Today’s guest columnist is Allison Dearing.
If you haven’t watched ‘Maid’ on Netflix, please stop what you are doing and watch it now.
‘Maid’ passed ‘The Queens Gambit’ to be the most watched limited TV series on Netflix.
Based on the NYT Bestselling memoir by Stephanie Land, ‘Maid’ is about Alex Russell, who leaves her violent partner, takes her two-year-old daughter to a shelter, and finds a job cleaning houses.
The show follows Alex’s struggles as a writer and maid while parenting a young daughter, coping with an abusive ex-boyfriend, a chaotic family, and receiving government assistance.
One Place Family Justice Center unique to Birmingham
To help women like Alex is the reason One Place Family Justice Center exists–to make it as simple as possible for a victim or survivor to tell about the abuse and access resources needed to address it in one location.
One location is key.
Coordinating and consolidating services in one location removes barriers to reporting and prevents victims from having to travel multiple places, re-telling the account of the abuse suffered.
One Place is one of three Family Justice Centers in the State of Alabama, and one of approximately 150 Family Justice Centers in communities across the U.S. This public-private partnership is a unique example of community collaboration, where criminal justice, prosecution, and non-profit service agencies work together under one roof to assist individuals in every zip code in Jefferson County.
The Family Justice Center co-located services model has proven effective in reducing homicides in cities across the country—something we desperately need in the Greater Birmingham area where homicides neared an all-time high last year.
Recently, I participated with One Place in a discussion about the Netflix series ‘Maid.’ The series does an excellent job conveying the constant chaos of life with a domestic violence abuser, in addition to confirming what we hear every day from victims and survivors served at One Place: Navigating community systems is difficult and further exacerbates the chaos already facing victims of interpersonal violence.
When you’ve been living in fear, walking on eggshells, and manipulated to believe you are to blame for the abuse, the feelings of shame can be overwhelming, isolating and paralyzing. When you’ve been told that, if you tell anyone about the abuse you will probably lose custody of your children, you keep quiet. If your ability to maintain a job has been hindered by the constant chaos of living with an abuser, you know leaving the relationship means a risk of being homeless. So you weigh your options—or lack thereof—very carefully.
Fear permeates every choice, every decision to be made. Every step requires constant vigilance and careful planning.
Sometimes, weighing the options for safety means you make the decision to stay, especially when it seems like the barriers are just too many and too difficult to overcome.
These are the stories we hear every day.
Reduce homicides in Birmingham
We can reduce homicides through a crime prevention and public safety strategy aimed at prioritizing domestic violence cases
In 2020, 53% of known homicide offenders in Jefferson County had a history of domestic violence charges against them.
In 2021, that increased to 57%.
Domestic violence misdemeanor crimes matter. They are often a precursor to additional serious violent crimes. Domestic violence offenders follow a predictable and preventable pattern of escalation, and without intervention and accountability, may go on to kill their victims.
Allocating resources needed for investigating and prosecuting domestic violence offenders saves lives – not only those of their victims, but others in public settings who absorb their explosive and at times, deadly behavior. Most mass murderers have a history of violence against women.
In domestic violence homicides, the majority of victims are killed with a firearm. Yet before the homicide occurs, a high percentage of victims experience non-fatal strangulation at the hands of an intimate partner. Every domestic violence victim should be asked this life saving question: “Has anyone choked you or applied pressure to your neck that blocked your airflow?”
Collaboration rather than competing
What if every police agency across the county adopted a shared protocol for handling domestic violence strangulation cases that followed the same course of action from 911 call to prosecution? We’ve seen what can happen when regional groups like the Jefferson County City Councilor Coalition and the Jefferson County Mayors Association put their energies toward collaborating instead of competing.
Advancing a shared, consistent policy would certainly benefit victims of domestic violence across the region. However, those life-saving benefits would also extend to law enforcement, as research reveals that men who strangle women are the same men who kill police officers in this country.
No one sector can resolve this on its own: not law enforcement, not prosecution, not social services. Collaboration requires a long-term commitment to hard conversations and messy work without assurances of easy outcomes or success.
Without prioritization of domestic violence cases, coordinated intervention, and accountability for offenders, private violence becomes public violence that has the potential to impact all of us.
Allison L. Dearing is the Executive Director of One Place Metro Alabama Family Justice Center, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and one of three Family Justice Centers in the state of Alabama.
David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
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