I was blinded,
So full of joy now turn to sting a hurt that I’m numb.
Is love supposed to feel like this?
when all it started off with a kiss?
-excerpt of poem “Judas Kiss” by Evady Demson
Flint, Michigan—Flint native, model, writer, and mother of four, Evady Demson, knows plenty about exit plans. They are what helped her survive the several years of domestic abuse that themed her twenties.
Being able to physically leave an abusive situation is a critical step in recovery for any victim. But with month-long quarantines in full effect, even simple coping strategies like escaping to a relative’s house or going out for some air are complicated by pandemic concerns.
In 2018 there were 2,440 recorded victims of domestic violence in Genesee County according to Michigan Incident Crime Reporting.
Organizations like the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Greater Flint are stepping forward to keep their services open during the state-sanctioned quarantine to give 24-hour support to those who need it. The need for such services underscores how pandemic quarantines are potentially dangerous for adult victims and are equally dangerous for children.
“I thought more about children than spouse(s) and the reason is because the children, not being able to go to school, they got so much energy,” said domestic violence advocate, Chantella Byrd. “People don’t like to live in a box...that’s why they’re out here in the streets. So when we’re at home and you’re with a violent person, you’re on eggshells.
Demson and Byrd are independent creators and domestic violence advocates that met each other five years ago at a local Evady Demsonfashion show. Though Byrd works as a manager at a Flint post office, and Demson is in recovery after a work-related injury, both women find time to infuse their advocacy into their side hobbies and businesses.
Byrd owns a craft business called Fix My Crown with Kingdom Diamonds where she makes custom corsages and other accessories. Demson is currently writing her second book after her first book of poetry called My Life, My Thoughts, My Poetry. Through their creative initiatives, they express their advocacy and reference their lives as an example that there is a way out for victims.
When asked how an exit plan from an abusive relationship might survive in times of state-sanctioned quarantine, Demson pauses, her mind searching for a scenario where the victim isn’t completely vulnerable. She begins mentally thumbing her way through situations she’s faced in the past and feels caught in a Catch-22.
“When you’re going through that you don’t think about no quarantine,” said Demson. “You’re thinking about getting out of the house, but if you’re not able to move, that’s the part that is hard…”
Chantella ByrdShe recommends leaving notes for strangers that might be nearby during a break for groceries or food. Write in code. Document everything by using whatever technology is closest to you. Take screenshots of messages. If the abusive partner is sleeping, make as many phone calls as you can. Talk to family and friends. Call the police, see if you can get an escort. But if you find you’re completely alone, a call to the Young Women’s Christian Association is a must said Demson. She took a class at the YWCA during her first relationship and she says it helped her identify abusive patterns, and recognize that she needed to start strategizing to leave.
“The [YWCA] said they’re not turning anybody down, so that’s like the top priority...that you could get, to see how soon they could help you leave,” said Demson.
The YWCA announced Tuesday, March 24—a day after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order— that they will continue to operate its hotline, safe houses, and rape examinations throughout the state-sanctioned quarantine.
“We do not want a victim to feel alone and think there are no resources available for them. They do not need to remain in an abusive relationship even during this viral outbreak,” said YWCA CEO, Michelle Rosynsky.
Rosynsky says, since their announcement, that the organization hasn’t noticed a stark rise in the use of their services, but there has been a “steady flow” of individuals requesting counseling, personal protection orders, emergency housing, and rape kit examinations.
“It is also important for the public to know that social distancing helps an abuser to control and keep their victim isolated,” said Rosynsky. “It is important for friends, neighbors, etc. to pay attention to others, and to share info about our programming if they think someone is being abused, adult or child.”
Rosynsky highly encourages victims to reach out to their 24/7 crisis hotline at 810-238-SAFE, where they can access counseling, safety planning, and personal protection orders among other services.
Demson and Byrd have been on both sides of domestic violence as both the victim and perpetrator. It’s rarely a matter of leaving out of the front door and never coming back, said Byrd. Regardless of pandemic concerns, leaving an abusive relationship takes time. That’s why connections to a world outside the relationship are crucial to maintain in any way possible.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has only been…(about) a month,” said Byrd. “With that being said, if you still really want to go, you have to make a plan. That’s number one. Because it’s not going to be easy.”