academic credentials and controlling his temper.
Many women assume that a smart remark or a smack is nothing to talk about if you are dealing with an abusive man. The statistics are down in the cases of women who actually leave an abusive partner and find a life outside of the violence. Many women say the solution is to leave and not let him find you. I know firsthand of this type of violence; I have family members who were murdered at the hands of crack addicted felons. The real issues are neglect, incest, physical violence and unsupportive parents. Truancy and destructive behavior in youth are indicative factors of family violence. However, there seems to be various reasons for this disruptive behavior in school. Anger issues, bullying, and manipulation of peers are all root causes of violence at home. I believe that there should be a reorganization plan put in place that incorporates family preventive services PRIOR to youth who commit crimes between the ages of 14-16 are sentenced to adult prison for robbery in the 2nd degree/ assault/drug infractions and weapons possession charges.
ACS (Administration for Children Services), DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice) and the overall judicial system need a reality check for sending 92% of our youth to prison when less than 1/2 are violent felons. Young teens who are between 13-15 years old are being sentenced to Rikers Island for 5 years because the mother sold her soul to her husband on crack. We need to look deeper at the source of the problem.
In recent years, the number of boys and girls being abused by stepfathers, uncles, mother's boyfriends has increased and there seems to be no societal resolution to this evolving problem.

Mariah G. Mariah G. is a mother of two, abused as a child, emotionally withdrawn, and is a victim of long term Domestic Violence. Mariah has been married for 22 years, and she exhibited her first encounter of abuse from her drug abusing husband while she was dating him. She was ashamed to tell her family about the abuse and stayed in the relationship
Mariah was molested as a child and witenssed her mother being verbally and emotionally abused. She thought this was normal behavior within a marriage. Mariah wasn't aware of the long term effects this would have on her and her children's coping skills. For years, Mariah was in denial that she and her family were being abused.
As a result she negelected her children and became clinically depressed. Mariah's oldest daughter left home while in high school to escape from being molested by her husband. Mariah's other daughter was committed to a hospital because she was being abused by her own father and her mother allowed it. Mariah's abuse has gotten worse but the final outcome is similar to all others - isolation, degradation, manipulation and torture.

Barry H.
Barry is your typical 22 year old that barely finishes his GED program due to domestic situations at home. He has self esteem issues inherited from his mother. He falls for the manipulative, emotionally abusive female and clings to her no matter how bad she treats him. She is his escape as he tries to flee his Hellenic family situation. Since adolescence, Barry has not found a positive outlet for his pent-up anger at his parents. This anger will soon manifest into a violent rage if his girlfriend pushes his buttons during an argument. These experiences make him indecisive about making critical life decisions such as college and future plans. Barry had no positive role models growing up so he finds it difficult to express his feelings without suppressing his anger.

CASE IN POINT : Natasha L.
The short term effects of Domestic Violence is much more intense, calculated and brutal. Natasha met her boyfriend on her birthday in September 2002. She was with her friends and she met a nice looking guy who seemed to be interested in her. So they started to see each other over the next few weeks. Natasha didn't know that this was going to be her last few times around family and friends. She hadn't introduced him to her mom and most of her friends yet. She wanted to wait until her cousin's party to do that. She was really into this guy and she wanted a committed relationship before she announced it to the family. As time went on, the guy got more agitated, confrontational, demanding and emotionally abusive. He would hound her for money and make her feel like she couldn't get away from him. He neglected to tell her that he was using drugs and that he had killed before. He neglected to tell her that he was planning to rob her and kill her as he bragged in the street to his crack buddies. She didn't tell her family what was really going on. Three weeks is a short time to go through so many emotions with someone you think you know. Natasha wasn't sure about him but she went along with the situation. In 3 weeks, the guy had cased her place, planned to rob her and leave her dead. And due to the lack of monitoring by the NYS Dept of Probation, that is exactly what this guy did. The long and short term effects of Domestic Violence are real and too many children are losing their parents, mostly mothers to unnecessary violence that could be prevented. What can we do as a society to protect the rights of mothers and their children?
Natasha was brutally beaten and murdered in October 2002--- three weeks after her 30th birthday. She saw the signs but was too afraid or perhaps too embarrassed to say that she needed help with this type of thing. Maybe she thought it would get better.