Kristy Stubblefield has witnessed her share of appalling abuse.
As executive director of Families in Crisis, a local shelter for domestic violence victims, she has seen cases of brutality.
“We had a lady who was black and blue from head-to-toe. She was bruised between her fingers and toes when we met with her at the hospital to bring her to the shelter,” said Stubblefield while recollecting one of the worst cases she’s seen. “There was bruising on top of bruising on top of bruising. The bruises weren’t allowed to heal before more bruises were made on top of those.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month where organizations such as Families in Crisis strive to bring knowledge, support and increased awareness to the epidemic of domestic abuse and assault.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, every year 10 million people across the country are physically abused by an intimate partner. Furthermore, the coalition reports 463 gun-related domestic violence fatalities have occurred this year, about 20,000 calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines each day and 20% of women in the U.S. have reported being raped.
Stubblefield observes many forms of domestic assault throughout her coverage area of Warren, Grundy and Sequatchie counties.
“Last year alone, we answered 4,168 calls, and there were 773 cases reported,” said Stubblefield.
Stubblefield says the level of violence is increasing, and the type of domestic violence is becoming more abusive. Often times, drugs and alcohol are involved.
“Physical violence has gotten a lot worse in the last several years and verbal and financial abuse are huge,” says Stubblefield.
The number of individuals needing to stay overnight in the Families in Crisis safe house typically averaged 1,500 the past five years. However, last year 3,953 beds were provided. Between January and April of 2019, the organization had already provided 1,500 bed nights and expects that number to double by the end of this year.
Signs of assault and abuse include the victim not typically speaking for themselves, especially if the abusive partner is around, not making eye contact with someone they are speaking to, having very low self-esteem and their appearance might start changing either due to depression or the perpetrator telling them how to dress or look. Mental abuse tends to brainwash the victim, convincing them they have to stay in the violent relationship due to having nowhere else to go.
“Typically, we see children become happier once they come into the shelter. I’ve had children tell me, ‘Ms. Kristy, this house is like a castle.’ The children have been misplaced and are somewhere new, but they tend to feel happier, safer, more comfortable and as though they can be themselves without any negative repercussions,” says Stubblefield.
Stubblefield believes raising awareness of being able to escape domestic abuse is especially important in rural areas. Many Southern, rural areas contain a mentality of people not wanting to leave or break up a marriage.
“It’s important for the community to learn the signs of abuse, and understand how this is affecting not just the victim but the children as well,” says Stubblefield. “It’s also important to be educated on the services available to help victims and give them reassurance that if they leave the abusive situation, there are options available. They have somewhere safe to go.”
Within the last couple of years, Families in Crisis has allowed people to stay in the shelter for a longer amount of time in order to provide stability, teach victims how to be a single parent and learn how to thrive on their own outside of an abusive relationship.
“The abuse typically goes on for many years, so it will take time for victims to heal and get their lives back to a normal, but better and safer situation,” says Stubblefield.
The shelter has been at or over capacity since January. As of now, the house is populated by 11 women and four children. Other than housing, Families in Crisis provides court advocacy to help the victims navigate the court system, transportation, counseling, support groups and rehousing to create safety and stability. The organization will help with the first month’s rent and deposits.
Families in Crisis accepts adult and children’s clothing, household items, furniture, food items, pet food, over-the-counter medications, toys, school supplies, toiletries and other necessities or day-to-day items. There is a drop-off location behind the Chamber of Commerce or donations can be picked up by calling the organization. Supporting the charity may also be done by using the AmazonSmile Foundation which donates 0.5% of purchases to the organization of your choice or by using your Kroger Plus card and selecting Families in Crisis to receive a percentage of sales each quarter.
“Take the first step to safety, realize you’re not alone and know there is someone who believes you and will help you through the process of getting your life back together,” urges Stubblefield to those who may be in a domestic abuse situation.
If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence or abuse, call the crisis line at 931-473-6221.