East Tennessee organizations help domestic violence victims become survivors

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The journey was not an easy one. She had feelings of loneliness and despair but despite all of her obstacles, she was able to become a survivor.

One in three women and one in four men will be victims of intimate partner violence, at some point in their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).

1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will be victims of intimate partner violence, at some point in their lifetime.

The woman that The Salvation Army’s Joy D. Baker Center helped was no exception. The Knoxville center remembers the “victor’s” story well. She moved across the country to Tennessee in order to escape her abuser.

The center says the abuser assaulted her and left the woman for dead. However, she survived.

There are many organizations in East Tennessee that are helping victims become survivors across the area.

East Tennessee Facts

According to the Helen Ross McNabb Center, Tennessee ranks higher than many states in regards to domestic violence.

“We know that Tennessee ranks fourth in the country for women murdered by men,” said Helen Ross McNabb Center Assistant Director of Victim Services Catherine Oaks.

The YWCA says in 2016, the Knoxville Police Department and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office responded to 18,124 domestic violence-related calls.

The Anderson County Sheriff’s Department answered 661 domestic-related calls for service in the same year. One-hundred-eighty-two of the calls involved an assault or other crime, says the organization.

Why Tennessee?

There are many reasons why domestic violence is prevalent in Tennessee.

“We know that Tennessee ranks fourth in the country for women murdered by men.”

YWCA Director of Anderson County Services Maggie McNally says drugs, alcohol and mental illness do not cause domestic violence. However, they can make the problem worse.

“We know that power, control and a way of thinking causes domestic violence,” says McNally. “These other issues can exasperate the problem. All of these things compound the problem.”

Family Justice Center Executive Director Amy Dilworth says societal beliefs and laws can play a role.

“It took many years to pass the state law regarding spousal rape and if you look for how often it has been prosecuted and the defendant found guilty, it is not a high number though I see this as a very large issue in domestic violence,” said Dilworth. “Years of beliefs and patterns of how things are done are hard to change, even when laws exist to change them.”

Help for Children

According to NCADV, one in 15 children will be exposed to intimate partner violence each year and 90 percent of those children are eyewitnesses.

Many East Tennessee organizations offer services to help children.

The Joy D. Baker Center’s Rainbow Promises program offers counseling, tutoring, educational field trips and more to children. Also, the Knox County Schools Homeless Liaison helps enroll children in school within 48 hours of arriving at the center.

Domestic Violence Laws

A domestic violence offense is considered a misdemeanor in Tennessee.

In regards to state law, people convicted of domestic violence will not be able to lawfully possess or buy a firearm of any kind. Also, the defendant must dispose of all firearms at the time of the conviction.

1 in 15 children will be exposed to intimate partner violence each year.

The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation can increase the risk of homicide by 500 percent, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

The NCADV says law enforcement responding to a call must take any firearms the abuse used or threatened to use in the course of the incident.

Many area organizations can help victims receive an order of protection from their abuser.

If you need help

An abuser is not always a husband or boyfriend. The Helen Ross McNabb Center remembers helping a woman who was abused by her daughter.

“When she entered the shelter, she was looking for a safe place to live where she could work on re-establishing her life and getting her finances back in order.”

With the help of advocates, the woman was able to receive the help that she needed including medical treatment.

“She was able to work on an individualized goal plan that set out the steps she needed to take in order to secure housing and gain financial empowerment,” said Oaks. “Her hard work and determination enabled her to break free of the abuse she had been enduring.”

Leaving an abusive situation can be dangerous. Victims have to make sure their abuser does not catch them.

If a victim is in immediate danger, the YWCA suggests they contact 911.

Victims are advised to use a computer that the abuser does not have direct access to when seeking information on help.

If you are not in immediate danger, contact an organization that can help or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-779-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

Organizations can help victims create an escape plan.

Also, organizations can offer housing, job placement, counseling, help with drug addictions and more.

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