For Blacks who battle domestic violence, Rihanna case is no surp

By BETTY PLEASANT, Contributing Editor

Story Published: Feb 25, 2009 at 8:48 PM PDT

Story Updated: Mar 2, 2009 at 10:37 PM PDT

A famous singer is reportedly beaten by her famous singer boyfriend in Hancock Park. A Highway Patrol officer kills her husband after an argument in Compton. A father kills his wife and five children in Wilmington.

The common denominator here is that these people are all local African-Americans who were victims of a rising trend that has been a dirty little secret in Black households for generations - domestic violence.

Spousal abuse among African-Americans hasn't hit the headlines so hard since Tina Turner went public about her life with Ike, wrote a book about it and afforded Angela Bassett a shot at stardom when she played the battered Tina in the move, "What's Love Got To Do With It?"

Experts in domestic violence say love's got nothing to do with it: It's all about power. And the violent exertion of power by one domestic partner over the other is an ignored but universal problem affecting the broad range of demographics.

"Domestic violence has no religious faith, no bank balance, no standard of living, no age limit," said Helen Price, program coordinator for Place of Family, the South Los Angeles agency that dispenses Los Angeles County's domestic violence and anger management services. "Domestic violence occurs across the board, from the rich to the poor and from junior high school relationships to the very elderly of couples," Price said.

"Domestic violence is just like crack," Price said. "Every family has one. Every family has somebody in it that's doing it. We see the bruises and black eyes, such as with the Rihanna and Chris Brown case, and look away until somebody ends up dead, like the Lupoe Family.

"Oh yes, Ervin Lupoe was the abusive head of his household before he killed his family and himself," added Price, who has been handling court-ordered domestic violence cases since 1995. "The object of an abusing partner is control - control of somebody's life, somebody's actions. It's a piece of power. They think: ‘I rule you and I'm running this' and I know from 14 years experience that Lupoe didn't come out of nowhere and kill his family. He had been in control of them and their situations all along and when he found himself facing an outside force affecting his family that he could not control, he killed them all.

"And to leave a note saying his wife told him to do it is ridiculous," Price said. "She's dead. She's not here to tell us: ‘No, I wanted to live. I wanted my children to live.' Lupoe was a family annihilator who abused his spouse, and his other relatives and friends knew it was happening."

Price is not surprised that the Compton CHP officer who killed her husband, Marcus Lemons, during a domestic dispute over the weekend, and she is equally nonplussed about allegations that Lemons was a peaceful fellow who may have been the victim of a gun-toting, domestic violence-prone wife.

"Women are just as capable of exerting violent control over their spouses as men," Price said. "There are more men abusers than women, but, yes indeed, quite a few women are the aggressors in domestic violence incidents and I have several counseling groups made up solely of women."

Price's agency, located at 9307 S. Central Ave., handles domestic violence and anger management cases ordered by the courts, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Children and Family Services, as well as other nonprofit agencies and community walk-ins. She said she has 22 groups of troubled souls, composed of about 15 people each meeting six days a week to break the pattern of violence.

"And they're all right out of this neighborhood," Price said. "Our purpose is to confront, educate and motivate our participants toward higher standards in their personal and private lives. Our purpose is to provide tips, tools and techniques to allow these people to use their brain rather than their fists and to gain control over themselves rather than over others."

She added that it usually takes about three months for the counseling to take effect. "They usually start paying attention after about three months. Then they're ready to start telling us and themselves that they did," Price said.

Sydney Kamlager, public affairs manager for Crystal Stairs, one of the largest nonprofit child care and development corporations in the state, reports an up-tick in domestic violence in South L.A. owing to the stressful economic times.

"We actually know that 14 percent of the area's homeless are victims of domestic violence and that 34 percent of people taken in by family members to avoid homelessness are victims of domestic violence.

Crystal Stairs' child care workers are the first "outsiders" to get an inkling of domestic violence in a household and the first to seek assistance from authorities to resolve the problem. But Kamlager said the newly enacted state budget will make such intervention more difficult.

"All that money for mental health services approved by the voters in Proposition 63 has been taken back to balance the budget," Kamlager said. "This was money meant to be used for domestic violence and suicide prevention. These are services that need to be preserved and expanded during an economic downturn, such as the one we're in now."

"Sometimes women create their own outcome," Price said. "They refuse to leave an abusive relationship. They want to stay and they start thinking about stuff - where to go, their child's need for a father, possible loneliness, etc. They think: ‘I can change this person.' But they can't change that person; they can only change themselves. So call the police, prosecute the aggressor, pack up the kids and leave."

Posted by erniemixon on 03/11/2009
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