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Coercive Control

Coercive Control

What is your first thought when you hear the words domestic violence? Most people imagine an abuser beating, kicking, choking, using a weapon on their victim, etc. But beyond physical violence, there are other methods of abuse used on victims such as financial, sexual and emotional abuse. Coercive control, a concept developed by Dr. Evan Stark, is an act or a pattern of acts or tactics consisting of threats, humiliation, and intimidation which, in Stark’s own words, demonstrate “how men entrap women in everyday life.”

It’s not a one-time event. It is a pattern of behavior used to take away the victim’s freedom and sense of self. It’s a violation of a victim’s autonomy and human rights. Over time, the abuser strips the victim of their civil liberties and establishes control. Victims are isolated, degraded, gaslighted through mind-games and micromanagement of their lives. Their whereabouts, phone calls, and social activity are constantly monitored and condemned. The abuser maintains a perpetual watch on their victim and the rules are always changing, which leaves the victim guessing what’s deemed acceptable.

The abuser establishes his rules based on his own idea of how the victim should behave. This includes financial control, expectations of her domestic duties, parenting, sexual performance, work and social life. The victim of coercive control becomes a hostage in an existence dictated by their abuser. The constant monitoring and punishment for not living up to extreme standards leave victims confused and afraid. The omnipotence of the abuser and their ever-changing expectations erode the victim’s sense of stability and every day is spent walking on eggshells.

Coercive control is a sort of brainwashing where a victim internalizes the expectations and tries to adapt in order to survive. It’s always lurking in the background of her everyday life; enduring and ever-threatening.  Coercive control eats away at a victim’s strength to function daily and to survive.

If you suspect coercive control is happening to you, then chances are it is. The good news is that there are people who can and want to help you. There are local domestic violence centers available nationwide. Or you can call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for assistance. You don’t have to live like this.

Secrets

Secrets

Dear Elaine,

Do you remember the time we were at a breakfast buffet in Virginia Beach? You were chatting with us about the breakfast offerings and detailing what you could and couldn’t eat because of your medical condition. That’s when Jim cut you off with a humiliating tirade about your “goddamn bitching” and then told you to “shut the fuck up”. I remember the awkward silence as we sat around the table staring straight down at our plates. I was embarrassed and angry for you.

John told me that Jim used to park the station wagon in front of his favorite bar and leave your babies there while he went inside and indulged in a few drinks. He claimed that you told Jim you’d leave him if he didn’t stop drinking and that Jim never touched another drink after that.

Knowing what I know about your son, I have a feeling that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Did Jim hide bottles of liquor all over the house and in the car? Did he sneak down to the basement every half-hour so he could indulge when you weren’t looking? Did you know, but stay willfully ignorant, like me? Or did you confront him every once in a while about his behavior, also like me?

If he was toxic enough to verbally assault and humiliate you in public that one time, how many other times did he vent his rage on you? Did he ever push you? Restrain you from leaving? Kick down a door? Did he throw things at you? Did he threaten to kill himself or you?

I know the Catholic narrative all too well. Suffer in silence like a good girl. Don’t set him off. Be submissive and you’ll be safe. You survived, Elaine, but I wonder if you would do it over again. I wonder if you know that I knew your secret. I wonder if you knew mine.

You were a good mother-in-law. I’m sorry it had to be like this. I am sorry that you have to spend the rest of your days carrying the burden of toxic masculinity. I think about you every day and wonder how you remain so stoic. I think about the night before my wedding, when you got the call that your best friend was shot and killed by her husband, my teacher, in the library parking lot. You handled the shock and trauma with such grace and dignity, but you must have been dying inside.

Your close friend was a domestic violence victim. And I believe you are a survivor.

I Didn’t Call You

I Didn’t Call You

Dear Mom,

It was Monday, but I didn’t call you. I knew if I did call, we would have that same old conversation. You would tell me about your wonderful children, the ones who cater to you every day while you sit with your kitty on your lap. Then you’d tell me that’s what happens when you get old. You’d chuckle and say “You’ll see” while I’d hold my breath and choke on the pain. After that, you’d ask me if I still lived in Seattle and when I would be back to visit, just like your wonderful children do. I’d explain my circumstances to you once again, fight back the tears and say goodbye.

I decided that I’ve been feeling too good to risk making that phone call. I understand that guilt will begin to eat away at me, but it’s far less damaging than the pain of having that recurring conversation with you. I’ve worked very hard to reach this point in my recovery and I realize I’m fragile right now. I am cautiously trying out this peaceful attitude like a new pair of shoes. I need to sort of break myself in and make sure I stay as comfortable as I felt when I first tried on the “new me” shoes.

I’m sorry that you don’t hear from me as often as others and I hope you understand why. But honestly, I think it’s too late for us to have this conversation because I think your failing cognitive skills would leave us both frustrated anyway.

I’ll try to call you next Monday, or maybe the one after that. So many things are happening in my life and there is so much I’d like to say to you. But most of all, I’d just love to say that I would have believed you when you were traumatized. I would have held you, comforted you and told you that no matter what I would always love and be there for you.

But for now, I will leave you in the capable care of your children.

Traumatic Memory Loss

Traumatic Memory Loss

A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to share my domestic violence story. As I talked about the history of my abusive relationship, the escalation of the violence and the devastating fire, I had no problem describing specific details that I remembered so well. But, as always, once I talked about the horror of watching my abuser run past me engulfed in flames and the guilt of failing to rescue my dog, my recollections became sketchy.

I can only remember fragmented conversations with the police, medical personnel, and even my family. There are also huge chunks of time that are devoid of any memories at all. People have told me that I said this or did that, but I can’t fit the patchy bits of memory together to form a complete timeline of events. It’s frustrating and sometimes scary. But most of all, it hurts knowing people choose to believe it’s nothing more than a convenient excuse for why I wasn’t acting like myself anymore. I’ve apologized for anything I may have said or done to offend, but always with the caveat that I don’t remember because that is the truth.

To judge someone in the midst of a traumatic crisis because you don’t like their behavior causes secondary victimization and says a lot more about you than it does about them. I can’t change how people reacted after the violence and I’ve accepted that and moved on.

Nevertheless, I was encouraged by one of my listeners when she made a comment validating my memory loss. When I stated that I felt foolish because I had amnesia, she said “It’s proven neuroscience.” She explained that traumatic events rewire our brains in order to help us cope. I’ve read a lot about the subject and I know it’s true, but I was relieved to know that she believed me. I needed that approval to feel safe and secure.

Memory loss is nature’s way of providing a built-in survival skill and defense mechanism so we can protect ourselves from psychological damage. Emotionally traumatic events can lead to dissociative amnesia and I have no doubt that it happened to me. When posttraumatic me was met with disapproval, I lost what little security I had left. That undermined my view of myself and increased my self-doubt.

Now I feel prepared to treat myself with greater empathy. I understand the damage that trauma causes the brain because I’ve experienced it firsthand. I am grateful to those who believe in and support me and I am ready to pay it forward by supporting other domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. Victim-blaming is never acceptable. I choose to believe and support survivors and I hope that by telling my story I am empowering others to speak out.

Creating

Creating

I always loved music and art when I was growing up. I played flute and guitar, I sang and acted in community theater. And I loved to draw. Unfortunately, I lost myself for years because my abuser was jealous.

But out of the tragedy, I realized I have been given a gift. My new spouse not only encourages my creativity but has been the catalyst for so much of it. I’ve written graphic short stories and poetry and I’ve drawn and learned to paint. Some of my work has even been published in literary magazines. I’ve also learned how to produce electronic music and I’ve been able to sing again. We have produced 7 albums so far. The first one was rough because we were on opposite coasts and the vocals consisted of me screaming into my phone in a bathroom. I was a hysterical, hot mess and you can hear it in my shrill voice. It’s not very good. But it cataloged my feelings so soon after the trauma.

I think we’ve gotten a little better over time. I’m certainly no Lady Gaga and there’s only so much mixing and production we can do with the equipment we have. But there are a few songs that are personal to me because they are about domestic violence and how it feels to be in an abusive relationship. I’m proud of these songs because I was able to express myself creatively which was cathartic for someone who never had a chance to nurture their creativity. Some of my favorites are She Doesn’t Know, Tinderbox, How Would You Feel and Again Begin.

But the song that I’m proudest of is But I Love You, which I wrote about my relationship with my abuser. He always said he would be with me forever and I believe he meant in death too.

The Bond

The Bond

I met her a few years ago. I had only been in Seattle for two weeks when she arrived at my door. We spent some awkward alone time chatting about mundane things and I didn’t think she liked me. At the time, I didn’t think anyone really liked me and I was fiercely protective of the shredded remnants of my heart.

She was so smart and talented and lovely and I just knew I’d never measure up to her or the other people in her life. Nevertheless, we embarked on a mutually cautious journey of getting to know each other. I wasn’t her mother, her sister or her aunt, but I hoped that someday I could be her friend and she’d be mine.

Over the past few years, our paths have continued to cross. I’ve spent time with her over the holidays in LA, here in Seattle when she visited for a couple of weeks and also on a trip to Paris. We’ve played music together, cooked together, walked, talked, shopped and laughed. And after a slow and steady process of getting to know each other, we began to develop a mutual sense of trust between us.

This morning, she texted me about a situation and I offered my opinion and advice. I never expected the conversation to take the turn that it did, which left me crying like a baby. I cry virtually every day ever since the trauma, but rarely tears of joy.

She told me “I always feel like I’m venting to you. I hope this isn’t too much of a one-sided relationship.”

I replied, “Actually if I can be honest, I love our friendship. I appreciate that you even want to hear my opinions.”

That’s when she said, “You are an empathy queen!”. She sent me a drawing that she made of figures sitting around a table with names over their heads. I was surprised to see that I was sitting next to her at the table. She said, “That’s my table. When I make big decisions, I usually consult these people.”

The tears flowed and I thanked her for having a place for me at her table. When I told her she was exceptional and that I admired her, she told me the feeling was mutual.

It may sound insignificant to most, but this is another step toward recovery and regrowth. I was sure I had failed life a few years ago. But it turns out I was just in the wrong life with the wrong people.

Peace

Peace

This blog has been a wonderful way of regurgitating all the pain I’ve swallowed. I caused pain too. I said a lot of hurtful things to people I loved and I’m sorry about that. I became a public hot mess on social media partly because I wanted to offend my family and partly because I was, in fact, a hot, traumatized, suicidal mess. I have no shame about anything I ever posted but I did offend and so I am sorry. I don’t get to decide if I hurt people any more than they get to decide if they hurt me.

But facts are facts. I am the domestic violence survivor and the crime victim. I am the one who experienced the abusive marriage and the only witness to the crimes. And I am the one who was alienated and blamed for the breakdown of my marriage and family after those crimes.

My memoir is just a detailed diary of every word texted or emailed between me, my abuser and members of my family. For me, it’s validation that I am not the evil, raging bitch everyone painted me as. It’s proof that I am resilient, adaptive, loving and honest.

I am very grateful to the many therapists, advocates and support group peers who allowed me to express my feelings of fear, grief, anger, and hope. I am also grateful to my employer who believes in me and my story and to the Jeanne Geiger Center and Detective Wile who helped save my life post-fire through their efforts on my behalf via the DVHRT.

Most importantly, I have been so very fortunate to have a partner that has been by my side every step of the way for over three years. Without the unconditional love and support of my spouse, I would most likely be homeless, or worse. It was my spouse who created the framework so that I could unpack the trauma churning inside my head and make some sense of it (I love you!).

The last step toward peace has been posting my latest blogs. Instead of publishing my memoir, I chose excerpts to illustrate the many layers of family dysfunction that we all experienced post-fire. By blogging my story in pieces, I’ve accomplished a sense of closure without airing all the dirty laundry. I have wanted and needed to talk about it for so long, but no one would allow it, except my brother Eddie. He and his family are the only ones who’ve let me talk, actually listened to what I had to say and even cried with me (I love you guys).

I am finally at peace almost five years after my abuser torched my life.

I’ll probably still blog once in a while about life going forward and of course about domestic violence. But I don’t need anyone from my past to make me feel whole anymore. I have let go and it feels so liberating!

Woof
Why Didn’t I Leave?

Why Didn’t I Leave?

Five months after I married my abuser, I was pregnant with my first child. Less than two years later, I was the mother of two. I was thrilled to be a mom. My kids were my world. They deserved to be loved and nurtured and I deserved their giggles and hugs. I was positive I’d raise confident, compassionate, loving people and we’d spend our lives connected by the inseparable mother-child bond I fantasized about.

I also clung to another fantasy. I believed my abuser would be as devoted to our kids as I was and that we’d shower them with affection together and be the family I’d always imagined. I was young and naive and I thought having children would bring us closer and that he’d finally be happy.

But my abuser’s temper didn’t change at all after we became parents. He seemed to grow more paranoid and stressed out after our kids were born and his violent outbursts frightened them. He also started to develop a pattern of putting them in harm’s way.

I’ll never forget standing over a boiling pot of soup with a 2-year-old clinging to my legs and an infant in my arms when my abuser went into a rage. My babies were screaming as he pushed me closer to the hot stove and yelled profanities at me. I remember carefully leading him out of the kitchen, babies in arms, as he raged at me.

Another time, he picked the kids up from daycare and got into a road rage fight on the way home. It was a dark, rainy night when another guy cut him off and they both pulled to the side of a busy road to confront each other. My 3-year-old daughter was terrified and managed to escape the confines of her car seat and get herself out of the car. She toddled precariously on the dark, wet road crying “don’t hurt my daddy!” as the confrontation escalated. Thankfully, the other guy saw her and quickly retreated to his car.

These are just a couple of examples of my abuser’s negligence and lack of responsibility when it came to his children’s safety and security. Instead of teaching my children about patience and kindness, he demonstrated increasing anger and hatefulness. They learned early on that their dad was a ticking time bomb, always ready to explode.

At this point, I’d been trapped in the relationship for years. I couldn’t just pack up and leave. My abuser had always threatened to off himself and maybe me if I left him. Maybe I was afraid that if I did try to leave he would hurt all of us. But this was my normal and I didn’t realize that I was being abused. I did think that if I placated him I could at least keep my children safe inside my home. Maybe I was blind, maybe I accepted the abuse or maybe I just felt trapped in a situation I thought I’d created for myself.

Whatever the reason, it was my job to protect my kids regardless of how their father treated me. It was my job to shield them from his temper and shield them I did. Almost every day, I carried on with my daily routine of walking on eggshells, counting the seconds until I could take a shower where I’d have the freedom to cry when no one was looking.

I remember struggling to appear happy at family events while I was fighting back tears because my abuser had terrorized me earlier in the day or sometimes even in the car on the way to a family gathering. I remember making excuses for him when he snapped at me in front of my family, sat outside sulking in the car during a party or dragged me out the door because he wanted to go home.

I’ve been asked, “Why didn’t you leave?”. I’ve been told, “If any man did that to me, I’d tell him to fuck off.” If I had done that, I’d probably be dead (and perhaps my children too).

Why don’t we leave? Here are a few reasons:
Fear: When a victim attempts to leave or threatens to leave, the abuser feels he is losing control and the violence escalates. Most domestic violence-related homicides occur after the victim leaves, attempts to leave or even threatens to leave. Victims live in fear of what will happen if they try to leave their abuser.

Isolation: Many victims, like me, are isolated from friends and family, so we feel like we have no one to turn to for help. Abuse is a process and if it’s done well, victims are left feeling alone and without options.

Emotional and Economic Dependence: We are afraid to be on our own because we have become dependent emotionally on our abusers who’ve convinced us that we are fucked without them. We have low self-esteem that’s been cultivated by our abusers over the years. And economically, especially if we have children, we feel like we can’t survive without our abusers. The fear of being homeless and unable to provide for our kids is frightening.

Guilt: Abusers have a knack for making us feel responsible for their happiness. This was a huge issue for me even after my abuser set my house on fire. He was severely burned and sought pity from me and my family. He expected me to return to him and care for him as if he hadn’t torched my home and killed my dog. And I struggled with guilty feelings for months.

These are some of the reasons why we stay (or even return). My biggest regret is that my children were raised in a household where they were taught that respect for their mother was nonexistent. They learned from the example set by their father that my happiness and well-being don’t matter. They’ve also learned that their violent dad is the victim and I am the monster.

But my biggest joy is that they are still alive.

Sister or Victim Blamer?

Sister or Victim Blamer?

“Do you want to talk about it?” She asked just after I received the news that I’d been banished from the wedding.

I replied “No”. I just wanted to be left alone. My husband had tried to kill me and when that failed he concocted a bullshit smear campaign and successfully ruined my family relationships.

I had lost my home, my possessions, my dog and my children because of my abuser. I was devastated. And I was terrified of my abuser who continued to stalk and harass me while he awaited trial for his crimes.

“I understand your not wanting to talk about things, but I am in agony and need to.” She said. “I cannot even wrap my head around the deterioration of your relationship with your kids. I do not know how you let this happen, but from where I sit, it has continued to look like you have gone to some other dimension created out of feeling victimized and misunderstood.”

She was blaming me. My husband torched my house while I was in bed and she was blaming me.

“You think that the only people who understand and support you are your online friends and that is so insulting. Were they the ones at the hospital in the middle of the night, or was that your brother? Did they rush to the hospital immediately to make sure you were okay or was that your mother and your brother? Did they rush to see you, with a bag of clothes in hand, on the day of the fire, or was that me? Did they open their home to you for as long as you needed, or was that your sister….and Mom?”

Why did she say this? I was eternally grateful to my family and I had thanked them repeatedly for what they’d done for me.

“If you can’t figure out who loves you anymore, then I am so sorry for you”, she said. “If you can only react in anger to everything, and continue to demonize everyone who is trying to help you, then I am sorry for you.”

Again, why was she saying these hurtful words to me? The only person I was angry with was my abuser.

She went on “Your lies have got to stop. Your dangerously sick relationship with John has got to stop. You two have embraced victimhood for too long and have become so narcissistic and self-absorbed and dishonest, that it is just crazy. I don’t know who you are anymore.”

She continued to lay guilt and shame on me. “I only know I miss my little sister and I, along with EVERYONE else is feeling sick over this entire mess. I hope you can find it within yourself to see beyond yourself and make things better.”

“The damage you and John have done to your children has been life-changing for them. They are seeing things much more clearly than you right now and their families support them 100%. I love you and I cry for you and for your family and for our family.”

She loved me? I sure as hell didn’t feel loved. If she loved me, she would have defended me not only after my abuser tried to burn me to death, but also when he and his flying monkeys demonized me in order to save his ass. If she loved me, she wouldn’t have claimed she didn’t know who I was anymore. She would have said “My sister isn’t okay. I need to find out why and I need to help her.”

I replied “Wow you have so many facts wrong. But thanks for sharing your opinion. Nice to know I’ve wasted my time talking to a therapist who has been giving me advice on what I need to do to feel better. Once more, I did NOT lie to you or anyone else about Twitter, and who the fuck are you all, the social media police?”

“I don’t remember EVER saying that the only people who support me are those people! I did say they have supported me a lot and even helped me get my apartment because I didn’t feel comfortable asking mutual friends of my abuser to do references!! WTF?”

I said “Who am I? I’m a wife who thought things were fine until my husband torched himself! I’m a mother who has been trying to fix relationships that were torched too. I’m going by advice a professional is giving me to get back on my feet! You have NO RIGHT to judge and make assumptions about my marriage. I’ve been looking in the mirror for months! I’ve also been trying to help John for months. I’ve done more than I should to try and help him! I’m not wasting another minute emailing. You want to talk, then call me. Otherwise, don’t waste my time. “

She replied “I would call but I can’t talk to you right now…all I would do is cry.”

Child Abuse and the Path to Teen Dating Violence

Child Abuse and the Path to Teen Dating Violence

I was born in Boston and grew up in a suburb just north of the city, the youngest girl in a family of 6 kids. My mom only wanted 3 kids, but she had 6. I was the only girl in the group of 3 unwanted pregnancies. Mom was frazzled and bitter and she took out her frustrations on me. She told me I was a mistake and she labeled me “the bad seed”.

Mom also instilled in me her resentment for having been born female. She was the oldest of 4, the only girl, and she bore the responsibility of caring for 3 little brothers. She wasn’t allowed to go to college because she was female, and she suffered in silence watching her brothers grow up to be doctors and MIT scholars. 

Mom was raped by her uncle when she was 12 years old. When she told her mother, she was punished and shamed and told never to speak of it again. So she swallowed her trauma which manifested in a nervous tic and major anxiety issues. As an adult, she was forced to have her rapist over for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. She was fucked up and bitter and full of rage because of it. Mom’s oppression and reaction to it were on display all my life, but I didn’t understand the enormity of it. 

I grew up thinking I was cursed to be born with the wrong genitals. Mom reinforced that fact by treating my brothers well, but in essence blaming me for being born. My older sisters, on the other hand, were nurtured and well-adjusted. I was constantly compared to them and left feeling inadequate. They were much older than me and were raised by the younger, more energetic version while I experienced the haggard, frustrated, angry mom who didn’t want 6 kids. Mom’s anger toward me made my childhood difficult. When she raged at me, I’d shut down and usually retreat to my bedroom. Mom scared me.

When I was 16, I met my abuser. He was aggressive about his interest in me and the love-bombing began. I liked him but he intimidated me. At 6’4”, he towered over me and his demeanor was overwhelming. I was definitely attracted to him, he was tall, muscular and extremely good looking. But I just wanted to be friends. My abuser followed me everywhere, in school, at play rehearsals, to parties, saying he’d never give up because he had to have me. I was flattered by the attention and I felt special. I remember thinking “wow, he really cares about me.”

After months of pressure, I agreed to date my abuser. He was triumphant about having “won” me like a prize. I wish at 16 years old that I could have recognized the red flags. But I was ignorant about toxic masculinity and I was in for a rude awakening.

In the first week of our relationship, my abuser told me he was going to marry me. He said “I used to watch you walk by my classroom and I knew I was going to marry the girl with the amazing tits”. No one had ever spoken to me in such an overtly sexual way and I felt very uncomfortable. 

From the get-go, my abuser made it very clear that I belonged to him. He was controlling and extremely jealous. He kept tabs on my whereabouts 24/7. He started beating on boys in my class if they showed the slightest interest in me. And he was always pissed off about something. He’d throw things, destroy things, get into brawls or scream profanities at anyone who set him off. And if I said anything about his behavior he’d turn his anger on me. He told me that he had a “redheaded temper” and that I shouldn’t piss him off. He also had a knack for twisting my words to make it seem that I was the aggressor and he was the victim and I believed him. I was no match for his tactics.

He was menacing and unreasonable and his anger frightened the shit out of me. But that was the way mom made me feel too. I accepted both of their toxic personalities as normal behavior and I assumed I deserved to be treated that way. So like I did with mom, I started to freeze and put up a wall of silence when my abuser verbally attacked. And this would make him angrier, so our fights continued to escalate.

It seemed whenever he gave me something, like a necklace for my birthday, he’d end up ripping it off my neck in a rage and destroying it. Other times, he would threaten to kill us both by driving us off a cliff or into a brick wall, anything to scare me into submission. My abuser would block my exit if I tried to leave. He kicked down doors, grabbed and shoved me. He had a huge chip on his shoulder, was always life’s number one victim and considered everyone a threat, especially boys who talked to me. 

One of my girlfriends labeled our fights “nuclear wars” because of the magnitude of my abuser’s destructive and violent outbursts. She warned me to be careful, but I told her everything was fine because he loved me.

As our relationship continued to evolve, my abuser’s jealousy and control became so menacing that I gave up all of my interests. I stopped participating in school and community theater. I stopped singing. I stopped playing guitar and flute and I stopped seeing my friends. I lived every day for my abuser, with my abuser and in fear of my abuser. There were times I tried to break up with him, but he’d threaten to kill himself and sometimes both of us if I went through with it. In spite of the enormous red flags, I was ignorant and I stayed. I felt safer with my abuser than trying to leave him.

My family also witnessed his temper and overall toxic behavior, but they never said a thing about the obvious red flags that were there, right under our big Italian noses. For years, we were all willfully ignorant about the abuse.

The more intense my relationship with my abuser became, the rockier my relationship grew with my mom. The tug-of-war between each of them for control over me became a constant source of stress. My abuser promised to love me forever while mom made it clear she couldn’t wait till I moved out of her house. Mom was verbally and emotionally abusive and wanted me out. He was verbally and emotionally abusive and promised to always love me. So just like my big sister, I married my high school sweetheart.

Years later, after my abuser set my home on fire, I started trauma therapy. This is when I began my education about coercive control and teen dating violence. This is when I realized I had spent my life in an abusive relationship. This is when I learned that I was a domestic violence survivor. My family still has a lot to learn about domestic violence and more specifically victim-blaming. Unfortunately, I believe they’re a lost cause.

But the domestic violence center where I work runs an extensive teen program to help educate kids in the community about healthy relationships. I’m very proud of the work my employer does and I’m thrilled to be directly involved in making positive changes for future generations. Love shouldn’t hurt.

If you’re a parent, talk to your teen about healthy relationships and ask for help if you’re unsure what to say. Support is always just a phone call away. I believe that in order to change the culture of intimate partner violence, we need to focus on educating our children.