October is domestic abuse and violence awareness month. Of course, to those of us who are survivors, every day of our lives is domestic abuse and violence day. 4.8 million women experience intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year in the United States. More than 55% of female homicides in the United States are related to intimate partner violence.
And, as a society, we’re only starting to understand the less-obvious and more insidious forms of abuse, such as emotional and financial abuse. In a study of 1,000 women over the age of 15, 39% of them reported emotional abuse in a relationship in the past five years. Financial abuse is intimately tied to domestic abuse because a lack of access to money keeps women in abusive relationships.
These statistics probably reflect less than the reality, given that it’s hard to track the data and it’s often incomplete. And while men are victims of domestic abuse and violence, as well, the statistics are considered to be vastly underreported due to the shame that keeps them silent.
As a company that works with divorced women to support their journey to a better future, Worthy’s community encompasses women from all walks of life. And that includes survivors of domestic abuse and violence. Every year, Worthy offers a scholarship to help women advance their life and career. Last year, hundreds of women submitted essays about their post-divorce journey, and many of them were survivors or worked with survivors.
It was an honor to read their stories and celebrate their strength, so this month we thought we’d share them with you. Read below the stories of three domestic violence survivors who decided to seek a career to help others and make an impact in their communities.
Cheryl D. grew up in a classically abusive household, where alcohol and domestic violence led to an adolescence of deep-seated rage and alcohol problems of her own. But she pursued a career in clinical mental health counseling, obtaining the knowledge and skills to help both herself and other women.
“A common joke in my profession is that people enter the field of mental health to “fix” themselves first. This was absolutely the truth for me and I’m thankful I made that career choice every day. Any type of crisis work is a thankless and emotionally draining job that literally traumatizes people. Police, social workers, and EMTs have high rates of divorce and substance abuse. However, the training, supervision, and learning what types of interventions actually help families continues to be invaluable to me. It has helped me build a foundation of healthy coping skills, a good social network, and a safety net for when life gets tough. Even through all the noise of an emergency room, I’m easily able to recognize the patterns of dysfunction in patients, mostly because I’ve been there before. I can then provide interventions that really work.”
-Cheryl D., New Hampshire
It takes a great amount of courage to willingly engage with the pain and stories of other women still in the abusive situation you left behind, and Worthy salutes that courage.
It took 20 years for Jamie M. to leave her emotionally abusive marriage, but once she did she put herself on the fast track to a healthier life. She lost the weight she’d gained during the marriage, shedding the different person she’d become. Needing to find a way to support herself and her child after 15 years out of the job market, she decided to turn her part-time business of teaching art to children into a full-time gig. It was a huge step of faith for her to pack up everything and move from Tennessee to Colorado to attend art school, but that’s the thing about survivors.
When you come out of an abusive relationship, when you’re on the other side, you know you can do anything. You’ve taken the hardest steps, and no matter how scary the future may be it’s better than spending it with a man who tried to break you.
“Since that day I have returned to school where I will complete my Bachelors in three years rather than four. I am an honor student and I continue to teach art to the locals. We have a beautiful, tiny house in a comfortable suburb of Pueblo, Colorado and my son continues to homeschool and flourish. We travel, we explore, we take risks that we never thought we would take, but most of all we LIVE, and I would not change a thing!”
-Jamie M., Colorado
When Crista W. tried to leave her abusive ex, she discovered what so many abused women deal with every day. The system simply doesn’t help or protect us. Her ex had locked her out of her apartment, trapping her son and purse inside, to keep her from leaving. The police refused to do anything. So she punched through the door and got her purse, but couldn’t take her child. Even if you’re leaving an abusive man, it’s kidnapping. She eventually got sole custody of her son when he was two. It’s a broken society that asks women to choose between their personal safety and their child. This is why she’s now in school for forensic technology to eventually become an expert witness to help other women in the situation she once left.
“It was 20 years ago when I received my A.A. degree and went into a line of work that protects society. My life circumstances have empowered me to be the best mother I know how to be and knowing I have the strength to do what I need to do. My kids are grown now and I’m enrolled in school again to pursue a new career. I plan on becoming an expert witness for those who are victims of crimes.”
-Crista W., Washington
Just like no one can take from survivors the strength that they’ve developed, no one can take us from us our hearts. The generosity of survivors of domestic abuse and violence, the heart to help other women, the passion to share their stories, has frequently left me filled with awe and humility.
Applications are currently open for our 2018 scholarship. Note that you don’t have to be a survivor of domestic abuse and violence to enter, the scholarship is open to women over the age of 30 who are going back to school. Just tell us your ‘why,’ the passion that drives you to pursue your education and the dreams that guide you.
Trust us, we’ll be honored to read your stories.
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