Fight back against domestic violence: ACS programs urge community to help prevent, eliminate abuse
October 4, 2012
FORT BELVOIR, VA (Sept. 27)-- Amanda Tenorio can remember her darkest hour. She was huddled on her bedroom floor, clutching a bed-sheet to her bleeding forehead, and covered in bruises, when she decided it was time to leave her violent boyfriend for good. That decision radically changed her life.
Now, as a Victim Advocate at Fort Myer and local inspirational speaker, Tenorio teaches others to recognize and prevent abuse, and treat victims with respect. Next week, she will share her story at a Resource Symposium on Fort Belvoir, part of a slew of programs in October promoting Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The symposium, hosted by the Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program, is Oct. 2 from 1-3 p.m. at the ACS building and focuses on the month's theme, "Don't Turn Your Back on Domestic Violence."
"We will have many community resource agencies come in. This also is just an opportunity for the community to come together, to not only see the resources, but also to kind of put a name with a face," said Reon Brogan, Fort Belvoir victim advocate and symposium coordinator.
Garrison Commander Col. Gregory Gadson will also offer remarks and sign the community's Domestic Violence Proclamation.
In addition to the symposium, the FAP will provide information tables Oct. 11 at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, and Oct. 15 at the Post Exchange, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Passing along information on abuse can help prevent violence in the community, Brogan said.
"They say knowledge is power. The main thing we're trying to stress is that everyone has the power to make a difference, even in their own life," she said.
A victim's story
Tenorio is one person who did make a difference for herself and her family, and now hopes to help others do the same.
Her relationship with her boyfriend started out with red flags, and progressively got more violent.
"It would be little things like just grabbing my arms and shoving me, slapping me in the back of the head, or pulling my hair when I would go to walk away," she said. "As soon as he would do it, he was like 'Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, I don't even know what came over me.'"
The first major incident was three months into the relationship. "He ended up beating me in a parking lot," Tenorio said, then forcing her to drive home, where he jabbed her legs and hips with a car key. She would find out later he fractured her hip.
In their next big argument, Tenorio's boyfriend beat her into a coma. Later on, he locked her in her own house and beat her with a mop handle and a wooden baseball bat.
"So this cycle just kept going, and it was literally 'The Cycle' -- your violence, your escalating, your honeymoon stage. Then it did finally get to the point where there was no honeymoon stage, and I just realized 'I'm never going to get away from this guy,'" she said.
After 14 months of abuse, Tenorio decided she'd had enough.
"The night before I left, after I had been locked up for two weeks … I thought about my grandparents, because they were the two strongest people in my life. They would just be like 'You weren't around this. This isn't normal. We've never done this, and you need to get out.' And so I sat there and just prayed all night. I kept saying to God, 'If you get me out of here … and my kids and I can get away, I'm not turning back. I don't care what I take with me.'"
Her abuser was later sent to prison, but Tenorio's story didn't end there. Now, her goal is to spread awareness on the domestic violence problem, and dispel some of the myths about victims.
"If you look at me, meet me and you see me at my job, you're not going to think that I came from that, but I did," she added. "I'm not poor and uneducated. It's not something that was my fault. My goal is to get people … not to judge somebody in that situation.
"It happens to anyone and everyone. I've seen everything from E-1s up to majors, lieutenant colonels," she added. "The goal is for everybody in the military to see that it's happening in your community, on your bases. It could happen to you."
It takes a village
So, what can community members do to help stop domestic violence?
Aside from attending next month's special events, they can raise awareness by wearing purple every Friday in October, Brogan said.
In addition, community members should memorize or carry the FAP domestic abuse hotline phone number, (703) 229-2374, which is available 24/7, she said.
"Even if (community members) carry or they knew our hotline phone number … if someone says, 'Oh my god, I don't know what to do,' right then, you're a lifeline. Everyone plays a part in this. Nobody wants to see someone hurt," Brogan said. "Together, we really can make a difference."
She encourages anyone to call the hotline, as soon as they have concerns for their safety.
"If you question whether or not you should be doing this, if you have a concern -- you know, maybe this person will change, maybe I will be a little bit stronger next time -- the next time is never a guarantee. That's the reason why we do carry the 24/7 hotline phone," she said. "I always say 'It's never too soon.' The tragedy is, sometimes it's too late."
For more information about domestic violence awareness programming and Domestic Violence Awareness Month events, call the ACS FAP at (703) 805-1832/2693, or visit www.belvoirmwr.com.
Editor's Note: This is the first installment in a three-part series on domestic violence awareness and prevention.