Dr. Chareissa Newbold has taken a path least taken by many people to get to her current destination.
It is a path most would rather not walk.
Newbold is the regional director of advocacy for domestic violence and sexual assault for Rising Phoenix and Associates in Troy. She oversees all services offered to victims at all costs, including multiple in-person and virtual weekly support groups, criminal and civil court advocacy and assistance with immediate and extended support.
In addition, Newbold also trains and recruits volunteers, who either provide behind-the-scenes support, such as food, supplies, written words of encouragement and personal gifts for those attending groups.
Other volunteers choose to be more “hands-on,” by providing support services to domestic violence victims in a direct manner by assisting with groups, meeting with emergency needs and providing support with practical matters.
The advocates for Rising Phoenix are survivors of domestic abuse themselves.
“Women, men and children all over Lincoln County, and outside of it, need our help,” said Newbold, who has been an advocate in Lincoln County since 2005. “They come to us looking for us when they’re finally ready to break the cycle of abuse.”
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One in three women, and one in four men have been abused by an intimate partner. In the United States, an average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute, more than 10 million victims annually.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 10 million children are exposed to domestic violence each year, and 90% are eyewitnesses to the abuse.
Only 25% of physical assaults against women are reported to law enforcement annually, according to the Center for Women and Children.
Newbold knows the cycle of abuse better than most people. As a survivor of domestic abuse, she has first-hand knowledge of how victims suffer, and the misconceptions those on the outside have about them.
Her first husband regularly assaulted her in front of her daughter, and even threatened her life on several occasions in her presence.
“The first question people have about someone who is being abused by a significant other is ‘why don’t they just leave?’” she said. “I left at least seven times before I finally gained the courage to leave for the last time.”
Newbold said even law enforcement carries that misconception with them at times.
“I’ve had sheriff’s deputies tell me about multiple calls they’ve gotten to the same house, and the victims eventually dropping the charges and returning to the people who are abusing them,” she said. “I’ve told them each time they respond to a call is one step closer to that person gaining the courage to leave.”
In fact, it took some time for Newbold to even admit she was a victim.
“A coworker of mine during a break convinced me I was a victim,” she said. “Admitting I was a ‘victim’ got to me so much that I broke down, and I couldn’t finish school that day. Someone else had to take over my classes.”
Newbold is a retired English teacher who has a dual doctorate in theology and Christian education from Midwest College of Theology. The Georgia native uses a soft Southern accent to reach out to not only victims of abuse, but also churches, professional groups, civic organizations, law enforcement, court personnel and other members of the community about the effects of domestic violence.
Newbold also has a pair of upcoming books dealing with domestic violence from a faith-based perspective, The Church’s Response to Domestic Violence: A Guide for Leaders, and a Bible study she uses with victims called I’m Not That Woman Anymore. Both books are scheduled to be released in early 2021.
“When I was younger, I was taught the standard ‘honor thy husband’ stuff. I was a good, and I still am,” she said. “Women will call their pastors for help, and they’ll come over, but once the pastor leaves, (the women) will really get it (from their husbands).
“Our pastors need a new approach on how to deal with domestic violence victims.”
Rising Phoenix offers support for victims of domestic violence who are referred by friends, family members, government agencies, churches, law enforcement and other agencies. With the recent hiring of Stephanie Link as the Violence and Crisis Intervention Specialist with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, the number of victims reaching out to Rising Phoenix for assistance has increased.
“The only funding we get is through donations,” Newbold said. “We’re getting more and more victims looking for help every day now.”