By Annie Brewster
At 44, Karin had a successful career and three nearly-grown children. Then, in 2004, she began a relationship that at first felt dreamy but slowly deteriorated. Eventually, Karin found herself in a position she never imagined: as the victim of domestic violence. Initially, her partner seemed lovely. He was a respected member of her community, well known for his dedication to volunteer work and he was amazingly attentive and romantic. Over time, though, the relationship changed. It was a gradual progression spanning four years, starting with emotional and psychological abuse, and eventually escalating to physical abuse.
Here, Karin bravely shares her story of surviving domestic violence.
It’s a narrative that illustrates how insidious this process can be, and how difficult it is to get out of such relationships. As a survivor, Karin has struggled with her own shame and the guilt she feels for exposing her children to this situation. Today, after a lot of hard work and self-reflection, Karin feels stronger than ever. “I was determined to come out of this kicking,” she said. “And I have.” She has a great job and volunteers for a domestic violence prevention organization; her grown children are doing well and she is newly married. Karin’s story is a reminder that this could happen to any of us, and underscores the importance of trusting your own instinct about what feels right and what feels wrong in a relationship.
Domestic violence, defined by the United States Department of Justice “as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner” permeates our culture. It is estimated that at least 1 in 4 women in the United states will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and while both men and women can be targeted, the victim is female 85-95% of the time. Domestic violence occurs across all races, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientations and religions. Abuse, based on fear and intimidation, can be physical, emotional, psychological, economic, and/or sexual.
On a societal level, the costs of domestic violence are tremendous. Health related costs alone are estimated to exceed $5.8 billion annually. As in Karin’s case, domestic violence typically escalates over time. Homicide is often the end result. It is believed that 33% of all female murder victims are killed by in intimate partner. For the most part, these homicides are predictable and preventable. By educating ourselves about the issue, we can all become a part of the solution.
Most importantly, Karin wants everyone to know that resources are available. If you have any concerns, seek help.
For information, services and help for yourself or someone you care about:
The Domestic Violence Services Network, Inc. www.dvsn.org 1-888-399-6111
1-877-785-2020 is a 24-hour, free and confidential multi-lingual domestic violence hotline in Massachusetts
To find the domestic violence program nearest you outside of Massachusetts, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233).
To learn more about domestic violence and sexual assault, visit
To find programs that help people who abuse/control their partners, visit http://www.janedoe.org/know/know_resources.htm.
(Dr. Annie Brewster is a Boston internist who became interested in storytelling as a way to promote healing among patients. You can hear more of her stories here, here and here, as part of our Listening To Patients series.)