Untying the Knots | Episode 6 | Intimate Partner Violence, Part 1

Dawn Smith and Kristen Files, partners at Atlanta-based family law firm Smith & Files, host “Untying the Knots.” Season 1 offers practical advice and resources to families navigating crisis and covers such themes as co-parenting, intimate partner violence, myths about marriage and divorce, support systems, and financial safety after divorce. The 10-episode series launched July 1 with new episodes weekly through September 2 and includes special guests Chief Judge Christopher Brasher, Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Stolarski, and Historian and Marriage Expert Stephanie Coontz.

Below is a transcript of Episode 6: Intimate Partner Violence, Part 1.

“Untying the Knots” is available on all streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple Podcasts. To learn more, visit www.smithfileslaw.com/podcast.

DS: Dawn Smith | KF: Kristen Files | DK: Dr. Kristin Carothers.

DS

I’m Dawn Smith,

KF

And I’m Kristin Files.

DS

This is Untying the Knots, a podcast about family crisis…

KF

And what it takes to survive the tangles and strengthen the ties.

DS

Welcome to Untying the Knots. Today will be part one of a two-part episode where we discuss intimate partner violence. This topic is so important that we decided to switch our usual format up a little bit so that we could really dive into this issue. We know that one in four women and one in seven men will be the victim of intimate partner violence during their lifetime. That said many of you listeners may be victims. You without a doubt know — but maybe don’t know you know — someone who’s the victim of intimate partner violence. And you’re raising children that you don’t want to be perpetrators, and you certainly want to educate them to recognize how to keep themselves safe from this. So we thought it was a very important topic for us to give the time and bring the expertise to our listeners. We have a very special guest on the show today, Jenni Stolarski, who’s an expert in intimate partner violence. She currently serves as Chief Assistant District Attorney in DeKalb County, Georgia and Chief of Staff for the District Attorney.

KF

So because we do this every day and interact with these victims and survivors, it’s like, almost commonplace, unfortunately, to hear these types of stories and work with people through these issues. And what we’ll be talking about today with our listeners is all of those warning signs, all of those characteristics of these relationships. Intimate partner violence alone affects more than 12 million people each year. That is a lot of people. And while there are warning signs to look out for, as the relationship goes on, and as victims become more isolated, it’s very hard to seek the resources they need. So we’ll be providing resources as well. And Jenny will do a great job talking about that.

DS

I know you feel the same way I do. We see way too many people in our offices in our practices and in court who have been victims of intimate partner violence. Most recently, in the past 18 months, I saw a pretty classic and tragic case. It was a woman this time that had been married for 15 years and had three children who were all Elementary School in fact, one was preschool age. And when I talked her through, she talked about some physical violence with her husband occurring in the past few months. She didn’t talk to me about a pattern, but as we spent some time and went over what her marriage had been like, it in fact, had been occurring since the first year. And she eventually told me it got physical three to six times a year. And she said simply because I needed to be put in my place. She would minimize it and say we got in a scuffle. And I think what really brought her out to see me was the most recent example. He had grabbed her by the neck, choked her, left marks on her neck, and she wasn’t going to do anything about it until her sister-in-law saw the marks on her neck. She told me even after the sister-in-law talked to her about it, that she still decided what she needed to do was give her husband more time. So she planned a really special date night, so that he would feel the love that he was complaining to her that he didn’t feel and nonetheless physical violence occurred again after that. He had strangled her recently and that is, as we’ll hear from our expert today, one of the hallmarks of domestic violence at its worst, an indicator of possible lethality. Strangling, the next step is if you get that up close and personal to choke somebody out, then the next step is that you kill them. So we worked in concert with the local domestic violence service provider that operates shelters but also does safety planning. We set up a very detailed plan for how to get she and the children at a house where they could go, where to put a go bag, and we got her out and got him served. And that felt like a great accomplishment and at the time, she was feeling very supported and she had the service provider there helping her along the way. But he worked on her and chipped away. This survivor, and victim, eventually went back. Despite the very, very dangerous situation she found herself in, she had no financial means on her own. She had not worked in the past 15 years. And she had really young children. That’s classic. He had all the power control, he had all the money, it got progressively more dangerous along the lines. And she eventually just felt like it was too overwhelming and that it was better for her to stay than to leave.

KF

There’s a lot of empathy that needs to be established in our society around the idea that someone may come forward and say all of these things and be able to recognize the abuse that’s happening to them in a moment of courage and that’s really amazing and awesome, but they may not in that moment, be ready to continue on to take all the steps necessary to take themselves out of that situation. It takes such extraordinary courage to do that. There’s so many factors that weigh into someone’s ability to really follow through with just leaving, especially when there’s children involved, especially when you have no financial autonomy in your relationship. I think everyone can relate just on a really basic level. And this is not the same at all. But the idea of being really overwhelmed with what to do next and where to go. And rather than walking through that overwhelmed fire, it is very common to decide, “I’m not ready to walk through that yet.” And I think there has to be more knowledge about that being so common and why so that more empathy and compassion can come around that.

DS

You know, the other thing that I would add, is what she is doing is surviving. She is a survivor, even within the relationship, she stayed in. And that takes strength and courage. And we will be here and there will be a time when she is able to do it. But every single day that she is in it and keeping those children safe and keeping herself alive, she’s a survivor,

KF

Right. And I think that’s the narrative that has to be shifted. There’s no weakness associated with surviving an abusive relationship. Even when I think right now about people sheltering in place with an abusive partner and having nowhere else to go. There’s no way you can describe that as weak. It’s like, just the complete opposite of weakness. Like they’re just trying to survive in a space, you’re walking around on eggshells trying to keep your children safe. Also, as I hear, like with our clients all the time, not only are they trying to keep themselves safe, but also trying to keep the image safe of what they are trying to present to their children, which is just an extraordinary amount of pressure to put on yourself as a parent, and guilt to carry as a parent. So there’s some questions that you can ask yourself about your relationship to see if any of these warning signs exist. Does your partner insult you, demean or shame you with put downs? Does your partner get extremely jealous of your friends and time that you spend away from him or her, take your money or refuse to give you money for necessary expenses? Does your partner tell you you are a bad parent or threatened to harm or take away your children? Does your partner intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons, or pressure you to have sex when you don’t want to, or do things sexually that you’re not comfortable with? Those are just a few warning sign examples. But there are many, and those that I just read came specifically from the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.

DS

So Kristen I’m really pleased and excited today for us and our listeners that we have Jenni Stolarski as our subject matter expert, I have known her for 15 years. She’s one of my dearest friends. We became friends in the realm of domestic violence because we work together to set up a courthouse-based program for victims and survivors to obtain temporary protective orders in Fulton County. I have watched her as she has continued to grow services for survivors and their families. And as she has been on the forefront, both legislatively and educationally for what we can do to help out survivors in their family. So I’m thrilled that Jenny’s with us today. So thank you for joining us today, Jenni. Could you please introduce yourself to our listeners?

JS

Hi, I’m Jenni Stolarski and I serve as a chief assistant district attorney and the chief of staff to district attorney Sherry Boston in the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office and during my career over the past 20 years, I have been able to bridge both the civil and criminal worlds, practicing them both, each having a focus on intimate partner violence and gaining a lot of depth and knowledge with what it’s like to experience intimate partner abuse.

KF

So Jenni, how did you discover your passion for public service and working in intimate partner violence?

JS

Well, you know, my origin story is not based on having experienced violence myself in my family or a family member growing up having experienced it. It really started when I was in college at the University of Richmond I was part of a women’s leadership program called the WILL program, W-I-L-L, and it combined academics and internship experiences. And at the time, I was volunteering at a battered women’s shelter. I was doing an internship at the Virginia General Assembly and I was taking sociology courses and women’s studies courses. I think the combination of all those things really had me questioning on a fundamental level, how could we as women, be seeking true equality in other places, if collectively our mothers and our sisters and our aunts and our daughters were facing such terror and trauma in our own homes. That’s what lit a passion for me. But to be honest, as I went to law school with the purpose of working in this field, and then came out with my law degree and started to work with actual survivors, and in court systems, I became much more affected on a micro and personal level. So what started out as a very philosophical calling became a very personal calling. As time passed, I had family members and friends who were impacted and became prey to domestic violence. I had to mourn the loss of clients that I was representing, or victims in cases that I had prosecuted who died because of domestic violence. So it shifted, or I should say, didn’t shift, it expanded from it being about equal rights to it being about a very concrete and real fight to help others survive and live.

KF

That’s really powerful. That’s really powerful.

DS

So before we dig down into what are some of the things that we can do and our listeners can do to stay safe and help those that they know to stay safe, let’s get some understanding about terminology. So I know that I get confused about whether or not I’m supposed to call what we see domestic violence. Am I supposed to call it family violence? Is it intimate partner violence? Is everything the same? Can you talk about terminology, in what exactly is intimate partner violence?

JS

There is something about the language that we use and how people respond to what terms are used. So I think for a very long time, we used the term family violence. And that didn’t necessarily resonate with certain folks who experienced abuse in their homes because maybe they didn’t fit within the categories or the quote unquote, definition of what others were using to describe a family. For right or wrong, that was an impediment or an obstacle to being able to get those services and get that relief. So you see movement and you see evolution in the language that we use to be able to match the experience and the understanding of what we know to be, to be abuse. So I think the terminology “intimate partner violence” is one that is more inclusive of what we understand to be the pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain and maintain power and control over another partner. That is the definition as used by the Office on Violence Against Women. And it’s a pretty simple but very powerful statement on what we understand to be the experience of abuse, and it covers any type of behavior. So that can be physical violence. It can be sexual violence, it can be isolation, economic abuse, emotional abuse, reproductive coercion, stalking, all of it, and it can include any type of partnership that is intimate in nature. So it can capture those relationships that maybe were invisible in the past and may still continue to be invisible in the way certain laws define relationships and recognize what abuse is deserving of legal relief. So the hallmark, really, of abusive relationships is power and control. That’s what we’re looking for, as the big hallmarks. So I want to note though, because I mentioned that there is a distinction between what we understand is the experience of abuse, and sometimes what the law recognizes as abuse, and that can be really a huge impediment. So here in Georgia, our legal definition of family violence, of domestic violence, focuses on the physical aspects. And it defines only certain categories of relationships that would qualify for specific types of relief under the statute. And that’s a limitation. And there are definite consequences to that limitation, it means certain victims suffer invisibly. And there are interventions that don’t happen because of that, as we continue to evolve in our understanding of abuse as we continue to expand and become more inclusive. You see more and more efforts and more and more advocacy to recognize the full spectrum of the experience of abuse. In Scotland, for example, they incorporate the issues of coercive control into intimate partner violence laws. And here as recently as January of 2020, in Idaho, the state of Idaho, they expanded their definition of abuse to include economic, emotional and psychological abuse into their definition, which is ahead of where Georgia is, right?

DS

Very far ahead.

JS

Yeah. So you probably see those in your cases, but have a hard time being able to argue to the court that emotional abuse is on the same footing as physical abuse just because our law in Georgia does not equate them in the same way. Right?

DS

We have a really hard time. I will tell you that from a family law perspective, one of the factors in looking at what’s in the best interest of the children includes abuse or domestic violence. Right, but getting a court to recognize that psychological abuse or economic coercion as part of the whole package… It’s very hard unless it’s a judge that has done the work and taken some of the trainings and looked at the research around coercion and control and how it’s exercised and against folks on so many different levels. That’s amazing that Idaho changed their law like that.

JS

It was a huge victory. And I hope to see other states following suit, I hope to see Georgia follow suit. The experience and I’ve heard clients say this over and over and you may have too, Kristen and Dawn, that it only takes having a gun pointed at you one time. The memory of that and the reminder of that, right, the threat of that is enough to keep you entrapped for the rest of that relationship.

DS

That’s exactly right. Keeps you in line.

KF

That really struck me when you give the example of you only have to have a gun pointed at you one time, and that keeps you entrapped in that relationship. So similar to when there is a person in the relationship who’s completely under the financial control of their abuser. And that has been my experience with many of my clients. A woman is in a situation where she’s completely under the financial control of her spouse, and you’re limited in your options at that point. You have children, you have no money, perhaps not working. That’s a huge impediment to leaving a relationship.

JS

Yeah. And that just goes back to how you can really distinguish a relationship where intimate partner abuse is at play versus a relationship where there may be high conflict, where there may be instances where violence has occurred, because there are different categories of interaction among people. It can be difficult at times to figure out who is an aggressor in a relationship, and what really is the violence that’s being used in this relationship? What is it rooted in? And we always want to turn and look at, what is the source of this violence? Is it rooted in power and control? And if you’re seeing patterns, like you were saying, Dawn, where someone is using and manipulating finances or taking tactics to keep someone’s whereabouts on a short leash, then you’re looking at those hallmarks of power and control. And that might suggest that this is not just a situation where someone lost their temper, or reacted out of impulse, or has an anger management issue, that this is something different.

DS

So Jenni, when you talked about you know, it, sometimes it’s hard to tease out but that ultimately what we’re looking at is power and control. I guess what we see is, you know, the difference between somebody coming to us and saying I have a very traditional marriage where one person is the head of the household and makes all the decisions and controls the finances. And maybe that may not be what I choose, but it’s their choice versus where that is present and there’s some other aspects of it that moves it into the realm.

JS

Right. So people should be free to make choices about what their relationship will look like. Whether that be a relationship that conforms to strict gender stereotypes, or doesn’t. Each person should be able to enter into that relationship and stay in that relationship because they’re choosing to do that and they’re happy with the terms of that relationship. And those terms are acceptable to them and they feel supported in that way and they’ve made a decision to remain in that way. The problem is when you are in a relationship and you’ve entered into relationship thinking it’s one way and over a course of time, it changes. And it changes without your consent to the rules of the relationship changing. And now suddenly, you find yourself in a relationship, that is not what you bargained for. And you do not feel safe or able to leave it because you know if you try to leave it or if you try to advocate for something different, there are consequences to that, whether it’s physical safety, or your ability to do something that’s important to you. Or maybe it’s the physical safety of someone that you love, could be your pet. It could be your livelihood, there’s a consequence to you asserting yourself to try to do something different in that relationship. So I think, you know, for practitioners, it’s important for us to kind of flush that out with someone we’re working with. Because certainly, and you probably all have had this experience where you’re working with someone and you think to yourself, this is not a relationship I would want to be in. But that doesn’t make it an abusive relationship. Right? It might not even make it a relationship that person needs to leave. But having those conversations about, do you feel safe in your relationship? Do you feel loved? Do you feel supported? What would happen if you wanted to do it differently? How would your partner respond? If you wanted to take a step back from how this is going? Would you feel comfortable having that conversation with your partner? When you start to kind of go in and ask those types of questions, then you start to see whether this is really a relationship that on its face is okay and healthy, though it might be one you disagree with. Or it’s one that is concerning and might need to provide some other type of counseling for.

KF

I wanted to talk some about the frequency of the occurrence of intimate partner violence in relationships from your experience. Does it occur primarily with women?

JS

So let me say that intimate partner violence is prevalent everywhere. It crosses every type of demographic, whether racial, gender, age abilities socio economic, religious, sexual orientation, we see it everywhere. It happens to everyone. That being said, we do see the stats showing that primarily women are victims; that does not mean that men are not victims. It does not mean that we don’t see women as perpetrators. That does happen as well. But the stats do show that women more often than men tend to be on the receiving end.

DS

Your statement about intimate partner violence being truly nondiscriminatory across all these different groups, is the information you’re giving us primarily related to adults experiencing intimate partner violence. Are we seeing any increases or changes among teens and their relationships?

JS

So we see all age groups like from the very young from teens as early as Middle School, all the way through our elders late in life. I think when it comes to our younger victims, what I want to share with your listeners is in Georgia 49% of our intimate partner violence related fatalities, the victim of the homicide began the relationship when that victim was between the ages of 13 and 24. And that’s not when the fatality occurred, because the relationships tend to last for 10 years or longer before the fatality occurs. That’s when the onset of the relationship occurred. What’s that mean to you all?

DS

That means they’re stuck in that place.

KF

Right.

JS

Yeah. And it means to me, there’s a lot of work to be done at an early level about teaching our kids about healthy relationships, because these relationships are starting young. And they can end with fatal outcomes if our kids don’t understand what to look for, and that it’s okay to walk away and that there are other, other relationships out there for them.

KF

That’s powerful. And that goes so much to what we’re trying to establish on this podcast with our listeners is the emotional health and safety that we have to do for ourselves as parents, but then also find the support for our children so that they know how to seek out these healthy relationships and also get help once they’re in something that they want to get out of. Is there a time that you find people are more at risk for intimate partner violence within the relationships, like I know that I see as a family law attorney, and I advise my clients that going through a divorce, for example, when a person is trying to exit a relationship that has abuse in it, that’s a very precarious time for a victim. And we try to offer advice on creating safety plans and establishing some safe steps to exit. What’s your opinion on that?

JS

Everyone in the family law bar is understanding that the work that you are doing at the time of counseling clients about leaving a relationship, if there’s intimate partner violence involved is particularly dangerous; that is the most dangerous time. So that’s great that you are working with clients about safety plans during that time. And it makes sense because that is when an abuser is feeling that loss of control, right? So they want to exert a way to reestablish their control and that’s where we start to see escalations of violence, to include everything up to our homicides. Other things that present particularly dangerous times: Anytime that there’s a firearm present in the home. Just the mere presence of a firearm increases the risk of a fatality occurring within the home where there’s also abuse happening. It’s like a 500% increase. So…

KF

Wow.

JS

And that doesn’t mean that that firearm is being used on a regular basis to make threats. It’s just the mere physical presence of it being there. Also when strangulation is being used as a tactic of abuse that is particularly dangerous time. Research has shown that when strangulation is used as a tactic, seven times more likely for that victim to be killed by the abuser. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the homicide will occur as a result of the strangulation, it’s just the correlation. That is a sign. They call it the final warning shot. And if you think about it, if you’re willing to put your hands around someone’s throat and cut off the oxygen supply to their brain, then you’re messaging to them that I am willing to kill you. You know, I think as a culture, we have tended to downplay the significance of strangulation. What have you heard clients refer to it as? They probably don’t say I was strangled. What do they say?

DS

They never say. They say choking. They say, “Oh, he pushed me against a wall and he put his,” I’ve had one say, “he put his hand around my neck.” Right?

JS

Or choking. Choking is what we do when food gets stuck in our throats. It’s not what happens when somebody puts their hands around our neck and cuts off our oxygen and blood supply. Post-separation stalking. That is a huge indicator and a dangerous time for someone. We see that in about 90% of our domestic violence related homicides. So that’s a really, really dangerous time for a victim.

DS

In this episode, we’re talking about creating safe spaces for families. I guess if you could talk us through, let’s start first with safe spaces for victims, right? Like, what are some of the things that we can do, either as a community, as friends, as coworkers to make things safe for victims?

JS

So I think the first thing that everyone can do, wherever we’re positioned, is to make everyone understand that you are someone who listens, and you’re open, and you believe. Because there’s such a badge of shame that goes with experiencing violence and identifying as a victim. That’s a pretty loaded word, right?

KF

Should we be using victim or survivor?

JS

The word victim itself is so loaded that a lot of people shy away from it and justifiably so. Because, I mean, think about what we put on to that word. We put on judgments about well, why were you in that relationship to begin with,

KF

Right. “Why’d you stay? Why’d this person stay in this relationship? I would have left it that happened to me.”

JS

Exactly, exactly. So it’s only natural that people want to disassociate and distance themselves from that word. But at the same time when we talk about accountability, it is a way of defining who has been wronged and who needs to be held accountable. So in that way, sometimes we do need to use it to make that clear mark of demarcation and to say, “no, this person was victimized.” But I like the word survivor. I like it a lot because it is forward thinking and it really reflects what people in these relationships are doing. As much as there is shame associated with the word victim. It is time that people understand that when you are in an abusive relationship, you are strong. You are so strong, you aren’t weak. You are strong. It takes so much courage and so much strength to be able to get up every day and continue to put one foot in front of the other. And while others may look at you, and wonder why the heck are you still in that relationship, we know that there is so much you were doing to either stay safe and/or continue to prepare for that moment when you are going to leave.

DS

I wanted to ask you about the role of visitation centers and supervised visitation in working with families where there’s been intimate partner violence. What is that whole supervised and visitation center approach in these type cases.

JS

So visitation centers are places that provide a safe meeting location for parents and children to spend time together. If they are coming through a supervised visitation and safe exchange grant program than they are geared not just at the safety of the child, they are also geared at the safety of the adult victim of intimate partner abuse. And I think that’s really important because I think sometimes courts and maybe people, maybe you’ve worked with clients, will say things like, “Oh, well, this person, this partner of mine, may have hit me, but they’ve never harmed the child.”

DS

All the time. Judges I’ve had judges say that many times.

JS

Bad partner, abusive partner, but good parent. These visitation centers that are looking out for the safety and well-being of the adult victim as well as the child do an incredible job, I think, and are so important, because they are making sure that visitation can happen in a way that protects both of these parties, as well as safe exchanges, custody exchanges, because we know that when the relationship ends, that doesn’t necessarily mean the abuse ends. And the abuse can sometimes start to involve the child at that point. While it may be true that during the course of the relationship, the child wasn’t the target of the abuse, now that the relationship has ended, what’s the point of contact between the parties? The child. So the risk to that child increases after that relationship ends. So I think these visitation centers are a wonderful option for families where abuse has occurred. And it allows that connection between the child to continue with the noncustodial parent in a way that’s safe for the child and safe for the adult victim who was being abused.

DS

So many of our listeners may be thinking about, on the verge of, or in the process of leaving a relationship and some of these listeners may have concerns about power and control and possibly some past intimate partner violence. What are some of the safety mechanisms that you’ve seen in parenting plans that serve as some protective mechanism? And certainly it can’t anticipate everything and nothing is going to be 100%. What have you seen are areas that you think, folks, both the spouse that’s leaving as well as practitioners need to be careful to pay attention to.

JS

I would really encourage folks to work with a victim advocate that is available through one of the domestic violence organizations in your community. These are folks who are trained in doing safety planning, so that you can really work hand in hand and have a good idea of how a parenting plan can complement whatever the safety plan looks like for that particular person. So it can be very very detailed. Everything from: “What sorts of documents do you need to have in your possession? Where would you go if you needed to leave in an emergency situation? Where would you go if you’d had a little bit of time to plan? How much money do you think you need? And where can you start to put some of that money so it wouldn’t be discovered? Do you need to open up a separate account? How long would that time frame take for you to be able to do that? Where would you keep certain passwords to things that wouldn’t be discovered? Who’s your emergency contact? Is there someone that you could tell about your plan that you would know absolutely would not disclose it to anyone? And it’s okay if there’s no one in your life that you could say something to. That’s all right, because sometimes you can’t tell anyone because the danger level is so high and you just need to keep your plan to yourself.” It could include things like making sure your gas tank is always full, and your car is parked in a way that you could always make a quick exit. It’s not blocked in.

DS

And that you know where your key is, or maybe making an extra key to your car and hiding it.

JS

That’s right. That’s right. It could mean having a bag with your essential clothing and medications that you leave somewhere else. So that if you have to pick up and run, you’re not thinking about, “Oh, I got to make sure I grabbed the baby’s diapers or I got to make sure I grabbed my blood pressure medication or I got to make sure I get some contacts.” You have already taken care of that. And it’s already dropped somewhere else where you know where you can pick it up. It could be that you include in your safety plan that you have a code word that you use with your family so that if they get a text from you saying, “Hey, I’m out of flour, I’m going to the store,” they know what that means, and they know that you’re on your way, no questions asked. So that’s what a safety plan can look like. It’s also a way of just helping you feel empowered, because sometimes you feel so overwhelmed, that you don’t realize you actually happen thinking through a lot of the things and you have a lot of the answers already. You just need help in running through them and realizing no, you got this, you got it and you know exactly what you would do. You just need to think about it before it happens. So you don’t panic when you need to do it.

DS

We are recording this in the time of COVID. While it is my hope that COVID is not around for an extended period of time, I think we have to one acknowledge that it could be and certainly think accordingly, that this may not be the only pandemic that we go through, that something like this can happen and maybe it will happen in the future. So what have you seen as it relates to intimate partner violence in the time of COVID and how folks are staying safe when sheltering in place?

JS

Well, I think COVID has really thrown us on our heads in terms of how we respond to domestic violence. We are seeing across the world right now a real spike in concern about how we reach survivors and victims of abuse in the home. And that is for both adult victims and child victims, particularly as we see schools are closed and are finishing for the school years. And we know that kids just aren’t around the mandatory reporters that they are typically around this time of year. Isolation is a big tactic for abusers. Right? Nobody goes on a first date with an abuser and gets punched in the face. That — I shouldn’t say nobody — but that’s very rare. That’s not typically how you are courted into a domestic violence relationship. Typically, it’s very charming and wonderful in the beginning. And slowly but surely, the tactics of isolation start and you start to get cut off from your support systems, right? Well, with a pandemic where you have to shelter in place, you are even more isolated, your support systems are even more frayed. Your ability to connect with neighbors, with your workplace where maybe that was your refuge to be able to get out and away from your abuser… That’s no longer an option. On top of that, or seeing access to the court systems, limited in lots of ways. The court is struggling to carry on those essential functions, but then having to limit other types of functions where survivors might have gone to get some types of relief. So this is a very dangerous time and a very scary time that we want survivors to know that help is still available. We are doing things in very different ways, we are reaching out virtually, law enforcement are still continuing their essential functions and responding to cases.

DS

Are the shelters still operating and Domestic Violence service providers available.

JS

Yes, our shelters are still up and running and they’re available to assist. And you know what I would say to listeners of this podcast who might be experiencing violence in the home, I want you to know that, particularly now, if you are having to shelter in place with an abuser, you are stronger than you realize. It takes incredible bravery and resilience to survive right now. And you are a survivor. And wherever you are in your journey, you do not have to walk this path alone. It may feel like it right now. But you are not alone. And there is help available and there are options available.

KF

That’s really powerful.

DS

Jenny, thank you.

JS

You are welcome.

DS

And I want to thank you for your service, for your education and for your friendship.

JS

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me and I appreciate you all so much, and I appreciate the work that you do with your clients and making sure that you are keeping them safe in what is a very hard time in their lives. So thank you.

KF

So much of what Jenni said struck me emotionally even though none of it was new information to me necessarily. I think that goes to the heart of this being the type of issue that you really can’t cover in a 30 or 40-minute podcast. So I’m really excited that we decided to make this a two-part episode because next time we get to really dive deeper into some of the more specifics when it comes to the civil remedies that Jenni had talked about and just other information that listeners need to know about intimate partner violence.

DS

So please join us next week while we take an even deeper dive and talk about the area of intimate partner violence and families.

KF

If you or someone you know is a victim of intimate partner violence and you live in the state of Georgia, you can call 1-800-33-HAVEN. That’s 1-800-334-2846. If you are outside of the state of Georgia, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-779-7233. And if you feel like you can’t call safely, you can text “Love Is.” one word, L-O-V-E-I-S to the number 22522. If you would like to know more about the topic we discussed today, you can find show notes and resources on our website, which will be linked in the episode description.

DS

Untying the Knots is a production made in partnership with FRQNCY Media. I’m your host Dawn Smith.

KF

And I’m Kristin Files. Enna Garkusha is our producer.

DS

Episode research is by Jessica Olivier, Becca Godwin and Vincent Mitchell.

KF

We are recording in Atlanta, Georgia during the pandemic.

DS

We want to thank all the central workers and those who are doing their best to keep us healthy and safe.