In October, Eboney, a Fulton County resident and mother of five, decided she had to leave her fiancé after one incident when his verbal abuse erupted into violence.
“I was dealing with what started as a very verbal and mental abuse (situation) and ended in physical abuse. I felt like what happened on that night could not happen again,” said Eboney, whose last name is not being released to protect her privacy.
She is one of countless individuals nationwide who have been victims of domestic violence, which has increased substantially in the past 14 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only exacerbating some already difficult situations.
Eboney is one of dozens of women and even men who left their abuser for a shelter during that period. She found refuge in Partnership Against Domestic Violence, which has one shelter each in Fulton and Gwinnett counties. The Partnership is Georgia’s largest nonprofit working to end intimate partner violence, and it serves victims of domestic violence in Fulton and Gwinnett counties but also women who live anywhere in metro Atlanta, Georgia or even out of state.
According to the Reach Beyond Domestic Violence’s website, there are six types of abuse: physical, sexual, verbal/emotional, mental/psychological, financial/economic and cultural/identity. Nancy Friauf, the Partnership’s president and CEO, said some relationships can include all of them.
Intimate partner violence is really a whole range of behaviors and abuse by one person to have power and control over another person,” she said. “…There’s using children to be in the middle of it. For folks that are experiencing intimate partner violence, there may not always be that physical (abuse), but those other behaviors are always part of their relationship. So it’s very difficult to see.”
Eboney, whose children range in ages from 12 to 16, is one of two women who shared their stories of survival with the Neighbor. The abuse she received from her fiancé got worse after she got a new job in January 2020 and was able to keep it after the pandemic started two months later because she was considered an essential worker. Meanwhile, he became unemployed.
“(He would say), ‘Oh, you get to leave the house every day,” Eboney said. “You’re going into the city every day,’ or ‘You’re working too much.’ It became a nitpicking type of situation. It definitely escalated.”
On that October night, Eboney passed out during an argument she and her fiancé had that shifted to pushing and hitting.
“My oldest daughter heard, so she came to check on me because she heard me crying,” she said. “From there, he steps out from the room to the living room, and he’s exchanging words with my daughter. So I come out and I’m trying to tell them two to stop. Now my daughter has a knife and she was ready to defend us and herself. I’m telling her, ‘Stop,’ trying to tell both of them to stop everything. (I said) ‘Oh my God, please, just stop,’ and I literally passed out.
“When I finally was able to come to, the only thing I heard was my children, my daughters especially, crying and screaming, ‘Mama, wake up! Mama, please be OK! Mama, wake up! My oldest daughter was literally holding me, and the fear, the hurt that they experienced and that I experienced, they just witnessed that. It wasn’t behind closed doors and they heard the argument. They saw it.”
Eboney said she found out later that her oldest son dealt with the incident by punching holes in the wall to deal with his anger because he thought his mother had died.
“From that (moment), I was like, ‘No, uh-uh. I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go now,’” she said, adding she called the Partnership while at work the next day. “They did not hesitate. They helped and reached out to my children to get them to safety. That very next day, we was gone. It was horrible.”
Maria, a Gwinnett County resident and mother of four children ranging from 10 months to 7 years, decided to leave her husband of 12 years in December, when his abuse became physical. She sought refuge from the International Women’s House Inc., a DeKalb County-based shelter that serves victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking in DeKalb and Fulton and also helps individuals who live anywhere in metro Atlanta.
Maria called the Women’s House’s hotline several times and talked to staff members about her options before making her move. The native of Mexico moved to Georgia at a young age, and her family returned to that country, but she stayed, having gotten married and started a family, and her husband has relatives in metro Atlanta.
“I was worried about getting my kids into a place that was not clean, where they could get sick with (COVID-19),” she said.
Maria had no transportation because the only vehicle her family had was her husband’s.
“At that time, he was working less and less, and I lost my job because of the pandemic,” she said. “I would stay home with the kids all the time, so now with the kids, things weren’t getting easier. More and more, (bad) things happened. …
“It came to the point where I couldn’t take any more, when he lost his job. … He started being aggressive toward the kids. Before, I tried to hide the problems, but I wasn’t able to hide it anymore. He was making threats, and I really didn’t know what else I could do.”
Maria said she tried to take her family away for a week and a half, but at that time her husband was home often. So finally, on her next trip to the Laundromat, she took her children with her and had a friend pick her up there. They lived in her friend’s house for two days until moving into a hotel room the Women’s House provided. They’ve moved into the shelter three months ago.
Maria said she spent years trying to improve her marriage but couldn’t stop her husband’s abuse.
“There’s nothing I can do to stop his anger and his health issues with alcohol. That’s how he tries to find solutions, and it’s getting worse and worse,” she said, adding she had to do what was best for her family.
Since seeking help from the Women’s House, it has helped Maria get a temporary protection order against her husband and a new job.
Both survivors said the shelters they sought refuge from have been a godsend and that anyone experiencing abuse should call their hotlines as soon as possible.
“Oh my gosh,” Eboney said. “So now I’m going to say unfortunately and fortunately, I have been with the Partnership on two separate occasions. (On) each occasion, and I want to bring it to the most current, the peace of mind they bring to the women who come into the shelter, even from the initial phone call to the crisis line, you’re still comforted. You’re still helped. And once me and my children arrived, oh my Lord, I was so amazed (about) what they was offering, the help.”
Maria added, “Call and ask. Reach out for help because this is many ways something you need help to understand what happened, what’s going on because at the beginning you don’t know who’s responsible for what and how you can get help. The help is there, and it’s for everybody. They don’t ask for anything.”