Domestic Violence: When to Leave Your Loved One - - Jackson, MS

Domestic Violence: When to Leave Your Loved One

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By Monica Hernandez - bio | email | twitter

METRO JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Recent developments in the Karen Irby case have brought discussions of domestic violence to the forefront in our community.

Irby claims her husband assaulted her while she was driving, causing a fiery crash that killed two people.

Police reports show allegations of domestic abuse had been going on in the Irby household for years.

According to experts, Mississippi has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the nation. And they say countless victims live in fear of those they love.

Often, experts say, domestic violence is a cycle.

One man, who asked WLBT to use only his first name, told Three On Your Side he wanted to break that cycle after watching his father commit a heinous crime.

"I had witnessed my mother being beaten to death three weeks and two days before my sixth birthday. So I grew up a pretty screwed up kid," said James, 46.

James was recently arrested for striking his own teenage son. The father of three said he'd never before hit a family member, but admits to mistreating his ex-wife.

"Being belittling and demeaning toward women, being an overly demanding grouch who expected certain male privilege," said James. "And abusive, if you will, to the ones I should have loved the most, my family."

But all that changed, James said, when a judge ordered him to take part in a Batterer's Intervention Program.

James said the program, which has been in place in the metro area since September, compares to one thing.

"Like being born. Like shedding your old skin and learning to grow a new one," said James.

So far, about 150 people have taken part in the six-month court ordered program. It's run by Center for Violence Prevention in Pearl, and so far, there are no reports that any of those who have enrolled in the program have abused again.

"I'm still wrong for what I did. But I'm still proud of what I've accomplished through some hard work. It is hard work. It's hard going home and facing yourself because you know what you're looking at and you don't like what you see," said James.

According to the Center for Violence Prevention, the program is aimed at changing an abuser's belief system. Experts say domestic violence is about power and control.

And at least one in four women fall victim to it.

In Pontotoc County, a man was accused of shooting his estranged wife to death. In Jackson, women like Heather Spencer and Latasha Norman have lost their lives to domestic violence.

"Unfortunately, it affects every different segment of our culture and population. And we see many, many instances of brutal abuse behind the gates of the finest communities in the metro area," said Sandy Middleton, director of the Center for Violence Prevention.

But at what point should you leave? According to Catholic Charities, the average victim tries to leave seven times before finally closing the door for good.

One victim told WLBT she tried to leave a number of times but kept coming back.

"Every time he would open his arms, I flew back into them," said the victim, who asked WLBT not to reveal her identity.

The woman finally escaped to the Catholic Charities shelter for battered families.

Like so many other women, she said her loved one controlled her finances, and always sweet talked her into returning. But she finally got the strength to leave when she had a newborn.

"When he put his hands on me while I was holding his child, spit in my face, pushed me out the door by my head," said the victim.

Looking back, the victim said she should have left the first time she was hit.

James advises victims to leave even sooner.

"Before she's struck. When they yell and cuss and abuse them like that, that's the time to leave," said James.

According to the Center for Violence Prevention,  if you're going to leave, you've got to have a safety plan. Statistics show that abusers get the most violent when a victim says she's leaving for good.

"It's about power and control. So if he thinks he's losing her, he has to ramp up his efforts to get her back under control," said Middleton.

According to Middleton, abusive relationships typically don't start out that way. So how can you spot the red flags before the relationship takes a turn for the worse? Middleton advises you to do some tests.

"Change your mind. See how he reacts. If plans are made, plans are to do one thing, say, 'I'd like to change my mind, I'd like to do this instead.' And if he has power and control issues, that's going to be a problem for him," advises Middleton.  

And watch out for constant phone calls, jealousy and possessiveness.

"Early on, I think a lot of women confuse that attention, that power and control, with love and attention," said Middleton.

According to Middleton, there's a new trend as women gain power in society.

"We're starting to see some legitimate female offenders and some legitimate male victims," said Middleton.

Meanwhile, one victim had this to say.

"It's never ok for an abuser to put their hands on you. No matter how good it seems in the beginning. Things can quickly change," said the victim.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, get help. Catholic Charities has a 24-hour crisis line. That number is 601-366-0222. 

You can also call the Center for Violence Prevention's 24-hour crisis line. That number is 601-932-4198. That agency can also give you information about the Batterer's Intervention Program.

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