“MY FIRST EIGHT YEARS of married life were a horrible nightmare. Beatings like no one has ever seen,” began a domestic abuse survivor, standing at the podium in the Thier Conference Room. “They say life is a journey, and mine began when I walked into HAVEN. I learned about my husband, and knowledge gives you awareness. Awareness is a batterer’s worst nightmare.”
It was a morning of honest, powerful speeches at the Sept. 5 anniversary breakfast for HAVEN (Hospital’s Helping Abuse and Violence End Now). The group has provided counseling, advocacy, support groups and workshops to domestic abuse survivors at the MGH for 15 years. Elizabeth Speakman, LICSW, HAVEN’s director, introduced a new book created by the organization, “Journeys: Stories of Strength, Hope and Healing,” which includes poems, letters and narratives by both HAVEN staff and abuse survivors. Excerpts from “Journeys” were read aloud at the breakfast.
“My advocate, Sandra, met me when I was an inpatient here at MGH,” another survivor said during the event. “I was very reluctant to talk because I didn’t think I was going to be understood, and I felt like the abuse was my fault. When my advocate walked into the room ... she made me feel like I was not alone. If it wasn’t for HAVEN, I wouldn’t be here today.”
“This disease is a hidden disease. It’s a disease kept in secret,” said Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, DNP, FAAN, senior vice president for Patient Care and chief nurse. “It’s stories like these that will help people stop hiding. It is your stories which will encourage people to seek help.”
Another survivor read her narrative, “What HAVEN has Done for Me.” “The counselor with whom I met was more than amazing to me. She was supportive, educated, had resources, listened, didn’t judge me, was compassionate and allowed me to be in control of how our meetings would go ... I want to thank everyone at HAVEN for what they offer.”
Speakman thanked the HAVEN staff for their hard work, and then looked across the crowd of staff, supporters and survivors, who she acknowledged were courageous to publicly share their stories. “The comments today have been focused on HAVEN, but I want to thank the survivors. It’s you who are doing the work – the hard work. We just walk beside you.” Speakman paused. “I’m humbled.”