by Denise Berger
Living with domestic violence is an oxymoron that is only getting worse. While domestic violence may not be caused by troubling economic times, evidence indicates the domestic violence and economic hardship are related. At the same time, domestic violence is not restricted to those women who have lower economic or educational levels.
Kathryn Keats, born Ellen Munger, is but one woman caught in a violent relationship that almost cost her life; Ellen was a driven and successful young performer in the 80s. Like many, she was naive and impressionable; Ellen created musical works of art with her musical director Ken Ford. In 1989, her last performance in the original stage production of Rocky Horror Picture Show won her a Critic’s Circle Award for best performance. Shortly thereafter, Ellen ceased to exist in this world, and for 20 years thereafter, Ellen abandoned her life and art living her life, getting married, having children and growing up – silently, starkly without a voice and worried for her life around every corner. You see, with the help of the Victim Witness Program, Ellen’s identity was changed following the abusive and life-threatening relationship she suffered with Ford. Until recently, no one knew that Ellen and Kathryn are one and the same person, not even her husband of 15 years or her children. In 2006 Keats found out Ken Ford had passed away, Kathryn Keats  brought the story of Ellen Munger to her family, to her community and to the world. This is but one illustration of how domestic violence alters people’s lives. Each story is relative and costly to families and businesses and communities. Kathryn Keats story has a happy ending, with Kathryn devoting herself now to the cause, not only giving us back her music and talent but also educating people about domestic violence, insisting we begin to teach others how to pre-qualify love – preparing them for the impressionable times in their young lives, and finally how to reclaim life as a recovering victim of abuse and violence.
October is domestic violence awareness month and it is beyond timely with the economic crisis. Experts are quick to advise that the state-of-affairs is not a cause of violence, and at the same time they cite a sharp increase in safe-houses’ activities. The media is showing us a rise in stress-related occurrences. Most notably is the story from LA of a family man, laid-off from work, who killed his 3 sons, wife, mother-in-law and then himself. Of course, this is a tragic and horrible extreme example. But is it an anomaly? One in four women have experienced violence in their lifetime and more than three women are killed in the USA every day by their partner, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Institute of Justice, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, July 2000. One local study in the USA found a rise in death related to domestic violence of 33% over last year.
And lest you think that domestic violence is an issue only for the stay-at-home women, think again. PINK magazine reports in their September/October 2008 edition that "violence at home is no longer just a personal problem; it's a workplace issue. 'The No. 1 myth about women in abusive relationships is that the women aren't smart professionals,' says Kim Wells, executive director of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence (CAEPV). In fact, 26% of women at Top 1,500 companies have experienced domestic violence, according to a survey from Safe Horizon, a victim assistance agency, and CAEPV.” Domestic violence does not discriminate based on ethnicity or income status. Interestingly, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the US, 2006 women ages, 20-24 are most susceptible to nonfatal partner violence.
The first Monday in October is always the Day of Unity. Please reach out in your local communities to find out more about actions, how you can be involved and what support is available. The Domestic Violence Resource Center defines domestic violence as, “a pattern of coercive behavior aimed at gaining and then maintaining power and control over the behavior of an intimate partner,” and includes emotional, psychological, verbal, physical and sexual abuse.