Before she became a champion bikini athlete, fitness entrepreneur and real estate broker, Markie Williams was a victim of severe domestic violence. Trapped in a “relationship” with her abusive boyfriend, Markie Williams was a victim of domestic abuse, sexual violence and human trafficking for four years. Yet, despite all of these terrible things that happened to her, Markie Williams turned her life around and completely redefined her future. She started bodybuilding and became a stronger woman physically but also mentally and emotionally. During the process Markie Williams also began her human rights advocacy, focusing on raising awareness for victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking in America.
The Covid-19 pandemic fuels domestic abuse in America
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, when “stay at home” orders were proclaimed in March 2020, their contact volume decreased by 6% compared to the same period the year before. Many domestic abuse victims suddenly felt as if their outside resources and contacts were taken away during the quarantine. It’s imaginable that victims would have even lost all hope of being safe or having escape options. To make matters worse, they were and many still are spending more time with their abusers, who used the quarantine as an opportunity to torment them further. This abuse is not just of physical nature, as victims are abused mentally, emotionally and financially as well. In April 2020, the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported an increase of contact by 15% compared to April of 2019. Of all victims, 10% reported that their experience was affected by the pandemic. Markie Williams stated:
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in early 2020, we’ve heard the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders and watched as everything around us shut down. The “stay at home” orders have been both frustrating and concerning since I can imagine what domestic violence victims are going through and it’s anything but safe.”
To support victims of domestic abuse and to increase awareness, Markie Williams has offers some advice to anyone who might know someone who is experiencing abuse.
Stay in touch
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses, gyms, and recreational places have been shut down. Since these outlets or small “escapes” from abuse are no longer available to victims, they may start feeling isolated and even more vulnerable to abuse. It’s essential to stay in contact with them via phone or social networks. If it is possible, a meeting in person would be best to reassure an abused person that they are not alone. Your kind words can do wonders, especially for someone who is exposed to violence and other forms of abuse.
If you know a victim of domestic violence that has confided in you, do not seek immediate assistance unless asked to do so. More often than not, those exposed to domestic violence feel “love” and attachment towards their abusers (it is known as “trauma bond”), despite enduring regular and often very severe abuse. Don’t pressure the victim to leave the abuser, instead, try talking to them first. Encourage the victim, help them gain confidence, and aid them to find a local domestic violence service. Markie Williams suggests a cautious approach that won’t make the situation worse:
“Many victims will be in denial about the severity of their situation or they may go back and forth between wanting to leave but at the same time unable to break free from their trauma bond. In either case, you have to be very patient in helping a victim understand the reality of their situation and the options available to them while being supportive of their choice until they are ready to make a change.”
Encourage Self Worth
Abusers reinforce their power through fear, constantly breaking the psyche of the abused through psychological and physical torment. When the victim goes through this every day, their sense of self-worth can become shattered. Abusers typically also brainwash the victims, making them believe that they have brought all of this misfortune on themselves or even that they deserve it. Therefore, it is vital to help the victims by reminding them that they have amazing qualities and that they deserve to be treated with love and respect. Markie Williams said:
“Encouraging a victim to realize and believe in their self worth may be the most challenging but also most effective long term solution for escaping abuse.”
To help domestic violence victims or survivors, find out what resources, shelters, and programs are available nearby. Also, make sure that you know how to reach emergency services quickly. Always be ready to connect the victim with these resources, it will be of crucial importance when the time for them comes to leave their abusive partner.