Those familiar with the subject know that domestic violence knows no bounds: black or white, rich or poor, U.S. citizen or recent immigrant, DV affects all aspects of society, including those we least expect. For many, Halle Berry’s personal crusade to end domestic violence and help victims might seem like another story of a wealthy celebrity trying to draw attention to a worthy cause. But Ms. Berry’s photo op smiles and luxurious dresses belie a secret she’s kept hidden for most of her life: as a girl she witnessed domestic violence first hand, on the part of her mother who was abused.
In a recent interview with CNN, Berry confessed that few people realize or even knew that she grew up in an abusive household. “Because that’s Halle Berry,” she says, whose roles in Bond films and psychological thrillers have made her an international superstar. “But before I’m Halle Berry, I’m little Halle, who was a little girl growing in this environment that damaged me in some ways. And I’ve spent my adult life trying to really heal from that.”
Part of that process of healing happens at Los Angeles’ Jenesse Center, a domestic violence shelter where Ms. Berry volunteers and often shows up, unannounced. While perhaps not as sexy or glamorous as the typical pursuits of up-and-coming starlets, Berry says that her work in DV is much more personal and meaningful, “I have a spot in my soul that understands the devastation that this causes a family and how hard it is to rebuild your self-esteem when you’ve suffered,” she says.
Agencies like Jenesse Center and us here at FVPC we also work hard to try and create an environment where women experiencing domestic violence can feel respected, heard, and empowered again. But in addition to arranging shelter for victims who have made the decision to leave, a great deal of work is done helping victims become empowered to MAKE such a decision on their own. Leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence and abuse. And for that and other reasons, not everyone is ready, able, or willing to leave their relationship. Some questions we often ask are here:
- How will she support herself, and her children (if she has any)?
- If her area doesn’t have a domestic violence shelter, where will she/they live?
- How can she keep her abuser from finding her?
- Who will take care of her children/get custody if she does leave?
- And if she isn’t ready/willing to leave yet, how can she protect herself in the here and now, while preparing for her future?
These are the questions that we at FVPC try to help women answer, in a safe, secure, and confidential environment that is free of judgment or pressure. For women in abusive relationships, just “wanting” to escape is not enough; actionable steps, careful planning, and precautionary measures for safety are all necessary for a victim of domestic violence to feel safe, secure, and hopeful for a healthier, happier future.
If you think that you or someone you know might be the victim of an abusive relationship, call or have a friend call our 24-hour domestic violence hotline at (919) 929-7122, or call toll-free at (866) 929-7122.