DOUGLAS COUNTY – October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, 36% of women and 30% of men experience domestic violence. Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.
Denae Loban is a survivor of domestic violence, although throughout her 13-year marriage, she didn’t realize she was being abused.
“There was a lot of emotional abuse and manipulation. Isolation from my family, I couldn’t see my family. He would keep tabs on me even when he was out of town. He must’ve had tracking software on my phone. He was really hard on me on my eating. One thing sticks out to me he said one night, ‘If you go ride 10 miles on the exercise bike, we can go out to dinner.’” she said. “It was always downing me or making me feel bad about myself and who I was. That was the emotional abuse, but because of my childhood, I didn’t know that is what it was. In 2019, I brought it to attention of counselor. I kind of went over what happened. She’s like, ‘You know, there’s a name for this. It’s domestic violence and abuse.’ I was speechless. I didn’t even know that could be considered it. I wasn’t aware of what was happening. I was in the dark until talking to my counselor.”
But she continued to stay in the abusive relationship.
“I was in the situation where I left and I did go back. There was a honeymoon phase. He was OK for a week or two and then he would go back. He’d say, ‘I’ll change, I’ll go to counseling.’ But it didn’t stick. I went back. It was hard. I wanted that security, having someone there, not having to be on my own financially or be with all the time,” said Loban.
But in January of 2020, her now ex-husband physically assaulted her. She said she didn’t get up quickly enough when their dog started barking that morning.
“He was mad. He got up, put his elbow on the temple of my head, put his whole weight through it and used that to get off the couch. I went to my counselor, who suggested I get checked out at the hospital. I explained what happened. I could see the nurse write ‘assault’ on the check-in paper. It was shocking to me that it really did happen. I was at that point. I was finally ready. It was like my way out. My way to say, ‘I’m done with this relationship. I’m done with the abuse. I can get out now,'” Loban said.
Loban is far from alone in her experience.
“An average of seven times is what it takes for a domestic violence victim to finally truly leave the relationship,” said Julie McKinster, a victim advocate at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office reports 661 cases of domestic violence during 2020. To date in 2021, it has responded to 560 cases of domestic violence.
“Sometimes when victims call 911, they don’t realize they are in a domestic violence situation. More often than not, they don’t realize the emotional abuse. The manipulation, isolation from your friends and family, controlling the money, doesn’t trust you with your phone. The verbal abuse, the shaming, body shaming, physical shaming. Anything they can to break you away from your identity and your support systems,” McKinster said.
“I am very, very proud of Denae. It has taken a lot of steps and strengths for her to truly accept she was in an abusive relationship for a really long time. It took getting to a physical point for her to do anything about it. Getting that support and education and her realizing it on her own. We don’t force it on anyone. She came to that conclusion on her own, by utilizing the resources we provided to her,” McKinster said.
Both women stress help is available.
“We provide safety planning. Steps 1-500 of how to start planning and preparing for that, to keep yourself safe. It’s not like you just pack a bag and leave. It’s not that easy and it requires a lot. People just know they have a place to call and start, asking questions, getting educated, what route they can take. There are so many community organizations if you don’t want to go the law enforcement route, there are tons and tons of resources that can help you,” McKinster said.
Denae got out – and has remained strong – with the help of her victim advocate. She is now in a new relationship and wants to help other victims of domestic violence.
“I want to be that person that can help another person go through that with them, walk alongside them and tell them, ‘It’s OK, you can do this. You got this,'” Loban said.
If you are in crisis, contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or www.TheHotline.org.
Douglas County Sheriff: https://www.dcsheriff.net/victims/domestic-violence/
The Crisis Center 24-hour Crisis Line: 303-688-8484 https://www.thecrisiscenter.org/