NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - One night, Ebony was lying in bed in her New York apartment, exhausted after working all day and taking care of the children, when her partner walked into their bedroom, drunk and demanding sex.
As she refused, he became enraged and started hitting her. At the time, Ebony was pregnant with her fifth child.
The abuse, both physical and verbal, had been going on for some time but it wasn’t until that night, when her 14-year-old daughter walked into the room and saw her struggling as her partner abused her, that Ebony left.
“To see my daughter see me like that it was embarrassing...I got to a point where I hated myself so much,” 32-year-old Ebony told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.
She had tried to leave her partner before, but she said she had no help, no family to turn to and she was afraid of losing her apartment in a public housing complex.
Ebony, from New York, is one the domestic violence survivors who took part in a national video campaign launched this week by the Urban Resource Institute (URI), one of the city’s largest providers of services for victims of domestic violence.
In its “DV Free” campaign, URI released this week an eight-video series of survivors’ stories to raise awareness about the issue to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“There has never been a more critical time to stand up against abuse,” said Nathaniel Fields, head of URI.
“Here in New York City, two out of three women murdered in 2012 was a result of domestic violence, over 50 percent of Americans know a victim of domestic violence and yet there’s dismally low discussion about it,” he said.
“We want to connect the everyday American to the issue.”
Ebony’s parents were drug addicts who died when she was very young, and she grew up in institutions where violence was an everyday reality.
So when her first partner started abusing her, she didn’t immediately grasp the severity and danger of her situation. She only left him when eventually he threatened to kill her. Even then she didn’t see herself as a victim of domestic violence.
“(I thought) it was one time and I got out and … I grew up in a group home where the (only) way to defend yourself was fighting,” Ebony said, her voice breaking into sobs.
Ana, 25, from New York’s Brooklyn neighborhood, has a similar story.
“I decided to leave when I was pregnant with my second child, when we got into an argument over a picture I had in my phone (and) he started hitting me,” she said.
It wasn’t the first time she had been physically abused. When she was pregnant with their first child, her partner shoved her off the bed.
The abuse began with verbal attacks and financial control and escalated into violence, she said.
Ana grew up surrounded by violence. Her father died when she was eight years old, shot by police as he tried to murder her, her mother and her brother.
Like Ebony, Ana didn’t fully understand the concept of domestic abuse and how to break free. Her partner kept her from seeing family and friends, monitored her calls, emails and text messages.
“There wasn’t enough awareness (about domestic violence),” she said. “I didn’t want to speak to family members because I was embarrassed … I didn’t want to go into the shelter system.
“But then I had to look at my son and I didn’t want this (cycle) to continue with him.”
Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Ros Russell