June 11, 2021

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Mother’s story reminds us domestic violence is never OK

David Bethuram

Everyone knows the expression “history repeats itself.” I met a young mother who shared her story and how she repeated the same life situations that she wanted so much to leave.

Yara looked at her life with much disappointment as she was in an abusive relationship, with a little girl of her own—just like her mother had been. While her mother’s story ended with her untimely death, Yara found the courage to break this cycle of violence, foster care and poverty for herself and for her daughters. Now safe with her daughters in their own home, she says, “I have a message for people, and a sense of purpose.”

Yara and her mother lived in Florida for many years. After witnessing her mother’s many abusive relationships and her death, Yara was put in the foster care system at age 7.

“My father was never in the picture,” she added.

As she became a young adult in 2013, Yara found herself alone, with a little girl of her own to care for. She reached out to her maternal grandmother, who dropped her off at a Catholic Charities agency.

Making several attempts to rekindle relationships with her biological father and the rest of her mother’s family, she realized for certain that she was, in fact, alone. She shared that she felt “defeated,” and that she was most upset that she had repeated her mother’s life: homeless, abusive relationships, no family to count on, hopelessness, dreamless.

Now, her life has changed.

“I never dreamed. I feel like I can do anything now,” she said.

Yara has enrolled in a community college and has been on the dean’s list every semester. She has spearheaded a club for survivors of domestic abuse, which is specifically geared for those who have gone through the foster care system and have suffered abuse. She now lives in a quiet suburb, where her beautiful daughters are enrolled in school.

Her final message for me and all of us is about her little girls. She explains that she was frustrated by her lack of knowledge and resources and not being aware that she was, indeed, strong enough to make life everything she had wanted it to be.

“We’re here to make our children’s lives better than our own, here to make a difference for the next generation, and to teach them the lessons we’ve had to learn the hard way,” Yara said. “It’s amazing to be given the opportunity to have my story told.”

Domestic violence is never OK.

It’s a pattern of controlling behaviors, including physical, sexual and psychological attacks that one adult intimate partner commits toward another.

Domestic violence happens in all communities to women and men of every race, ethnicity, class, age, ability or disability, education level and religion.

Are you in an abusive relationship or know someone who is? Here are four things to keep in mind.

  • Get medical treatment if you are hurt. If you are injured after an attack of domestic violence, get medical treatment as soon as possible.
  • Once you recognize the abuse, know you are not to blame. As statistics indicate, you are not alone and the abuse is not your fault. There is help if you are a victim and you must protect yourself and your kids from the violence.
  • You have to think about the effect domestic violence is having on your children. Kids growing up in an abusive home accept it as a fact of life and think violence at home is normal.
  • Tell someone trustworthy about it. Telling someone else about it is a way of getting help. If you have been isolated from most family and friends, confide in someone you can trust, someone whom you do have contact with. Telling someone is a way of breaking out of suffering in silence. And in emergency cases, it could mean contact with someone who could one day save your life.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at dbethuram@archindy.org.)

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