Last Sunday, I listened almost in tears as one courageous woman, Sherri, told a sun-drenched garden full of strangers a very personal story. Sherri had been violently raped in the early 70’s by a serial rapist and murderer. How she survived, I don’t know. This notorious monster had strangled and/or suffocated many other victims during that time period (He even resurfaced in the 80’s to kill and rape many more and wasn’t apprehended until 2009!)
Several years later, she met a man she finally felt safe with - one who promised to protect her from harm and they married in 1982. Although he made her believe he was her “protector,” he became verbally, as well as physically, abusive and in order to control her, lead her to believe that the rapist was still looking for her and without his protection, would find her and kill her. Eventually, she grew to fear her abusive husband as much as the rapist and lived in constant fear that one of them would kill her for the next five years.
Most women in abusive relationships believe that there is no way out, nowhere to go and no one to help them. Sherri told us what helped her finally understand her situation and gather the courage to get out was the lifeline given to her by Haven Hills. Haven Hills is a local, Los Angeles-based organization that provides a safe haven for the victims of domestic violence. I’ve written about how much I love this organization before (see here), but after hearing Sherri’s story, I’ve fallen in love all over again. And like most people in love, it’s all I want to talk about!
Domestic violence is more prevalent than we think. Did you know that 1 in 4 women have been, or will be, in an abusive relationship? Or that every day in the U.S. alone, three women are killed by abusive partners? Sometimes it’s not easy to see signs of an abusive relationship. In fact, many people have a hard time recognizing them- Do you?
- Jealousy- A jealous partner makes unwarranted accusations and keeps you isolated from friends and family.
- Controlling behavior- A controlling partner has a lock of family funds, decides if you work or not, decides how you dress and may even monitor your every move.
- Verbal Abuse- A verbally abusive partner uses constant criticism that degrades and makes you feel stupid, especially when it is done in front of others.
- Past battering- A partner who has battered previous partners will most likely batter again.
- Breaking or Striking objects- A partner breaks objects to terrorize you into submission, often carefully choosing objects that have special meaning to you.
- Threats of violence or suicide- Threats of violence are made to terrorize you into submission. A partner makes you afraid that he or she will hurt you, him/herself, your children, your pets, or all of the above, and uses that fear to maintain control.
- Physical or sexual assault- This most lethal sign could go on for years until you are either murdered or able to escape safely and permanently.
Any of these signs can point to trouble but so often women are so blinded by “love” that they just don’t see it coming. Other times, their abusers use their lack of self-esteem to make them believe they are unworthy of anything more.
Haven Hills not only supports these victims emotionally, but also houses them and their children in a 30-day confidential crisis center where they can begin the process of healing. When ready, they can begin stabilizing their lives and planning for the future with the help of Haven Two, an 18-month transitional housing and education program. Here, the staff helps victims of abuse establish credit, develop a budget, find a permanent place to live and develop a plan for employment, safety and self-sufficiency.
Sherri’s story has a happy ending. She now lives a productive, successful life and gratefully gives back to the organization that helped guide her out of the abyss. Our support will help more women like Sherri find the courage and resources they too need to find their way out of the darkness.
Join us as we lend our support to Haven Hills. During the months of June and July, 5% of the purchase price of every bag sold online will be donated to Haven Hills.
To find out more about domestic violence, Haven Hills or additional ways you can help please visit the website: https://www.havenhills.org/
To learn more about our mission to empower women and the organizations we support, please visit: https://www.hipstersforsisters.com/community