New Mexicans were recently horrified and saddened to learn of the violent murder of a local woman by her intimate partner (“Judge: Accused killer will stay in jail,” June 28). Her family and friends will, of course, always suffer and grieve her loss. Those who knew and loved her may also wonder if they missed the signs of an abusive relationship. As a board member for Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families in Santa Fe, I am acutely aware of the many lives altered or permanently shattered by intimate partner violence.
One in 3 New Mexican women have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. And that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. A recent study by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence indicated that 59 percent of all domestic violence cases in New Mexico actually go unreported. Fifteen percent of all violent crimes nationwide involve intimate partner violence. When there is a gun in a household during a domestic violence incident, the risk of homicide increases by 500 percent.
Since the abuser has often systematically cut off the victim’s connections to friends and family and blocked access to financial resources, many of us frequently miss the signs of danger. We are often reluctant to interfere in someone else’s business. But silence, while possibly well-intentioned, is ultimately dangerous. Know the signs of abuse and take action if necessary. Some of the signs of abuse include:
• Seems afraid or anxious;
• Agrees with everything a partner says and does;
• Constantly checks in with partner to report her whereabouts and activities;
• Often receives nasty phone calls from partner;
• Talks about partner’s temper, jealousy or possessiveness;
• Has very low self-esteem;
• Is depressed, anxious, suicidal;
• Often has an injury and tries to hide bruises and scars;
• Misses work, school or social events a lot.
Domestic abuse can happen to men, too, although it is less common. Abuse does not discriminate. Abuse happens in all communities, among all cultures, regardless of one’s religion, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, culture or sexual orientation.
If these facts are not enough to wake you up, let’s think about the economic pounding we take as a society because of domestic abuse. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 8 million days of work are lost each year because of intimate partner violence. This kind of violence costs the U.S. economy between $5.8 billion and $12.6 billion every year.
I recall leaving my home with my mother in the middle of the night when I was just 7 because of domestic violence; I was terrified. Fortunately, we found safety and peace through Esperanza Shelter’s safe haven and services. Our family became healthy and independent. I know firsthand the pain and loss a victim of abuse feels. I also know the triumph of surviving abuse.
Always call 911 if you see someone in immediate danger. I also encourage you to take time to learn more about the signs of domestic abuse and how you can help. Read Esperanza Shelter’s website for more information: www.esperanzashelter.org. If you need to make a safety plan and seek shelter, Esperanza’s 24/7 Crisis Hotline number is 505-473-5200.
Marcos Zubia is president of the board of directors of the Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families in Santa Fe.