Guest Blog - Surviving Domestic Violence: My Personal Journey
Domestic violence is a serious, preventable, public health epidemic that affects millions of Americans each year. It can happen to anyone regardless of age, education, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or national origin. Domestic violence is usually accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior that is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control.
Survivors of abuse tend to suffer alone in silence, leading lives of isolation, shame, fear and secrecy. It takes incredible determination for survivors to step forward and seek help. I speak from personal experience, as I too was once a victim of domestic violence.
In my case, I married over a decade ago with every illusion of living a happy life. I was a young attorney at the peak of my career and thriving in my personal and professional life. I had a bright future ahead of me; however, the illusion of happiness quickly shattered. I endured domestic violence in the form of emotional, verbal, sexual, physical, and financial abuse for years.
Unfortunately, like many other professional women, I did not think it could happen to me. After all, I am educated, bright, and talented. I have high self-esteem and am successful in my career as a lawyer, fighting for social justice on behalf of my clients. Thus, I did not feel I fit the stereotype of an abused woman. But behind closed doors, I was hiding a dark secret – I was being constantly berated, belittled, humiliated, and devalued by my abuser, and all of this was compounded by other forms of abuse.
But all was not lost. I decided to break the silence and get help to escape the abuse. I contacted a hotline for help and was put in touch with my local police department. From there, I was referred to the San Diego Family Justice Center, which is an organization that provides free and comprehensive services to victims of abuse and their children. I filed for divorce and successfully obtained both a domestic violence restraining order and the sole, legal, and physical custody of my young child. I began attending weekly support groups and therapy sessions for abused women. In the process, I connected with other survivors who came from all walks of life, finding mutual support and inspiration that persists to this day. In time, my child and I were able to move from San Diego to Boston, where I accepted a position at Harvard Law School. We now enjoy greater peace and safety.
Despite that devastating chapter in my life, I consider myself lucky because I got help through it. My goal in publically sharing my story is to shatter stereotypes about who is affected by domestic violence. Often, intelligent and successful women like me fall victim to abuse and are quickly engulfed in shame. That shame is one way an abuser exerts power and control over a woman to keep her trapped in the abusive relationship, and reaching out is a good first step in breaking free. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers confidential 24/7 help at 1-800-799-7233.
Guest blogger Dovie Yoana King is the founder and director of SOAR for Justice (www.soarforjustice.org), an organization dedicated to helping survivors of abuse rise for justice.