Tamron Hall: How domestic violence hurt my family

October 22, 2010

Tamron Hall: How domestic violence hurt my family

It starts with the words “I love you,” and it ends with a punch in the face.

It starts with the line, “It’s us against the world,” and it ends with her against the wall in tears.

It starts with the suggestion of what to wear, and it ends with him saying, “I tear you down to build you up. You are mine.”

I have heard the stories. I have seen the pain. I have watched a loved one suffer in an abusive relationship, and ultimately die because she just could not bring herself to leave.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. I recently had the honor for the second time to host the awards dinner for a dating violence awareness organization called Day One.

Day One, a New York City-based group, started its journey of helping victims and survivors of abuse in 2003. The goal: to prevent abuse and protect those who suffer at the hands of–in most cases–people they thought loved them. Over a span of seven years, Day One has helped 22,000 young people learn how to identify abuse and to foster and maintain healthy relationships.

Just writing those words, 22,000 young people, sends chills down my spine. Think about it. We live in a world where we must teach young people how to identify abuse. With so many messages and images of what is right and wrong, there is still so much to be taught on this issue. Why is this the case?

Well, how many times do you think an adult (let alone a teenager) believes that a girlfriend or boyfriend calling a hundred times in a row is love? He or she, blinded by love, sometimes does not realize when that person is crossing the line of what is reasonable. Those repeated calls and messages saying, “You will pick up the phone!” are a demand to be heard, whether it’s wanted or not.

How many have assumed that “crazy in love” is a good thing? How many have thought, “He is so crazy about me, he followed me,” or “He is so crazy about me, he came over without calling and cried at my front door,” or “He is so crazy about me, he beat up another boy.” It happens more often than most could imagine.

At this year’s Day One awards dinner, I listened as two smart, independent, and brave young ladies told of the abuse they suffered at the hands of young men they once loved.

Christina told the story of being held hostage in a home and beaten with a belt by the “love of her life.” His love marks came in the form of stitches in her head. One day, he even cornered her outside of her school. He was furious that she had cut off all ties to him. He told Christina, “I will put you in that hospital across the street if you don’t give me your new phone number.” Christina told of how she felt there was no help–somehow, the system was failing her and helping him. It was not until Christina met Ian Harris, an attorney with Day One, that Christina was able to get an order of protection that would keep her former love away for five years–the longest term that can be applied in New York family court. Even so, many young women find all-too-soon that an order of protection, even for five years, is not a guarantee of safety. You ponder that for me. In spite of what she went through, Christina is now a successful young woman, studying law in college and working to help others.

The second speaker was Karin, who, like so many of us, found the man of her dreams her first year in college. But instead of a love story to share for the ages, her story was one of abuse. Karin was isolated from her family and friends as a result of being manipulated by her boyfriend. He uttered the infamous line, “I tear you down so I can build you back up” when Karin asked why he verbally abused her over and over again. Karin found her world closing in on her as every holiday was spent with his family–not her own. He demanded that she spend every hour of the day with him and not her own friends. It’s as if she woke up to a world he built–or should I say, a prison. Karin’s tipping point came when her boyfriend threatened to drive his car off the road–she believed that his goal was to kill them both. Karin soon talked to a counselor and found the strength that she needed to leave the relationship. A short time later, Karin contacted Day One in hopes of becoming a volunteer. Not only is she currently a volunteer, Karin is now in her first year of law school.

Day One cites a recent New York City Teen Health Risk Survey showing that one in ten teenagers had experienced physical or sexual assault in a dating relationship within the previous year. Even more startling, it tells that nearly 1,400 teenagers call the New York City Domestic Violence Hotline each month. Of course, domestic violence isn’t limited to any one city or state–it’s a problem that’s becoming more and more prevalent throughout the entire country.

I could go on forever with facts and figures that might leave your head swirling. Instead, I will leave you with this: Renate, my fun-loving, energetic and streetwise sister is my inspiration for this story. She was found one Sunday morning, facedown in her backyard pool. Her hair had been pulled from the back of her head. Her nails were broken on every finger, indicating that she had fought back. But whom had she been fighting? I will never learn in the form of official charges, but what I can say about her death is that the only person ever considered a suspect or person of interest in the case was the man she loved. She often remarked that they had a “love-hate relationship,” and that they would “break up to make up.” Sadly, on that day, Renate’s view of love ended in struggle and pain. My father always believed that justice would eventually be served, but he passed away only a few years after Renate, and his dream of seeing her killer brought to justice will never be realized.

Day One, and other organizations like it, has made a commitment to so many mothers, daughters, sisters and friends to end domestic abuse. In fact, Day One has reached over 6,000 college students through awareness events. But no matter how far they have come, they still need volunteers, they still need voices and they still need you.

The victims are getting younger. The abusers are getting younger. The clock is ticking…

In memory of
Renate “Angel”
1955-2004

Tamron Hall is the host of NewsNation on MSNBC, which airs weekdays at 2pm. She is also a frequent substitute on NBC’s Today Show

For more information about DayOne, go to: www.dayoneny.org

Respectfully submitted via MSNBC


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