Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a hidden epidemic that affects all of us. While IPV may include physical violence, it includes many forms of devastating abuse such as physiological and economic abuse, and social isolation. Emotional abuse can leave long-lasting hidden scars.
Below are personal stories of faculty, staff, and students at UCSF who bravely shared stories of their surviving IPV and other forms of abuse.
Role in UCSF: Attending physician at SFGH.
Strong women aren't supposed to be domestic violence victims. I guess I never thought of myself as a "victim." But I was in, and I stayed in, an abusive relationship for over eleven years. High school sweethearts, the abuse started the summer after we finished high school. That summer I had to have surgery, and he became insanely jealous and uncontrollably angry that I took my first post-op walk through the hospital with a teacher who came to visit me, instead of saving that first walk for him. He cussed me out in the halls of the hospital, and blocked my way so I couldn't return to my room.
At that point I still had enough sense to see it for the huge red flag that it was. His behavior was scary and crazy, and I broke up with him immediately. But bigger scarier changes were coming in my life. I was headed out of state to start college at Yale, and I didn't know anyone there. I was lonely and he was sorry, so before I knew it, I'd forgiven him and taken him back. We maintained a long-distance relationship for the next five years. There were, of course, hints at his uncontrollable jealousy and rage, but nothing ever got out of hand during that time.
After five years apart, we moved in together and for the next four years his abusive behavior returned and gradually escalated. It started with just verbal abuse: any jealousy or insecurity would send him into a fit of screaming, cussing and name calling. There was nothing I could say to him to stop it, so I would lock myself in the bathroom to get away as he screamed through the door, calling me every foul name he could think of. I would sit on the bathroom floor, my back against the door, plugging my ears trying not to hear it. I knew he didn't mean what he said. He was insecure, I rationalized, and he felt threatened by my success. The more he acted out, the more he needed my support, I told myself. Over the years the escalation snuck up on me. He kicked the bathroom door in, hitting me in the head with the door. He chased me down the block when I tried to walk away. Once he ripped my nightgown off of me so I couldn't leave the house, leaving me crying naked on the floor. Another day he became angry while we were driving in the car. I wanted to get out of the car to walk away, so he started running red lights, keeping me captive to his name-calling. One day I did manage to get out of the car, and he pursued me down the street, yelling obscenities as I cried and walked away. A stranger stopped and asked me if I wanted him to call the police. I said no.
I was too ashamed to ask for help. He wasn't my captor, shame was. To admit to anyone that I had let him treat me that way for so long was more than I could handle. I lied to people about our relationship, telling everyone how wonderful he was. I created an elaborate lie that I told myself and told others about us. I pretended we were perfect, and tried at all costs to maintain that illusion. I pushed people away, alienating people who had previously been close friends. I forgot how to be honest with people about my faults, my fears, my frailty.
One day my boss confronted me: "What's this I hear about your boyfriend changing his name?" he asked me (my boyfriend had recently told everyone to stop calling him by his first name and started going by his middle name. I had made a joke of it, telling people at work as if it were a normal funny thing for a person to do). "I've seen that before," my boss continued, "and it's not a good sign." My perfect facade shattered, I broke down and confessed everything. It was the first time I had admitted to anyone what was going on. That night I went home and told him he had to leave. My parents helped me get him out and I changed the locks. He's been out of my life since then, and I began the journey to heal myself.
In the months and years that followed, I have struggled to understand what happened. Why did I stay for so long? How did I lose sight of how wrong it was to allow someone to treat me like that? For me, I have healed a great deal by making two commitments: 1) a commitment to pursue complete honesty. I have seen how damaging and toxic shame can be, and I refuse to be ashamed of myself for being an imperfect human any more. I commit to confessing my problems and failures to my friends, family, and even to strangers, because confession kills my shame, makes me stronger, and probably helps someone else. 2) a commitment never again to tolerate any bullying, intimidation, or abuse in my life. Sadly, medicine can be an abusive career, full of bullying. Particularly during training, residents and students are expected to take the bullying without complaint as they ascend the hierarchy. This was particularly difficult for me during residency. Because I stood up for myself, for my patients, and for colleagues who were being bullied, I was often found myself in trouble for not knowing my place. But I argue that I do know my place, much better than I did before. I am a human on this planet, worthy of respect, entitled to stand up for myself, and committed to sharing my story with honesty and without shame. Strong women aren't supposed to be domestic violence victims. I am a strong woman, and I was a domestic violence victim.
Role in UCSF: MS-2
It was Columbus Day weekend of my senior year of college, and I had just returned from a weekend trip to Miami with some locals around my college neighborhood. I returned to my dorm room, ready to unpack and get ready for my job the following morning--that semester, I was working for the city and had stopped taking classes. I had not seen or spoken to my roommate over the entire weekend, and I really had to focus on preparing for the next day. In fact, for most of the semester, I was heavily involved with this new job and hanging out off campus. This may have put me out of touch with my roommate, to whom I was never terribly close. I did, however, maintain strong relationships with an ex-girlfriend and another friend in college through this time--and, to this day, these are the only two people I have voluntarily told this story to.
After unpacking, I decided to take a shower before getting to work. As I was in the shower, my roommate forcefully entered the bathroom naked and attempted to get into the shower with me. I tried to prevent his entry, but he was a foot taller and had at least fifty pounds on me. Instead, I slipped by him into the small hallway of our dorm room. He pursued and fondled me in the hallway before I was able to push him down and make it to my bedroom. I closed the door (no locks) and rushed to put on clothing. He entered my room, still naked, and started to pace in front of my door, the only exit to my room. At that point, I wasn't sure if this was going to escalate.
I tried talking my way past him and was eventually successful. I approached the student wellness representative in my dorm and she was able to direct my roommate to leave the dorm. I didn't see him after that. I filed charges against him and the university asked him to leave school for a year, finding that he was guilty of sexual assault and harassment at the end of their lengthy investigation.
Role in UCSF: I am a Professor of Clin X.
I have been on faculty for almost 18 years and the experience I described is as fresh in my mind as the day it happened.
When I was in college, I had a boyfriend who was a very loving man but was a monster "only when he drinks"...at least that was what I told myself. How could this caring and reasonable man turn into a violent stranger all because of a few drinks?
I stayed with him because of how he treated me when he didn't drink, until one night that I will never forget. I wanted to go home and was sitting on the couch and he proceeded to violently abuse me to the point where he punched me in the stomach, slapped me, slammed my head on the coffee table, broke furniture and I had to run outside to my car. Before I could get to my car, he jumped on me and I fell to the ground screaming and crying. I had several broken bones and it was a neighbor who warned of calling the police, which made him stop hitting me (although he still held me down). I managed to get away and ran to my car, locked the doors and left in a state of shock.
I never spoke to him ever again. He came by my house and my parents told him that if he ever came within 5 feet of me, that they would call the police. That moment of feeling afraid, helpless and confused will never leave me.
One thing I know for sure, I will NEVER stay in a relationship of abuse (physical, emotional or verbal) ever again. There is no excuse for abuse of any kind.
Role in UCSF: Patient who loves Children
So I was asked out numerous times by this guy and when I did accept he would make and excuse. So this went on for a year. One night he called and caught me when I was down. Then kept wanting to only call me for sex. Well I knew but he didn't....THAT IS SEXUAL HARRASSMENT!
I live in apt where there are a lot of college students their stories of being drugged and trying to get out of where they had found themselves, but where too scared to tell anyone. THAT IS ABUSE
Victims always get struck more than once so REPORT THE CRIME. It will reinforce YOURSELF ESTEEM and STOP VIOLENCE!!!!