Open mic night in Cedar Rapids aims to give domestic violence victims a voice

Paul Engle Center hosts event Oct. 14

Each minute, nearly 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.

That sobering statistic comes from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. If you do the math, it equals about 10 million victims each year — or one in three women and one in four men in a lifetime, the coalition states.

In an effort to raise awareness and give a voice to the victims and witnesses of domestic violence, several organizations are teaming up to host “Purple Light Open Mic” night beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at the Paul Engle Center, 1600 Fourth Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids.

The event is free and those who attend are invited to step up to the microphone and share “whatever is on their heart,” said Tiffany Flowers, assistant director at Amani Community Services, a domestic violence and sexual assault agency that serves African Americans in Black Hawk and Linn counties. “We went with an open mic because it gives everybody a voice,” she said.

Amani is sponsoring Domestic Violence Awareness Month event along with 1 Strong, Riverview and the African American Family Preservation and Resource Committee.

Not only can those impacted by domestic violence share personal stories, poems or other published pieces, the event provides an opportunity to spread information and awareness about domestic violence and share ways the community can get involved.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, income, education, marital status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or nationality, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The frequency and severity of violence, however, varies dramatically.

Violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological. Abusers can be threatening, intimidating, possessive and controlling. They may become jealous and possessive, keeping their partners from friends and family. They may insult, shame and embarrass their partner. They may try to control their finances, whereabouts and personal decisions. They might threaten to harm their partner, themselves or their children. Some intimidate with weapons or destroy property, some physically abuse their partners, pressure them to have sex or use drugs or alcohol when they don’t want to.

According to the coalition, these behaviors — which boil down to a common theme of maintaining power and control over a partner — don’t often appear overnight, but instead emerge and intensify over the course of a relationship.

In Iowa, more than 6,500 domestic violence incidents were reported to law enforcement in 2011, according to the coalition. But, officials said, many incidents go unreported and victims can sometimes feel trapped and scared to look for help under the control of their abuser.

“Economic reasons are the No. 1 barrier for (victims) to leave domestic violence,” Flowers said, explaining victims may feel trapped by lack of access to child care, transportation and shelter for their family, especially if their abuser has taken control of their money.

Flowers said some abusers use children as a tool for abuse, threatening to harm them or refuse their partner from seeing them. Some threaten physical harm on themselves or their partner if they look for help, which is why it can sometimes be extremely difficult to make a safe escape.

According to coalition officials, victims are in the most serious danger immediately after escaping or seeking help.

One in five who obtain a restraining order are killed within two days of receiving it and one in three are killed within the first month, according to the coalition. In 2014, 13 Iowans were killed in domestic violence-related homicides, the coalition reports.

Even if victims do escape, violence may continue through stalking, harassment and threats.

The scars of domestic violence — whether seen or unseen — can last forever, experts say.

“Living in that kind of environment can lead to fears of socialization and isolation,” Flowers said, explaining that victims and witness “can struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and a fear of being in a relationship.”

The “Purple Light Open Mic,” she added, is a “way to break the silence and isolation” and can help survivors and witnesses heal.

If You Go

What: “Purple Light Open Mic” night to honor victims of domestic violence through spoken word

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14

Where: Paul Engle Center, 1600 Fourth Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

Cost: Free

Details: Community members are invited to step up to the microphone and share personal stories, poems or published pieces to honor domestic violence victims, survivors and witnesses through spoken word. Light refreshments are to be served.

Domestic and Sexual Abuse Programs and Services

Children & Families of Iowa Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-942-0333,

Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline: 1-800-770-1650 or text “iowahelp” to 20121,

Riverview Center: (563)-577-0310, crisis line 1-888-557-0310,

Waypoint: (319) 365-1458, crisis line 1-800-410-7233,

Deaf Iowans Against Abuse: (319) 382-3078, crisis line (319) 531-7719,

Domestic Violence Intervention Program: (319) 351-1042, crisis line 1-800-373-1043,

Amani Community Service: (319) 232-5660, crisis line 1-888-983-2533,

Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa: (515) 288-0881, crisis line 1-866-881-4641,

L.U.N.A. (Latinas Unidas por un Nuevo Amanecer): (515) 271-5060, crisis line 1-866-256-7668,

Nisaa African Family Services: (515) 288-0881, crisis line 1-866-881-4641,

Transformative Healing: (515) 850-8082,

Meskwaki Victim Services: (641) 484-4444, crisis line (855) 840-7362,

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