Everyone deserves to be in a loving and healthy relationship. Unfortunately, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month and Jericho Road Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports the restoration of families by helping to address domestic violence in New York City, hosted its 6th annual Breaking the Bonds of Violence Walk-A-Thon. Organized by Carl Joseph, the program director, and consultant at Jericho INC., the goal of the walk-a-thon was to raise awareness about domestic violence and funds to purchase baby clothes for children affected by domestic violence. A portion of the proceeds was also donated to the NYC Family Justice Center in Brooklyn, which assists victims of domestic violence.
Mr. Joseph's approach is to get more men involved and make them aware that domestic violence is wrong and why it happens. Young boys witness violence and when they grow up they bring their experiences to their relationships and the cycle continues. He gives seminars in local middle and high schools, and churches around New York City.
"Men need to be taught at an early age that domestic violence is wrong," said Mr. Joseph. "We need to love ourselves before we can love somebody else."
The Reverend Dr. Elena Bascom, a survivor of domestic violence, created Jericho Road because she wanted to help women who were victims of domestic abuse. The organization provides information through seminars given at public schools, correction facilities, universities, and churches in New York City where survivors tell their stories and answer questions. The seminars present ways to build better relationships by explaining the real meaning of LOVE, discouraging violent behavior, and developing healthy values. Jericho Road Inc. also collaborates with health services, youth clubs, and community-based groups.
Antonio Bascom, son of the Reverend Dr. Elena Bascom, explained domestic violence from a child's point of view. He was 4 years-old when he witnessed his mother being abused by his father. Witnessing the abuse caused emotional and physical problems. It affected his grades, he gained weight, he found it hard to relate to people, and develop positive relationships. He grew up feeling alone and isolated.
"...You can't feel comfortable in your environment if you're not comfortable at home."
Antonio has multiple roles within the JRI organization. He does television responses, creates t-shirts, writes the literature, and helps with organizing the seminars.
"Love is freedom and jealousy is possession," said Antonio. "Jealousy will allow a person to abuse you. Love will allow a person to love you and forgive you anytime that you get in trouble."
In 2008, Dr. Reverend Elena Bascom and a group of survivors published a book called, The Survivor Series: Stories of Women Who Survived the Impossible. The book was a compilation of testimonies of victims and how they prevailed.
"I hoped and prayed that someone would read the book because it would blow peoples' minds that we survived and live the way we do," she said.
Phyllis Hall, one of the survivors noted in the book, attended the walk-a-thon. She was abused by her husband who was in the Marine Corps. The abuse started verbally, and then it turned physical later during their marriage. One night he grabbed her by the neck and slammed her head against a pole that was sticking out of the ground. She was taken to Kings County Hospital. She was afraid to report the incident because she was living with his family. Another time, he took a pot of hot oatmeal and poured it on her face. She suffered third-degree burns on her face and neck. While she was carrying their third child, he pushed her down the stairs and the baby was born breached.
"Love is time, love is caring for you, love is protecting you," said Phyllis.
Her husband got a restraining order against her and had her kicked out of their home and away from her kids. The abuses lead to a drug addiction. She went to rehab and then stayed with friends until she got a job and an apartment. She has been drug free for 18 years. She hasn't seen her husband since she left rehab. Until this day, he has never apologized to her for his abuse.
Reverend Dr. Elena Bascom also experienced domestic violence as a married woman. A month after she married her husband, he started beating her.
"If you can't love with me, leave me, but don't beat me," she said.
When she left her husband, she had no family or friends to go to; it was just her and her son. She went to church and spoke to other domestic violence victims. She then found a place of her own and went to school.
The walk-a-thon, which started at Marine Park, went throughout Mill Basin. After people returned to the starting point, everyone took a purple balloon and gathered in a large area in the park. A poem called "God Kissed Me and Created Oat," was recited as the balloons were released into the sky representing those who passed away from domestic violence and the survivors who live to tell their stories. I end this article with a quote from Reverend Dr. Elena Bascom, an inspiration who believes that love should never be abusive; instead love should be giving and sharing:
"I'm a survivor. I made it. I can tell anybody, 'I don't care where you are at, I don't care where you were, not only can you come out, but you can do better.'"
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