Phila. agency helps local abused women

By Felicia Melvin
March 18, 2010

“It started off small with a slap, then a punch, then a full-on- beating.”

Nearly one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend.

“I was in a relationship for eight months. I was 23 years old when it started. He was three years younger than me. His dad use to beat his mom.” Michelle Malone, counselor advocate coordinator volunteer, at the Laurel House said.

Laurel House is a comprehensive domestic violence agency serving individuals, families and communities throughout Montgomery County, Pa.

“Everyone that comes here is a victim. The majority of the women have children. A lot of places don’t cater to single women or an older teen kid, that’s why they go back to their abuser,” Malone said.

The Laurel House offers transitional housing, medical advocacy, legal advocacy, community counseling and support groups, children’s programs, support to law enforcement, and expanded community education and prevention efforts.

“I saw an ad in the paper and I came in for an interview and they hired me on the spot. I had experience as far as domestic violence and also working in a group home setting” Malone said.

“In my opinion it can be traced back to the home and they take it out into the world. If we treat the root cause of violence, which is the home, we can stop it in the community,” Maryrose Myrtetus, public relations associate for women’s against abuse program.

“You wouldn’t believe the horror stories from children who watch their mother’s get abused by their husbands or boyfriends. Kids realize a lot of things you don’t realize as an adult. Kids are aware,” Malone said.

American College of Emergency Physician estimate that between two and four million women are battered each year in the U.S. 2,000 of these women die due to injury they suffer.

“You’re in love and you’re twenty something years old and he’s taking me on shopping sprees. You don’t see anything else,” Malone said.

“Every time he would hit me he would apologize and say it would never happen again. Then it got to a point where he didn’t care,” Malone said.

“His dad noticed what was going on. He told me if I don’t get out of it he was going to kill me.” I was in denial,” Malone said.

“My dad’s friend saw us fighting one time and I denied it. Growing up we knew girls who were getting beat up and it was like who cares, it was the norm,” Malone said.

In times of economic difficulty abuse becomes more severe in many households. The United States Conference of Mayors in 2007 determined that domestic abuse is one of the top-three causes of homelessness in 23 cities. Women against statistics said

“Men abuse women because it’s a power and control thing,” Malone said. “I’m going to make you feel small because I do. They have problems with themselves.” It doesn’t help when they see it as they grow up. They think it’s normal.”

“I would leave my children at home by themselves just so I could please him,” Malone said. “The turning point was when he started chastising my son. It taught me a lesson. He took my self-esteem. I had guilt for years about leaving my kids.”

“I didn’t want my son to become a woman beater and I didn’t want my daughter to think it was okay for a man to beat on her,” Malone said.

Twenty-two percent of women who are killed by domestic abuse are between the ages of 16 through 19. women against abuse statistics said.

“My dad and brothers came and got me they went ballistic, they were going to kill him.” Malone said. “I left and went with my family members. My abuser set my house on fire after that. He thought me and my kids were in it. He followed me to the school I started attending and beat me in the elevator; he also tried to run me over with his car.”

“It was really creepy because about eight or nine years after he was locked up he sent letters to my home saying he wanted to be with me,” Malone said.

“I think back and I can’t believe I let it happen to me. I let someone control my life like that,” Malone said. “I reached a point in my life when I wanted to know who I was. I kept jumping in and out of relationships. I didn’t give myself enough time to heal.”

“Get out as quick as you find out he’s abusive. It gets worse, it doesn’t get better and if he’ll hit you one time, he’ll hit you again,” Malone said.

“Our hope is to really raise awareness. Domestic violence is a pattern. Make sure it gets reported with the truth. Without recognizing it and talking about it in the open there isn’t a way to end it,” Myrtetus said.

Felicia Melvin

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