Gina Rebuilds After Domestic Violence
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence— also known as intimate partner violence— affects thousands of Tennesseans, both women and men of all colors and backgrounds. In this community story, we highlight one women’s journey of victory and hope.
There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships. When Gina relocated to Franklin with her husband and their eighteen-month-old daughter, she stayed because she didn’t have a choice. She was living in his hometown and often made excuses for his abusive and manipulative behavior. Gina relied on the Franklin Police Department to diffuse arguments that often turned physical. But, she never had her husband arrested. “I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be,” Gina says. She did know the repercussions would worsen if he went to jail. After several visits to her home, the police gave Gina a card for Bridges Domestic Violence Center so that she could seek help.
Bridges is a United Way partner agency serving women, men, and their children affected by domestic violence. Since 1998, Bridges has helped people make a safe transition to independent living through education, intervention, and case management.
Gina reached out to Bridges and joined their support group. For the first time, Gina was in a compassionate space with people who identified with her story. Victims of domestic violence face many complex challenges that go beyond immediate physical danger. Some victims face obstacles such as underemployment, chronic illness, limited affordable housing, and childcare—in addition to coercion, manipulation, and a lack of self-confidence. For other victims, the consequences of leaving the abusive relationship are deeply grim. According to the Violence Policy Center, Tennessee ranks fifth in the nation for the rate at which men kill women. For some victims, staying in the abusive relationship is a matter of life or death.
Gina needed reassurance that she could transition from her marriage to independent living. At Bridges, Gina began to understand the dynamics of power and control, and she learned about local court, housing, and financial resources that could support her transition. “Once I knew those tools were available, I was more comfortable making an exit,” Gina says. She used what she learned to empower herself and take her life in a different direction. After nine years and “going back” at least 7 times, Gina walked away from her abuser.
Bridges helped Gina with temporary shelter, and she sought individual counseling at the Refuge Center for Counseling. She also made a safety plan for herself and her daughter and obtained an order of protection from the court. A few months later, Gina was living independently and exploring her next steps. “I had always known I wanted to work with people,” Gina says. “I fell in love with doing the work that I saw being done at Bridges.” So, when Gina was offered a weekend job at Bridges, she jumped on the opportunity.
Today, Gina serves as Court Advocate for Bridges. In this role, she helps women and men break the cycle of abuse and live free of violence. She helps them navigate civil court, secure orders of protection, and locate financial resources. Gina also trains law enforcement on the dynamics of intimate partner violence.
The journey from abuse to advocacy taught Gina a few things about herself. “I was so dependent,” Gina says. But with support, self-awareness, and education, Gina learned how to redirect co-dependency in a healthy manner. “I also learned how strong I really was.”
In many ways, Gina’s story of survival is serendipitous. Before moving to Tennessee, Gina lived out West and had initially pursued a career in criminal justice. Through the years, however, she’d ventured into other fields such as retail, accounting, and insurance before returning to school to attain a bachelor’s degree in human services and finally land in the place she truly belongs. “My circumstance brought me to my purpose.”
If you or someone you love is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Next, contact Bridges Domestic Violence Center at 615-599-5777.
You can also visit 211.org or call 2-1-1 to speak with a specialist about community resources and services,
such as safe housing, health care, and childcare.