Years ago, I decided to walk away from a corporate career of over 20 years to dedicate my life to a cause that impassions me. Not because I believe in it or because I wanted to find meaning beyond the life and career I had built, but because I come from four generations of mothers and daughters that suffered and survived over 60 years of domestic violence.
I am often asked how it’s possible for domestic violence to perpetuate in one family for four generations. It took me a long time to understand this question, and even longer to answer it. It’s possible because of one word: silence.
My grandmother didn’t talk to my mother about it. My mother didn’t talk to me about it. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t talk to my daughter about it—not until I received a chilling phone call in the wee hours of the night that broke not only my silence, but my heart.
My daughter had been beaten and strangled by her boyfriend while my six-month old granddaughter, Promise lay on the bed bedside her.
Silence prevailed in my family—and it prevails in many families and communities simply because we are ashamed to talk about something like domestic violence unless there is a controversy or tragedy. Silence should not just be broken when we hear the story about a famous athlete, celebrity or another woman’s life that was taken at the hands of her partner.
Domestic violence is one of the most serious public health crises of our time. Nearly 50 million women, men and children that are exposed to domestic violence each year in the U.S. alone. 1 in 3 women will experience rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. More than three women are murdered every single day.
My daughter survived the second time this person had tried to kill her. But it’s still disheartening that we didn’t understand the effect silence would have on my family for generations to come. Promise’s story not only forced me to find my voice, but a vision. I founded Saving Promise—a national domestic violence prevention organization that will ignite a call to action to shift the conversation from intervention to prevention.
But no one organization can solve this problem alone. It requires cross-sector collaborations; evidence-based prevention strategies and policies; greater public awareness and education; and visionaries, leaders and people like you to stand with us on this vitally important issue. We have an opportunity to help protect our loved ones and prevent this epidemic that costs our global economy trillions of dollars a year in lost productivity, healthcare and law enforcement.
I’m sharing my story this Monday, October 24 at 12:30 PM EST as part of “The Domestic Violence Crisis: Mobilizing the Public and Private Sectors,” a live webcast jointly presented by The Forum at the Harvard Chan School and The Huffington Post. You can join us by watching online at hsph.me/domesticviolence.
I do not take it lightly when I say that I have dedicated my life to saving Promise and the countless Promises and families that are affected by this global public health crisis. Therefore, from my heart to yours, I ask you to join us and see how you can be a part of the promise for change.