Culture TEDx

6 brave personal stories of domestic abuse

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

Leslie Morgan Steiner thought that she’d found true love in her early 20s. Instead, she found herself married to a man who repeatedly pointed a gun at her head and threatened to kill her.

In today’s brave talk, given at TEDxRainier, Steiner tells the story of how she — a Harvard-educated magazine editor turned businesswoman — fell into an abusive relationship. She seeks to answer the question people always ask about women who are being abused: Why does she stay?

Steiner calls the phenomenon “crazy love.” Like many other women and men experience each year, her relationship started with adoration, moved on to isolation, and culminated in extreme manipulation — and violence.

“As it turns out, I’m a very typical domestic abuse victim … Domestic violence happens to everyone. All races, all religions, all income and education levels,” says Steiner. “Why did I stay? The answer is easy. I didn’t know he was abusing me. Even though he held those loaded guns to my head, pushed me downstairs, threatened to kill our dog, pulled the key out of the car ignition as I drove down the highway, poured coffee grinds on my head as I dressed for a job interview, I never once thought of myself as a battered wife. Instead, I was a very strong woman in love with a deeply troubled man and I was the only person on earth who could help him face his demons.”

To hear Steiner’s terrifying story — and how she finally got out by going public and talking to everyone she could about what was happening behind closed doors — listen to this powerful talk. And below, five more speakers brave enough to share their personal experiences and let others know they are not alone.

Theresa Flores: Find a voice with soap
Theresa Flores was your average girl from the Michigan suburbs. And through a simple crush on a classmate, was manipulated into something very dark — human trafficking. In this talk from TEDxColumbus 2011, she recalls how she became stuck in a cycle of abuse by men much older than her. And she shares how, years late, when returning to a motel where she had been abused, she had an idea — putting an 800 number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline on the bars of soap in the bathroom. She now gives this soap to motels for free in areas where trafficking is common, in hopes that girls like her will find it in the bathroom and call.

Jackson Katz: Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue
Jackson Katz is baffled by the notion that sexual violence is a women’s issue. After all, it’s men who tend to be the perpetrators. In this impassioned talk, Katz asks men to combat abuse and sexual assault by challenging the social norms that lead to it. For Katz, ending domestic violence begins in the locker room and around the poker table, with men stepping up to say, “Hey, I don’t like that kind of talk” when they hear women being demeaned. It’s the peer culture that needs to change, he says.

Javier Espinoza: Turning pain into power
Javier Espinoza parents expressed nothing but tenderness and love to him. But in their dealings with each other, they fought terribly — and his father often beat his mother. In this talk from TEDxOrangeCoastWomen, Espinoza shares just how angry he felt at his father. And how, eventually, he found a way to channel his emotions into a program called “In a Box,” which provides women and kids in domestic violence shelters with the little things that they need.

Pamela Taylor: Creating a safe space for the empowerment of women
Pamela Taylor is known as the co-founder of Dress for Success, the nonprofit which helps disadvantaged women build the skills they need to get jobs. In this talk, she shares why this is her passion — because she was abused for years herself. In this talk from TEDxSanAntonio, she shares how she was attacked by her husband, often in public, and felt so disheartened that no one came to her aid.

Tony Porter: A call to men
Growing up, Tony Porter says that he got message loud and clear: that men are in charge — women are not — and that anger is the only emotion it’s okay to express. At TEDWomen, Porter calls this “twisted,” because how could it not lead to the disrespect, mistreatment and abuse of women? In this talk, Porter asks men to get out of this “man box” and boldly act in ways counter to what they’ve been taught.

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