‘The violence kept progressing’: Victim of domestic violence says move to escape one abuser led to another

Updated: Oct. 2, 2020 at 9:21 AM EDT
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Horry County, S.C. (WMBF) - Calls to domestic violence crisis lines have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this month is about creating awareness for victims and helping to share their stories to prevent it from happening to someone else.

Nikeisha Martin went from one domestic violence abuser to another. She left New York after divorcing an abuser to move to North Carolina in the hopes of rebuilding a life for her and her sons. Instead, she met her second abuser.

She’s overcome what she’s gone through, thanking her children and God, and sharing her story for others to learn.

“I’m a survivor,” Martin said.

Martin and her children stayed with a friend in N.C. after the divorce. She met a man who would later become the second abuser. Initially, they developed a relationship and she didn’t notice any signs of domestic violence until she became pregnant with his baby.

“I tried to think hopeful, try to. Maybe I can help this person or maybe it was a one-time situation but after a while, it became a pattern,” Martin said.

She had a boy with the man she met in N.C. and soon after became pregnant again.

“So I felt kind of like obligated and kind of trapped and stuck in this situation,” Martin said. “The violence kept progressing.”

She was nine months pregnant with the second baby when a friend led her to a shelter. Martin said she had the baby and a couple of weeks later transferred to the New Beginnings shelter in South Carolina.

“I was trying to rebuild, trying to start new,” she said. “I came across a lot of situations as far as trying to find a home big enough for me and my children.”

Martin said when she was on the house hunt she experienced discrimination due to her finances and for the number of children she has. Martin has eight boys, seven of whom live with her.

She ended up moving back to North Carolina and she fell back into the situation with her second abuser.

“We tried to co-parent. However, we ended up getting back into a relationship,” Martin said. “It became violent again, it was a cycle.”

Savannah Wright, director of communications for The Pee Dee Coalition, said for abusers, it’s about control and that’s exactly what was happening with Martin.

She said she tried to become independent for herself and her boys. Eventually, Martin found herself at New Beginnings again last year around Christmas to June. For the past roughly four months, she’s been on her own after finding a landlord who accepted her situation.

“It’s a challenge, yes. I feel like I’m living day to day not knowing what tomorrow’s going to hold and how I’m going to do things next week but I feel like we are learning as we go each day,” Martin said.

Due to the pandemic, she’s also having to homeschool her children, but she said they’re pushing forward and setting goals.

Martin said they had some concerns for one of her sons graduating high school because of the fear of transferring credits. Not only did he graduate, he’s now attending Francis Marion University and majoring in music production while minoring in forensics.

Martin said no matter what, her children have been hopeful, still have dreams, and have worked to accomplish their goals.

She said if the community could help in any way she would ask for two things - to make sure there is suitable, safe housing for families moving out of shelters, and help support groups like counseling for victims.

From around the country to at home in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee, domestic violence victims help groups have seen a rise in domestic violence calls due to what they believe are more people under stress while stuck at home because of coronavirus restrictions.

Wright said the pandemic has added problems for domestic violence cases, all of which deal with the control the abuse has over their victim.

“When you go through these changes in our every day lives, we’re adapting to isolation, job loss. We are losing a lot of control, so for offenders it’s triggering more episodes of violence and it’s kind of like a double-edge sword because as that happens they are also coming home, stay at home orders, children being home, all of these things are keeping victims confined to their household," Wright said.

Wright said the biggest rise was in calls to the crisis line and the increase showed in March and April.

For the month of March, the average number of calls from during that period in 2016 to 2019 was 217 calls, according to Wright. This past March saw 446 calls.

In April, the crisis line averaged 232 calls for that month-long period between 2016 and 2019. For April 2020, there were 409 calls.

“The arguing, the threats, all of those things was my last straw because I wasn’t able to be beneficial for my children," Martin said. “I was going through a lot and I knew my children were worried and scared so I had to make a change for my children as well as myself because someone was going to get hit if I continued to entertain this individual and think and hope this person was going to change.”

In Horry County, many are still wondering about when or if the county will have its own domestic violence shelter.

While the demand for a shelter in Horry County is high, Joan Meacham, board chair for the Family Justice Center for Horry and Georgetown counties, said a lot of leg work is still needed.

Right now the closest shelter is in Georgetown County. Meacham said COVID-19 has added some challenges for bringing the shelter to Horry County. One of the reasons is a lack of being able to host fundraising events.

Meacham added it’s more than paying for a shelter; it’s also the resources they’d need to pay for to run it.

People can donate to help raise money for an Horry County women’s shelter using this link.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can call these crisis hotline numbers: 1-800-273-1820 or 843-669-4600.

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