Durham Crisis Response Center helping local women

Leisa Marie, like many young women, was the victim of physical and psychological abuse before getting help from the Durham Rape Crisis Center. (Staff Photo by Kristin Ellis)

The Durham Crisis Response Center has been helping women who have fallen victim to the horrible statistic that one in three of them will be victim to physical violence by an intimate partner.

Some women, like Leisa Marie, were part of the statistic that one in five women have been victims of severe physical violence.

In 2006, Leisa Marie was a 23-year-old Miami native in her senior year at Duke University. Similar to many college students, she had a part-time job. Unbeknownst to her at that time, her life would change starting with waitressing at the International House of Pancakes on Guess Road in Durham.

Before attending Duke, Leisa Marie was an “A” student and very involved in her high school’s extracurricular activities, but once she got to Duke she felt lost and needy.

Leisa Marie met Seth, who was then 35, while the two of them worked at IHOP together. He wasn’t her type but he had charmed her.

“He was very smart, really funny, really intelligent,” she said.

After about three months of dating, the two moved in together.

“And it just got really, really bad, really, really quickly,” she said.

“The first thing I realized was that he was clearly an alcoholic and when he drank he was a completely different person,” she said. “He took a baseball bat to every piece of furniture I had, he broke glasses, and he ripped up pictures of my family.”

“At the time, I was a deeply religious person and I could’ve sworn I heard the Holy Spirit tell me to leave this man alone,” she said.

Towards the end of their volatile relationship, she learned that he was not only abusing alcohol but drugs such as cocaine.

Leisa Marie said that for the first couple of months of their six-month relationship, it was just verbal and mental abuse. During that time, they broke up three or four times. During his violent episodes, she or her neighbors would call the police.

“Every time the police came, I would be like ‘no, everything’s fine.’ And eventually the police would come and they would take him away but he wouldn’t stay very long because they needed me to press charges and I refused to do it the first couple of times,” Leisa Marie said.

The abuse started to become increasingly violent. While she was driving her Carolina blue Acura Integra down Club Boulevard off of Roxboro Road, the two got into an argument.

“He decided that he was going to turn the steering wheel– I’m the one driving. So he yanked on the steering wheel and the car went flying into the front yard of some people,” she said.

They missed a tree by one foot but ran into a telephone pole instead and knocked out all the power on the street.

“The police officer took me to the side and told me ‘you need to leave this man alone. He will kill you,’” she said.

However, not until one more act of violence did she end up in the care of DCRC. Leisa Marie had received a phone call from a friend who had just left her house not too long before. Her friend told her that Seth was coming down the block. After the constant torture, she was tired of dealing with him.

She went outside onto the street to confront him, hoping to avoid him damaging her home’s windows. After asking him why he was there, he began to beat her in the street. While she was 5’9” and he was 5’3”, he was much stronger than her.

“Like in the middle of the street—cars driving past looking at –just looking – just slowing down and looking while I’m on the ground,” she said.

Seth got up and left as if nothing had happened.

“My face was unrecognizable,” she said.

She was at DCRC for a month before he turned himself in.

“The shelter was a lot nicer than how I thought a shelter could look. I met some very nice people and had some counseling,” she said.

Leisa Marie also said that police officers would come in and speak with the women about getting out of their abusive relationships. Ten years later, she credits DCRC as a big factor in assisting her from moving on from her terrible situation.

“If they hadn’t taken me in I probably would’ve ended up staying somewhere like the Durham Rescue Mission or something. And that really wasn’t where I needed to be. I didn’t just need a shelter. I needed support and I needed help. And I needed someone to tell me how to get out of this situation,” she said.

“I was afraid for my life and they took me in,” she said.

During her stay at DCRC, she was still in denial of her situation and felt as though she didn’t belong there. But after coping with situation, she now knows that without DCRC she wouldn’t have been able to get through that tough time.

She now volunteers for DCRC as an office assistant. She wanted to become a crisis response hotline volunteer but her work hours conflicted with the position’s training demand.

DCRC, located on North Dillard Street, offers shelter and support services for sexual and domestic violence survivors and their families.

According to DCRC’s website, the organization has helped over 20,000 women and children. In 2014, they sheltered 237 women and assisted 3,800 through their confidential crisis hotline, which allows victims who want help to call in search of support.

DCRC’s other services, which are free, include “short-term emergency shelter, hospital and court accompaniment, legal clinics with local attorneys, support groups, counseling, and referrals for job training, housing, childcare and other community services,” according to its website.

From Jan. 24 until March 13, DCRC will be hosting their Sexual Assault & Abuse Support Group for Men on Sundays from 2-4 p.m. and from Jan. 27 until March 16 it will be hosting their Sexual Assault Support Group for Women on Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m.

Weblink: durhamcrisisresponse.org/learn-more/about-us