Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Whitney: A Domestic Violence Survivor's Story
October is Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence Awareness month, and this is Whitney’s story.
Whitney* was just 11 years old when she began experiencing violence at the hands of her brother. Her brother, John,* would often take his anger out on Whitney. Even though Whitney tried to tell her mother about the abuse, her mother downplayed the seriousness of the abuse and told her not to tell anyone or cause trouble.
Whitney became increasingly frightened of her brother, John, and did anything she could to avoid him. The abuse continued until she was in college, when she wound up in the student medical clinic after her brother tried to break her arm. There, she found a doctor who took the time to ask her what was really going on, as he did not believe her story that she fell. After years of abuse, Whitney opened up to an outsider about her abusive relationship with her brother.
Because of that one person taking the time to listen and believe, Whitney reported the abuse to the authorities. Legal action was taken against John, who to this day, still has a restraining order to stay away from his sister. When Whitney’s abuse became public, she got mixed reactions from her family. Some family members believed her story and came forward to admit they had been abused by John as well. Others refused to believe her story, and she has a strained relationship with them to this day.
Whitney also recognized that the abuse she experienced as a child led to destructive relationships as an adult, when she found herself married to an abusive man. The physician, who listened, gave her the courage to speak out and begin seeking treatment. After years of therapy, Whitney was able to speak up for herself and walk away from her abusive marriage.
Whitney’s story has a happy ending. She has now been employed with the Department of Veterans Affairs for three years, is happily engaged, and has been a speaker on Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence for the past twelve years. Whitney’s advice is to “Tell someone. Do not be silent. Do not turn a blind eye to someone who is suffering. Speak out even if your family does not believe you. Most importantly, keep asking for help until someone listens.”
VA has initiated a new program to address Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence. The mission is to implement a comprehensive, person centered, recovery -oriented, assistance program for Veterans, their families, caregivers as well as VA employees who have experienced Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or intimate partner violence, know that there is help available. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or talk to your VA provider for help.
*Names have been changed