Have you ever been in a precarious, life or death situation in which the only way forward is through a great deal of pain? And when you were in that situation, did you vow to do something virtuous if you survived?
I was a 17-year-old child bride of an older and violently abusive first husband. I vividly recall my first beating. It was after school when he asked me how many boys had I talked to that day. I could see that he was visibly angry. I carefully replayed the day in my mind but I couldn’t think of a single conversation I had with a boy. I honestly answered,” none”. He responded with his fists. It turns out that he had been stalking me on campus and counting the number of times I said, “hi”, to a male classmate. For the next four years, I never looked up from the ground but that did not stop the screaming, imprisonment and beatings.
Why did I stay? I had left a bad childhood situation and returning was not an option. And I could not leave until I could support myself which meant finishing college. Over and over, I told myself that if I survived to graduation, I vowed to end domestic violence against other young women.
When I graduated college and got my first paycheck, I hired an attorney to file a TRO and sued for divorce. Since that day, I have never looked down again.
Since then, I have actively supported Futures Without Violence, an organization singularly focused on enacting laws and making sure the laws are enforced by training judges, medical practitioners, educators and lawmakers.
Through Futures, I work with prominent women who have suffered traumatic physical violence without cratering to the abuse, near-death experiences, shaming and scrutiny. All of us have transformed our trauma into power, casting off any notion of victimhood to become powerful advocates. And, most importantly, all of us have made a virtuous vow to help others.
In the decades that we’ve supported Futures, domestic violence has diminished by 60%.
While I am happy with the progress, there is more work to do. I am working with Futures to build the Courage Museum in San Francisco’s Presidio and an adjacent memorial for the women who did not survive their abusive partners. Both are estimated to be completed in 2025. A key aim of the museum is education and we are concurrently working with educators to build a curriculum aimed at teenagers.