Your Voice Matters
By Ruchi Mukherjee
“I got married and quickly became pregnant. Since I was over 40 I was advised to be on bed rest. My husband got very angry. He would scream at me a lot. Called me a bi*ch, a who*e, a sl*t, and my son and older daughter would hear that. One day he pulled my hair and pushed me around the bathroom yelling ‘you weigh more than me now’, and then it became quite the routine,” says Stephanie Von Stein, a domestic violence victim in Houston at a Crime Stoppers event last week.
Did you know that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime? Every October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) allows us to bring to light an issue that affects the community in a staggering way. The most important thing is awareness. Most of the time people are not even aware about domestic violence and that it is not ok for our loved one whether parents or husband to abuse us. A free Safe Community Seminar was held on October 1, 2016 as experts discussed domestic violence issues with speakers from the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, Harris County District Attorney’s Office and Houston Police Department’s Special Victims Division.
What made the afternoon so special and unique was the personal story of this local survivor. Stephanie is not any regular girl. She is an accomplished professional, holding a high power job with about 300 employees under her, yet she fell victim to domestic violence, not because she was weak or at fault, but that she simply loved and trusted someone. “We suffer and get hit and abused by the husband not because we are stupid or dumb. It’s because we are still in love with that person we had met and there is that hope that maybe one day things will change or the person will change and become better,” says Alma Gonzales, Crisis Counselor Special Victims Division HPD. Alma informed about some horrendous domestic violent cases. She also informed how important it was to recognize the pattern and notice the little red flags. Speaking at the seminar Amy Smith, Deputy Director Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, said that it is easy to judge a victim and question why he or she is not leaving the abuser. “I suggest, listen to their story and be there for them,” says Smith.
Speaking to the crowd, Stephanie stood tall, firm and sure, yet I could see the tears and pain she was hiding. It is not easy to speak about being abused, but I was proud to stand behind this courageous lady who spoke about her scars, because it was not her fault, it was not her mistake that her husband hit her. She did not do anything wrong. In most cultures women are suppressed with statements like “It must be your fault. Why do you make him angry. Why did you start an argument etc etc.” But the point is, does he hit his mother or his colleague or his boss? Well the answer is NO. “One thing I realized over time, no matter how much money you have or don’t have, no matter how powerful your job is, it is your voice that you have and it is important to use it and tell your story,” says Stephanie. For Stein, it was that moment when she saw her little son only two years old watch his mother being yelled at, and attacked. “It was then that I felt a sense of responsibility towards my children. I had to protect them,” explains Stephanie. She realized that her staying silent and hiding behind closed doors could make the matters worse. That’s when she deduced enough is enough and made reports.
“At times in doubt, I over and over again listen to recordings of my husband screaming at me and calling me names. It keeps me strong and reminds me about my responsibility as a mother and as a woman to be the voice and stand up and encourage and help women in domestic violence. It is not an easy journey, but remember, your voice matters,” says Stephanie Von Stein with belief.
What is most important to know is that emotional and verbal abuse is just as painful as the physical. In many cultures women feel that domestic violence is only when there is a physical attack but that is not true. Emotional and verbal abuse is as bad as the physical. Take a stand and get help.
For more information on Crime Stoppers please visit www.crime-stoppers.org.