October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month

I generally write posts about fitness and my fitness experiences. However, October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month and I thought I’d share my story. I am a survivor of an abusive relationship, it started as verbal and emotional abuse and over time progressed to full blown physical abuse. All the signs and red flags were there throughout but I had no self-esteem and was unable to pull myself out of it. This is true of most people who are abused. It’s so easy to judge and think they should get the hell out but it’s not always that simple because the abuser cuts you off from family & friends and slowly chips away at your self-esteem. Fortunately, after a very violent and humiliating altercation which left me with a broken nose, chipped tooth, torn ligaments in my neck, and bruises all over my body I realized that if he could do this much damage, what’s next? Could I survive another beating? Did I want to stay with such a monster? The answer to all of those questions was a resounding “NO”. So, I finally got the courage to get out of the terribly unhealthy relationship I was in and put my life back together. Healing my body was easy compared to healing my heart and mind but I did it. And although it was the worst time in my life, I learned so much about myself, who my real friends were, and that I was a hell of a lot stronger than I ever imagined. Now, 6 years later I can look back knowing that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

With all that said, besides fitness, I am extremely passionate about animals and protecting others against abuse. I happily donate whatever I can to organizations that help victims of domestic violence and am extremely proud of the American Humane Association, it is the only national organization dedicated to protecting both children and animals. They are a non-profit membership organization. I recently received an e-mail that really touched my heart and I felt compelled to share it with as many people as I could. Although, this is a sad story, it is one with a happy ending!

One Abuser, Two Victims
When 9-year-old Beth* was sexually abused by her stepfather, she told the prosecuting attorney that someone else knew about it — but that he couldn’t talk. She was referring to her beloved cat, Oreo.

Beth explained that Oreo would bravely lie outside her door at night and hiss whenever her attacker appeared. In trying to protect her, the loyal black and white cat also became another victim of violence; Beth’s stepfather would always brutally kick Oreo away from the door.

Beth’s revelation gave the prosecutor an idea. She decided to have Oreo examined by a veterinarian. The results were chilling. Sure enough, poor Oreo had sustained injuries consistent with being physically abused.

When the prosecutor submitted the veterinarian’s report to the jury as evidence showing a pattern of violence in the home, Beth’s allegations gained credibility. In a way, Oreo was able to testify, convincing the jury that the traumatized little girl had been telling the truth.

Beth’s stepfather was convicted and received a long prison sentence. Meanwhile, Beth and Oreo were finally able to experience what every child and animal deserves: a safe home.

Help Empower Victims Like Beth and Oreo
The prosecutor in Beth’s case was Allie Phillips, who now works for American Humane as vice president of our Public Policy Office. She and our staff regularly conduct trainings for attorneys, judges, veterinarians, social workers, domestic-violence counselors and other social services providers on what American Humane calls The Link® between violence to people and violence to animals, increasing awareness of the powerful role it can play in unmasking and preventing abuse.

It’s a vital message — one that Allie and our Link team are uniquely qualified to spread on behalf of abuse victims everywhere. But she can’t do it alone.

Please help Allie and our team continue to educate others about The Link and stop the cycle of violence affecting innocent people and animals alike. Donate today!
*This is a true story. However, the child’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

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If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you should be aware of resources in your community that are available to help your situation. Knowing what to do and where to turn can mean a world of difference. Here are some in the LA area and a national hotline.

To report incidents of domestic violence or to request additional information:
National Domestic Violence Hotline:  (800) 799-SAFE
Domestic Violence Hotline:  (800) 978-3600
1736 Family Crisis Center 24-hour hotline:  (213) 745-6434
Venice Family Clinic:  (310) 392-8636

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