As survivors attempt to escape intimate partner violence at the holidays, requests for help from advocacy organizations like Charlotte’s Eva Lee Parker Fund have skyrocketed.
Eva Lee Parker was a hardworking woman.
She managed a home for her four children in New York City in the 1960s, then raised her grandchild decades later. She was loved and respected in her community. She was also a survivor of domestic abuse.
“When I thought about her experiences growing up, I realized it was impossible for her to leave on her own. She was financially attached to my grandfather,” Melody Gross told Cardinal & Pine.
Gross, who now lives in Charlotte, established the nonprofit Eva Lee Parker Fund in 2000 here in North Carolina in honor of her grandmother. Its aim is to remove financial and resource barriers for Black women, including trans women, seeking to escape domestic violence.
Black women are targets of racism and sexism, which combined makes them more vulnerable to domestic violence. Studies show 40% of Black women experience physical violence inflicted by their partners, higher than the 32% rate for all women combined. Black women were victims in more than a third of the NC homicides involving intimate partner violence in 2018.
“When you can remove some of that financial barrier, then they have the opportunity to really think clearly and create a safety plan and a plan to then survive and thrive,” Gross said.
Abuse Tied to Finances
Financial abuse is becoming more recognized as part of domestic or intimate partner violence. In 99% of relationships that involve intimate partner violence, some form of financial abuse is taking place. That can mean withholding funds, taking funds from the victim, or making it difficult for the victim to work or keep a job.
Gross has her own experiences with the issue. There was the time her partner broke a window in their apartment and she had to replace it. Management didn’t care who broke it, or that it occurred during an instance of domestic violence. They just wanted the window fixed and she had to pay.
“Some of the women that have reached out to me are in shelters, but they need money for deposits on homes or applying for apartments,” Gross said. “They need money for the first two weeks of [transportation] to their new job. Things like that…It’s the residual effects of domestic violence.”
The gender wage gap also plays a part in keeping survivors chained to abusive situations. For every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men of comparable education and experience, Black women make just $0.63.
The Eva Lee Parker Fund provides money directly to survivors who are leaving or have left abusive relationships. They can use the funds to travel to safety, secure living arrangements, repair items that have been broken in the home, or replace necessities they may have had to leave behind. They can use the funds however they need to.
“I think it’s important that we realize that once they leave, there’s still needs that need to be met,” she said.
Requests Spike As Holidays Near
Requests for help spiked as the holiday season arrived, Gross said. This does not necessarily mean that there is more abuse at the holidays, as cycles of violence and manipulation don’t take holidays. But it points to the increased financial and social stress this time of year can bring. Because of that, Gross said, more people seek to escape around the holidays.
Over the past year, the Eva Lee Parker Fund has disbursed $19,255 in support of 75 Black women. But since this October, the waitlist of women seeking help has soared to almost 100. Earlier this month, Gross zeroed out the fund’s coffers to offer as much assistance to as many applicants as she could.
“Some people really still feel like domestic violence is a personal issue. But the reality is domestic violence impacts our entire community. It impacts the people that we work with, our family members, our teachers, all aspects of our lives,” Gross said. “There is no shame in these people experiencing domestic violence. The shame is not addressing it.”
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