“Vivian, don’t you remember me?” At least once a month I am approached in a store or restaurant by a woman whose face I do not remember immediately. She reminds me, “I was at the shelter in Laguna Beach in 1990, my name is….” And I remember, I remember her little girl hiding behind her mom. And I remember her story. Now she tells me a new story, of a new life free of violence and a daughter who is in college and doing well. And she thanks Human Options for saving and changing her life and her daughter’s life.
This time it was different. The speaker was not a shelter graduate, but the mother of a girl who went to high school with one of my daughters. And she was not telling a story of wonderful change. She was telling a story of worry and fear for her niece who was in a marriage of fear and intimidation. The aunt described the common factors we know well—isolation, threats, physical intimidation, insults, demeaning and shaming of the woman, and infrequent moments of promises to change followed by a return to the familiar pattern. The aunt did not know what to do to help the niece.
We talked for a long time. I encouraged her to speak to a counselor herself, to get help to deal with a situation which was breaking her heart. I also encouraged her to stay in contact with her niece, to be a supportive caring person who the niece could feel free to come to for help.
The aunt did seek counseling at Human Options and months later she helped the niece to call the hotline and come for counseling. Months later when I saw the aunt again she told me she had never believed it could happen in her family and how helpless she felt. One conversation, one call to our hotline led to a new life for her beloved niece.
It is hard to believe that domestic violence can strike in our own families, our neighborhoods. But we know that one out of four women is a victim of domestic violence and it is almost always hidden. Human Options offers hope and help. As a friend, family member or aunt you can be a link to hope and help. Check out our website. Call our hotline if you are concerned about a family member or friend. Be part of that path to hope and healing.