'Remember children living with domestic violence’
7/2/2020, 6 p.m.
Most people would agree domestic violence is a blight on society generally and directly on people and families affected by it.
As a 30-year veteran of law enforce- ment in Richmond, I have responded to countless domestic disturbance calls and seen firsthand the physical and emotional devastation caused when abuse is present in homes and how it destabilizes already fragile family structures.
I can also speak from personal experience. I grew up in a home where spousal abuse occurred, where nights were filled with yelling and screaming and me trying to keep my dad away from my mom. On many occasions, things were so bad I called the police to intervene.
The abuse continued, and in 1980 my father shot and killed my mother, a crime for which he was incarcerated. As painful as the loss of both of my parents was, what followed was also jarring – the five gunshots made my younger sister and me orphans fending for ourselves.
Those life experiences led me to a career in law enforcement, first with the Richmond Sheriff’s Office, and for the last 23 years with the Richmond Police Department. They also led me in 2014 to form the Carol Adams Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose
mission is to provide emergency assistance to women, men and children who are victims of domestic violence. The foundation offers safety net services and other resources — groceries, clothes, furniture, etc. — to support victims of domestic violence so they can re-establish a life that is violence-free and give themselves an opportunity to become self-sufficient.
As a police officer and a domestic vio- lence survivor, I know the need for support services and programs that surround children from fractured families with a safe, nurturing environment. But there are barriers to accessing and qualifying for available services or gaining the trust of an abuse victim.
When people who are traumatized daily by the loud noises, yelling and screaming associated with domestic violence call the police, they are looking for a knight in shining armor. They sometimes are disappointed when they don’t get the result they expect. Over time, it became clear to me that my purpose was to help teach my fellow officers about the kindness and caring needed to help people on the other side of things because that’s where I’m from.
Life experience in the police department thrust me into this work of forming a foundation and getting into my purpose. This rewarding work gives me a chance to share my story with survivors to let them know they aren’t alone, that this happens to many families even if they don’t realize it.
I share these thoughts as June’s Gun Violence Awareness Month ends. In July, new gun control laws passed by the Virginia General Assembly take effect. It is my hope those measures help reduce gun violence because I know that the slightest pull of the trigger can take a life and impact so many other people. When guns are in an unstable home, perhaps where substance abuse or mental health challenges are present, it significantly heightens the potential that serious violence will occur.
These are important steps in the march for progress. They are not the only steps, however. We find ourselves at a moment in our nation’s history when many old, unhealed wounds are resurfacing, when issues many have been blind to have been brought into stark relief.
We have a homeless epidemic we don’t talk about. We have legacy, systemic inequalities affecting people of color, their health outcomes and their everyday lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has only deepened those challenges for people on the margins of society, especially people in families where domestic violence is present and for whom the pandemic shutdown may pour gas on an already combustible situation.
As we work for a more just world, let’s remember children living with domestic violence for whom each day is about survival even as another emotionally burdensome rock is added to the bag on their back.
The writer is a 30-year law enforcement officer in Richmond and founder of The Carol Adams Foundation.