The Journal Gazette
Sunday, June 13, 2021 1:00 am

Breaking the deadly cycle of domestic abuse

Becky Hill

I recently read the obituaries of four young people who had no reason to die. Twenty-six-year-old mother Sarah Nicole Zent and her three precious children, ages 5, 3 and 2, were stabbed to death, victims of domestic violence.

I first saw the story on television and was as horrified as most people were that it even happened and that it was here in Fort Wayne. But I know better.

Domestic violence is happening here in Fort Wayne even as you read this paragraph. It is happening in all corners of our county, from unheard screams in the rural areas, to the pain of abusive rage in big mansions, and to the physical and mental abuse in the humblest of homes.

Domestic violence happens across all communities of every definition and all income levels without discrimination, and its basis is most often power over another individual, either gaining it or frantically hanging on to it.

This cycle often begins with lovingly tender words, spoken by the abuser to induce trust. This grooming process lasts until the violence begins verbally with insults repeated enough to be on a constant playlist in the head of the abused. In the minds of the children hearing those insults, the demeaning and disgusting comments can become debilitating. Also, isolating the victim may begin by discouraging continued contact with family and friends.

The term “gaslighting” has been used to define the psychological war that happens when the abusers claim, “I didn't say that!” when they actually did say it. It is warfare designed to destabilize victims. The victims may begin to think they are mentally ill.

Physical violence often begins with shoves but then may escalate into major injuries. Often, after an “incident,” abusers become sweet lovers again, promising never to do it again. But they do, always.

Even though I have been retired from my position as CEO of the YWCA since 2006, the important work of that agency is still deep in my bones. The job I held for 15 years taught me so much through the mission work done then. The YWCA of Northeast Indiana, serving Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Noble, Wells and Whitley counties, is still doing amazing work for domestic violence victims and, now, for victims of addictions and sexual abuse.

One of the ways of defeating domestic violence is information and training of teenagers and adults to be aware of the above situations and to know what help is available.

With just a phone call to the YWCA 24/7 Crisis Line, advocates will assess victims' needs and either help bring them into the Crisis Shelter or meet with them in a safe place in their community. 

Part of the sadness I still feel for that young family is that the mother may not have known about the help that was available. Please spread the word in honor of Sarah Nicole and her babies. You might save a life or four lives.

Becky Hill, a Fort Wayne resident, is the retired CEO of the YWCA.

Need help?

YWCA 24/7 Crisis Line 260-447-7233 or 800-441-4073

Community education (prevention of domestic violence and teen dating violence) 260-424-2908


Subscribe to our newsletters

* indicates required