By: Jennifer Pasquale, Prevention Educator
On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked our country and the twin towers came tumbling down. At almost that same time, a terrorist disguised as my daughter’s boyfriend/fiancé, began attacking her sense of security and our family’s towers of strength and peace came crashing down. Even after twenty years in full time ministry, numerous encounters of helping families navigate difficulties; this attack was so unexpected and unprepared for, that everyone in our family was in need of safe refuge, either emotionally, mentally, or physically.
Our bright, beautiful, multi-lingual, honors student, college graduate daughter was having her every fiber of being attacked and assaulted. After months of abuse, isolation and torment still difficult to articulate, our daughter escaped, flew home and engaged the help of a victims’ advocate to start the process of insulating her safety. That victim’s advocate helped us acquire a personal protection order; connected us to HAVEN’s counseling program; got my daughter a phone through Verizon’s partnership; and the process of rebuilding her life and our family began.
In an effort to give back for the indescribable value of help HAVEN had given to our family, I started volunteering as a community educator to help people understand and identify domestic violence and work to prevent others from experiencing such trauma. During that awesome introduction into the world of prevention education regarding violence against women, I realized that out of our pain, my purpose and passion was being reborn.
I purposed to make a specific investment into the lives of people I never met and families I would never come to know. The passion to ignite a flame so bright, it would illuminate the dark shadows of power and control and expose the tactics of those who abuse and sexually assault the very people they profess to love. I purposed that our pain would not be something that drove us deeper into the shadows, but it would be a catalyst for change in my community.
Through the ongoing continuing education and opportunities for community engagement my full time work at HAVEN affords me, I am able to make a difference in the lives of every level of the socioecological model.
It’s really amazing that by speaking up to disrespectful language and jokes that devalue other human beings, I can influence attitudes on an individual basis. I am making a difference in interpersonal relationships and behavior when I use Facebook and family gatherings to promote respect and loving interaction, and when I invite my friends to events that support the whole community.
Through my work at HAVEN, Oakland County’s Center for the prevention and treatment of domestic violence and my ministry work with faith-based institutions, I am able to affect change on organizational levels, encouraging those who serve in these institutions to develop policies and protocols for the protection and nurturing of survivors and the accountability of abusers.
Through my work on the Oakland County Coordinating Council against Domestic Violence, I am able to build relationships with police departments, medical communities, houses of worship and organizations of education, reminding all of us that TOGETHER, we can make a difference in making our community a safe and respectful place.
And because of the value of all of the experiences, I have become a political activist, writing congressmen and congresswomen, calling senators and working with judiciary personnel to instill the necessary urgency for all of us to quit looking away when we see any form of oppression or abuse happening around us and to do the work necessary to use our laws to make survivors safe and free and to hold abusers accountable to change their belief system that they are somehow “entitled to control.”
Why do I do the work of violence against women Prevention Education? Because we can no longer be silent. Silence and isolation are common weapons in the terrorists’ arsenal and I will no longer stand idly by and watch other families’ towers of wholeness be assaulted. I must do this work, not only to prevent current pain, but to promote a future where every single human being is treated with respect and value. Domestic violence prevention; together, we remind our communities that RESPECT and HUMAN DIGNITY are the foundational rights of all humanity! Victory over violence!