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Domestic Abuse
Philly had another rough year in regards to domestic violence. Photo: Getty Images.

When will we as a community say "no more"?

This thought leaders piece was written by Joanna Otero-Cruz, the executive director and president of Women Against Abuse.

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This thought leaders piece was written by Joanna Otero-Cruz, the executive director and president of Women Against Abuse.

I held the hands of a father with tears running down his cheeks as he said: "If you had told me they were hurting her. I didn't know and now it's too late."

I have seen the pain in the eyes of children who are growing up without their mother as they mark what would have been her birthday with each passing year.

I have heard the fear in the voices of the people calling the hotline as they frantically search for help for themselves and their children.

The number of people who have been killed by partners or abusive exes over the past month has been devastating and overwhelming in frequency.

Their loss is immeasurable. As is the trauma that will haunt their surviving loved ones, including the two-year-old triplets who were orphaned by a few shots from a gun.

As I read the accounts of these tragedies, I wonder if our community is becoming desensitized to domestic violence murder. Almost as if we have become accustomed to the loss of innocent lives and the outrageous gun violence that is wreaking havoc on families, schools and neighborhoods in our city.

Why are there no marches, vigils or protests demanding change? Where is the outrage or accountability? Domestic violence is a public health problem that affects everyone: EVERYONE KNOWS SOMEONE.

Over 500 people have been murdered in our city in the last year. Domestic homicides hit an all-time high in Philadelphia in 2021 and continue to rise this holiday season. How many families will be celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or Three Kings Day, with an empty seat at the table?

When will we as a community say "no more" and insist on a different way?

It is important to understand that leaving an abusive relationship can be extremely dangerous. Domestic violence is about power and control, so the breakup is often when the violence can reach lethal proportions. In several of the recent cases, the victim took steps to free herself from the abuse, including filing for a protection from abuse order (PFA). But by itself, a PFA is just a piece of paper. It must be part of a larger safety plan.

That's why I'm writing: to urge anyone reading this who is experiencing abuse in a relationship to contact the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-866-723-3014. 

The trained counselors at the domestic violence hotline can help you create a plan for staying safe that is specific to your situation. They will guide you through the many things you will need to consider, such as identifying a safe place to stay. How to talk to your children about what is happening. What to put in your "go bag" in case you need to run. How to navigate the additional pressures of the holiday season with an abusive partner. If you want to move out completely to be safe.

They will also connect you with local resources and family Women Against Abuse.

We are here, ready to walk alongside you on the journey to safety. We have emergency safe shelters with security and confidential locations to protect you; transitional housing to help you rebuild; and exceptional legal representation and advocacy, all free of charge. You can access these services and supports through Philadelphia's 24/7 domestic violence hotline at 1-866-723-3014.

Therefore, I urge you from the bottom of my heart to reach out when you are ready. We all deserve to live FREE of violence.

Wishing peace to our city,

Joanna Otero-Cruz

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  • domestic violence
  • women against abuse
  • Joanna Otero-Cruz
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