In this inaugural episode of the "An Ounce of Prevention" podcast (launched during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October 2021) we'll hear the perspective at the core of understanding domestic violence – the survivor’s.
This episode features an interview between the Family Services Manager at Women In Distress and a survivor who, along with her child, has received services with us at WID.
ABOUT THE PODCAST
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." This show, brought to you by the Education & Prevention team at Women In Distress in Broward County, FL is building awareness to end domestic violence. Each episode, we’ll be breaking down different aspects of the work – we’ll talk to survivors, advocates, community members, and others to explore the things that are happening right now and the work that still needs to be done.
ABOUT WOMEN IN DISTRESS
Women In Distress is the only state-certified, nationally accredited domestic violence center serving Broward County, Florida. Our mission is "To stop domestic abuse for everyone through intervention, education, and advocacy." https://www.womenindistress.org/
Emily (Host, Women In Distress) 0:07
You've heard the saying, right? "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." That's what this show is all about. Building awareness to end domestic violence.
And yes, we do believe it's possible to have a violence-free future. And we think that after listening and learning, you will, too.
Each episode, we'll be breaking down different aspects of the work. We'll talk to survivors, advocates, community members, and others to explore the things that are happening right now, and the work that still needs to be done.
From the Women In Distress Education & Prevention team, I'm Emily Janas. And today on the podcast, and ounce of courage is worth a pound of resilience. Thanks for joining us, stay tuned.
Emmy (Guest, survivor) 0:48
I personally didn't know evil like that existed. I had never experienced anything like that. It's definitely been a challenge, and a struggle, but every day we are grateful.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we're kicking it off with the perspective at the core of understanding domestic violence - the survivor's. What is a survivor's experience really like, living through a domestic violence relationship? While we can never fully know what it's like from the outside, it's important to listen and to try to understand so that we can support survivors and advocate for safety and non-violence.
Women In Distress' Family Services Manager, Maxwell Couture, talked to a survivor who, along with her daughter, has recently received services with us at Women In Distress. Please note that we have changed names for confidentiality and safety.
Let's listen in to their conversation...
Maxwell (Interviewer, Women In Distress) 1:58
So first, I would just like to say thank you so much for taking the time, meeting with us, and sharing your story. And being here and having the courage to share your experiences with everyone else out there who might be living in a similar situation so they can hear from your perspective everything that you went through. So let's go ahead and let's dive right into it.
Tell us a little about your story, your experiences, your background, and how you got involved with Women In Distress.
I was in a court proceeding and I was court-ordered by a forensic psychologist to go to Women In Distress with my young child, in case we had to be relocated for our safety.
And can you tell us a little about the domestic violence that you had experienced with your child.
Pretty horrific...Interestingly enough this person came recommended by several friends of mine, who were hospital workers, who are educated, career-oriented. He had done some work in their home, as a handyman. They said, "Oh, he's the nicest guy. He'll do anything for you." So he had his mask on. So that, that would have never led me to not trust, being that he was recommended by my best friend.
Then, one thing led to another, years go by. I end up in a domestic violent relationship with a child. And, I personally didn't know evil like that existed. I had never experienced anything like that before. Thought that I was smart enough, I would never find myself in that situation, and that I could get away if I wanted to.
You said something interesting: "he had his mask on." And I know we live in the world of COVID-19. You're not talking about a face covering, right?
Correct, not a face covering. Just hiding his true personality.
And we know that this is not too uncommon for individuals who are identified or alleged abusers or perpetrators in domestic violence, is that they have this ability to show you one side, and then show their true self later on. And that was the experience that you had?
Most definitely. There were definite signs that I should have paid attention to that were... Looking back at different stories now they were key and if I would have paid attention to them I would have seen that he had violent tendencies. I just thought he wouldn't be aggressive towards me.
And so when you got involved with Women In Distress, what were some of the services that you found to be the most helpful for you? And did you also enroll your young child in any services as well?
Yes, the groups were tremendously helpful. The one that was for the children - where they do the art.
Our play therapy group.
Even though we know some folks walk through our doors and they do get the services, we know the challenges don't just end simply because they come to Women In Distress. So could you tell us a little about some of the challenges that you still face, even today, even though you have had services with Women In Distress?
Oh yes. Even though it has been - I was in court for two years, so I had to see him in court even though he wasn't allowed near me. I had to see him once a month in the courtroom, which was difficult because he was his own lawyer. And he was actually the one that grilled me on the stand. I got questioned by my abuser, in the courtroom. So once the very final date came that I didn't have to no longer physically see him, each day's a struggle.
I would have flashbacks of the kind of car that he drove. I would think it was him. I would think I was being followed. I still have severe PTSD symptoms. It can take just the color of a shirt, a pair of shoes... and I go into panic mode. I think it's him. Until I realize that it's not him.
The symptoms have gotten better, but it's still severe. So it's still just struggling, waiting for the day I don't think about him, or he doesn't pop into my head.
And have you experienced any challenges with the family? With your young child? Or have some of those issues been resolved?
Always improving, every day. Thanks to Women In Distress - can't say enough about Women In Distress. They basically saved our lives, with their services. My daughter receives counseling through Women In Distress. We both have severe PTSD. And we have symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder, so it's definitely been a challenge, and a struggle. But everyday, we are grateful. And everyday, we are hopeful, that we're going to have a better day tomorrow.
What you really are describing, too, is a situation where you had gone through a really horrific experience. And although there are still lingering effects of that trauma, you have your head held high, and you're hopeful about the future. And, a lot of this is really benefiting your ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other and persevering.
So when you hear the word "resilience", what does that mean to you? What does that bring up for you when you hear that word?
Well I gave it a lot of thought, and one day in particular comes to mind when we were still with our abuser. And I went to the beach one day, and I just couldn't stop crying. And I sat on the bench and I must've cried for two hours, just feeling very hopeless. And I said, "baby steps." I said, "You're going to get up, and you're gonna put one foot in front of the other." It doesn't matter if it takes ten minutes to take the next step, that's what I'm going to do. And I cried the entire time, whatever distance I made. (Could have been a half a mile for all I remember.) I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown that day. But, that's what resilience means to me - is that that day, I chose to take those steps. And I knew that somehow, I was going to get out of that situation.
Even though you'd felt that you were at your edge of existence, of your breaking point - you still found the courage, and the strength, and the resilience to continue putting one foot in front of the other. That is very inspiring to hear.
And what would you say to the community out there - what do you wish the community knew about domestic violence, based on your experiences?
Based on my experiences, and what I'm watching in the news right now is how easily the law enforcement tends to flip the story. How they are easily manipulated with gaslighting by the abuser: on how "the victim is really the abuser and they are the victim." I've experienced that multiple times, especially in the courtroom, by the judge.
So, what are some things that you're excited about right now, in your life?
Well, excited that we are away from him, that we have our restraining order, and that we are rebuilding our life. She is advancing in her school years, as well as I am trying to advance in my school years, working on my bachelor's degree.
That's amazing. I just want to say thank you so much for, you know, sitting with us today and sharing your stories and your experience. I know it had to take a lot of courage to go through and relive your story.
In closing, is there any other comments that you'd like to make for anyone out there listening to us today?
Just keep looking for the future, and, like I said, Women In Distress has saved our lives, and given us hope for the future.
Well thank you so much today. It was an absolute pleasure talking to you. And I hope things continue to get better for you and your family on this journey that you're having.
They will - thank you so much.
Thank you for listening. This podcast was brought to you by the passionate Education & Prevention team at Women In Distress, a non-profit certified domestic violence center in beautiful Broward County, Florida.
Special thanks today to our courageous survivor for sharing her story, and to Maxwell Couture for providing this interview.
Stay in touch for more episodes and perspectives. Until next time, stay well, stay safe, and remember, violence is preventable!
For everyone out there, please know that there is help if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence.
To talk to someone and get help, contact your local domestic violence hotline. If you're in Broward County, you can contact Women In Distress. Our Crisis Hotline is 954-761-1133.
You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline wherever you are, at 1-800-799-SAFE. That's 1-800-799-7233.