This is the sixth and final part in a series on victims of domestic violence who must continue to live with their abusers during the quarantine.
The refrain kept echoing in Sara’s mind, “Not your fault. Never your fault. You never deserve to be abused. You deserve to live in peace and safety in your own home. It’s a fundamental human right.”
Thank God for her domestic violence support group, for her sisters helping her break through all his programming, the brainwashing, the lies. Sara was taking her power back secretly, silently, day-by-day, step-by-step. There was that ember inside her that stubbornly refused to die. Instead, it was slowly rekindling, thanks to all she had learned from her advocates and the group, the support they’d all given her, the books they’d suggested, the vocabulary she had now. They were pillars inside her shoring her up, strengthening her core.
On the surface, everything looked the same. He must never know. The less he knew about the metamorphosis happening inside her, the safer she would be. Although her path to freedom had taken a serious detour, she could use this time to go inside herself, to pause, reflect, strategize, plan, while getting back in touch with her own inner voice, reassuring her that “this too shall pass.”
Through prayer, meditation and entries in her secret journal, Sara was keeping that inner voice alive, countering his gaslighting with her truth. She wasn’t fighting this alone anymore.
She had allies now, sister soldiers, an underground resistance movement comprised of survivors struggling to overcome the tyranny that had crept into their homes.
Their rallying cry fueled her own determination to stay the course, keep following that call to freedom. It kept echoing within her, lifting her up, cheering her on, telling her that in her heart she was already free. He had taken so much from her – but not everything. Not yet. Here was an invisible lifeline that could never be cut.
She kept repeating the mantras she had learned from her sisters: “No one ever deserves to be abused.” “Give the shame and blame back to the person it belongs to: the abuser, a small man, clearly, who must step on women and children to make himself feel taller.”
And one more, riffing on Thomas Paine: “Every abuser is a coward; for servile, slavish, self-interested fear is the foundation of abuse; and a man under such influence, though he may be cruel, never can be brave.”
The one who is truly brave is his partner, who must now defend herself every hour of every day against the very man who once vowed to protect her.
For those of you whose suffering has been compounded by being trapped 24/7 with your abuser, take heart, dear sisters, and stay strong. Know that where it matters most – in your mind, your heart, your spirit – you are already free. He is not the arbiter of your reality, thoughts, identity or worth. You are.
Look out the window, see the mourning doves soaring overhead, messengers from the outside world.
Let them inspire you, cheer you on and point the way to freedom, reminding you that one day, this too shall pass. One day, you too will join them and fly free.
Sara is a composite portrait of several survivors, with identifying details altered to preserve confidentiality.
Ruthven Darlene is founder and executive director of WomenSV, a Los Altos-based nonprofit that supports women suffering from involvement with abusive partners. WomenSV relies solely on donations to sustain services, which are in greater demand as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. To donate and for more information, call (833) 966-3678 or visit womensv.org.
Domestic Violence Resources
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY, or if unable to speak safely, go online or text LOVEIS to 22522; https://www.thehotline.org
Domestic Violence Agencies serving Santa Clara County
· YWCA’s Domestic Violence Support Network; 1-800-572-2782; https://ywca-sv.org; San Jose. Special area of focus on Hispanic survivors.
· WomenSV (Women of Silicon Valley): 1-833-966-3678; www.womensv.org; Los Altos. Special area of focus on women involved with powerful, sophisticated abusers.
· AACI (408) 975-2730; https://aaci.org/contact-page/; San Jose; special area of focus on Asian survivors.
· Community Solutions: 1-877-363-7238; https://www.communitysolutions.org; Morgan Hill/Gilroy area. Special area of focus on Hispanic survivors.
· Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence: 408-279-2962;
https://www.nextdoorsolutions.org. Special area of focus on Hispanic survivors.
· MAITRI: 1-888-862-4874; https://maitri.org. Special area of focus on S. Asian survivors.
Shalom Bayit: (866-742-5667); https://www.shalom-bayit.org; Berkeley. Special area of focus on Jewish survivors.
Domestic Violence Agency serving San Mateo County
· CORA: 1-800-300-1080; https://www.corasupport.org; San Mateo. Special area of focus on Hispanic community.
Other agencies to help with DV support and restraining order services:
· WOMAN, Inc. in San Francisco: Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at: (877) 384-3578. Also offering remote counseling and support services; http://www.womaninc.org
· Family Violence Law Center: Call 1-800-947-8301 for crisis intervention and support, 24 hours a day. Also offering legal services; http://fvlc.org
· Family Justice Center in Sunnyvale open Monday through Friday 9-5pm: (408) 749-0793
· Bay Area Legal Aid/BALA Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Survivor’s Line (1-888-330-1940) for survivors to receive advice and counsel if eligible for services; hours of operation Mon. & Thurs. 9:30 a.m. -3 p.m., Tues. & Wed. 9:30 a.m. -1 p.m.
· Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic/CROC (415-969-6711 in San Francisco)
· National Suicide Prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
· For general support services and information: call 2-1-1.
· For support with food, shelter, clothing: CSA (serving Mtn View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills).
· Call 650-968-0836. https://www.csacares.org/services/
· For sliding scale counseling for children, teens, adults: CHAC: call 650-965-2020; https://www.chacmv.org/clinic
· Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline: https://www.childhelp.org/hotline/ ; 1-800-4ACHILD or 1-800-422-4253
Texting for DV-related support when it’s not safe to call:
SafeChat at https://safechatsv.org was created by a partnership of local domestic violence agencies to provide online chat services seven days a week to survivors of gender-based violence in Santa Clara County. Hours:
●Monday through Wednesday from 9:30 am to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
●Thursday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.
●Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.