When LeKesha Crump moved from Detroit to Mesa in 2005, with a 2-year-old daughter in tow, she met a man who she believed would be able to protect and take care of her and her daughter. She was wrong.
For the six years that she dated this man, she said she endured multiple forms of domestic and sexual violence.
“It started as soon as we started dating,” she said. “The thing was, I didn’t know that.”
Crump told her story through South Phoenix Healthy Start, a community program designed to help women and children create better lives. She found her voice and was strong enough to share her experience.
“I didn’t have a voice,” she said. “Now that I do, I’m using it for the greater good.”
Crump, a keynote speaker at South Phoenix Healthy Start’s 3rd Annual Domestic Violence Symposium on Wednesday, explained the different forms of domestic violence and rape culture.
She said one of the ways her boyfriend controlled her in the first year of their relationship was using isolation, a mental abuse tactic that separates the abused from their friends and family.
“When you hear ‘domestic violence’ you only think of the physical aspect,” she said. “The physical aspect didn’t happen until 2007 after I had his daughter.”
She recalled an example of his strategic placement of different kinds of guns in order to give different kinds of meanings and the implication of punishment if she did not comply.
“That was my turning point, when I realized he has no shame,” she said. “He has no problem taking my life. It’s time for me to get up and do something.”
Crump said she had no one to turn to, so she went to South Phoenix Healthy Start in 2007, describing it as her safe haven.
“When I had no fight left in me, Healthy Start had fight left.”
She began working for Healthy Start on the Domestic and Sexual Violence team in 2009, noting her firsthand experience made it easy for her to relate with the women she met. She left her abusive boyfriend in 2011.
Janie Tate, supervisor of case workers at Healthy Start, said this is the third year it has held the symposium for those who have gone through similar situations and anyone who wishes to learn more about the prevention of domestic violence.
“Pretty much everyone in the country was aware of domestic violence, and now we’re at that point to where, if we are aware, what are we going to do to prevent it? And what are we going to do to have interventions to prevent it?” Tate said. “So, this year I wanted to change the focus to ‘now that you are aware, how do you address something that is negative once you become aware of it?'”
The day-long symposium included panels and presentations on rape culture, brain injury and domestic violence. They also showed a video of “Control. Assault. Delete.” a play about the struggle of an abused girl and a helpless family.
Tate said this particular line up would add emphasis to the message of “how to do your part to prevent domestic violence.”
“The symposium itself is to bring all of our partners together, bring the communities, the politicos together in order to get the same message,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why, for this symposium, I didn’t want to have a breakout session or anything of that nature. I wanted everyone to get the same message so that nothing would be missed.”
Tate and Crump agree that the symposium has allowed Healthy Start to reach out and help more women in the community. Tate says the symposium’s success will only grow as it continues.
“Each year we get larger. So, as we partner with other organizations, I see it as being huge and maybe one day bringing in a national speaker that’s going to speak to thousands of us to talk about the seriousness of this,” she said.