A person I meet: “So what do you do?”
Me: “Currently, I intern at a non-profit domestic violence agency”
That is usually how the conversation about my internship goes. With the exception of the few people who are genuinely intrigued, most people give me a look of despair as if my life is just sooooooo awful. (I love it actually *shrugs*)
Let’s face it. Domestic violence isn’t a pretty topic, so I understand why I get some of those reactions. If I could describe to you what working at the agency was like the easiest way would be to imagine living in a LifeTime Movie. Seriously, the things I read and the stories I hear from our clients are nothing that anyone would imagine to be real life. It is real life, and it is their life.
*graphic content in the next paragraph*
The worst of cases ended in the death of the victim and as a result, grandparents being forced to come to us to gain custody of the motherless children. Many other cases were just as horrific even though the victim survived. Can you imagine being lured to a trailer by your ex through the promise of a child support payment only to be attacked with a knife as you walk in the door, tied up for weeks, raped continuously, and living to tell the story? What about being stabbed over 50 times by your abuser, left to bleed out, and gathering the strength to drag your bloody body downstairs to get some sort of help?! Or how about being locked in a moving vehicle with your children and your abuser, going 95 miles an hour on a busy freeway, while the abuser is swerving, and threatening you with death all because you simply don’t want to continue the relationship? Just a few examples to put this all into perspective.
*graphic content over*
Guys, this has truly been an eye-opening experience, to say the least. If I had to pick one not-so-positive aspect, I would say that the only downfall for me was the constant exposure to such graphic content. It happens though, right? “It,” being the normalization of trauma after you have been exposed to it over and over. I found myself thinking things like, “oh that was just a slap,” when reading some of the less violent cases. I quickly had to lecture myself out of that type of thinking. I knew what was happening to me, and I had to remind myself that my overexposure doesn’t make anyone else’s situation less serious. In reality, the most violent cases started off with an abuser slapping the victim only for that behavior to progress into something much worse over the years. So, my advice to anyone interested in working with domestic violence victims would be to understand what you are getting into, don’t allow yourself to become desensitized to such things, and in the event that you do become desensitized have those honest conversations with yourself. Lastly, take care of yourself, mentally, and physically.
Hearing the stories of our clients gave me a heightened level scrutiny towards life and relationships especially. I am grateful for the experience in its entirety, and my hat continues to go off to victims who have survived and to abusers who have sought the help that they need! Will I continue to work with victims of domestic abuse in the future when I begin practicing law? Absolutely! Sometimes you experience things you can never turn your back on, and assisting victims of domestic violence is one of those things!