HOUSTON – October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. This year, a spike in abuse cases has many experts pointing directly to COVID-19. Since many of us have been spending more time at home throughout 2020, that means victims and survivors of abuse have been stuck at home with their abusers.
One of the leading voices advocating on behalf of domestic abuse survivors is Lorena Gallo. Formerly Lorena Bobbitt, in 1993 her name was splashed all over newspapers, televisions and tabloids after she cut off her husband’s penis after years of abuse. Now, nearly three decades later, Lorena is remarried and appears in a new docu-series titled “Lorena” on Amazon Prime.
“People feel trapped in their own homes and isolated. Victims and survivors feel like there’s no way to escape the abusive relationship,” says Gallo. She believes this feeling of hopelessness stems from a culture of victim shaming and an idea that survivors exaggerate their stories. “For me, it was a lot of things. It was shame, it was economic abuse, it was religious. I’m a woman of faith so for me it was about shame and embarrassment to actually talk about abusive situations with my friends and family because I thought simply that they were not going to believe me. I thought I was the only one. I felt alone in this whole ordeal.”
The statistics show she is anything but alone. Battery is the single highest cause of injury for women in the United States. In most cases, the victim knows their abuser. Economics, family relationships, and religious beliefs are just some of the reasons why it can be extremely difficult to leave an abusive relationship. On average, it takes seven times for a domestic abuse survivor to cut ties with their abuser and permanently leave the relationship.
Lorena hopes to change that. She believes we need to normalize conversations about domestic abuse so more people will start coming forward. This year she is the featured speaker at the virtual “Believe” luncheon, hosted by the Houston Area Women’s Center. The event will raise critical funds to help support survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
For more information about this year’s free virtual luncheon, visit https://hawc.org/believe2020/.
The Houston Area Women’s Center Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached 24/7 by calling 713-528-2121. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-7233. Both lines are free and confidential.