I started my co-op/internship with The R.O.S.E. Fund this spring. As a part of my co-op, I visited schools for the ‘report card’ program, attended Jane Doe’s ‘ White Ribbon Day’ and other such events. I visited a local high school where a group called TADA (Teens Against Dating Violence) requested R.O.S.E recipients Ruth and Crusita to talk to the students about how they broke out their domestic violence relationships.

Ruth took to the stage first. At a glance Ruth comes across as a very attractive intelligent woman. It was hard for me to believe that someone as smart and strong as her had to go through something so painful. She did not deserve it. No one does. She was in an abusive relationship and had to struggle a lot to get out it, all at the tender age of 15! She spoke about how her abuser constantly convinced her that he was sorry for his previous actions and she believed him because she loved him and thought he would change. Although Ruth has no physical marks to remind her of the horror she lived, it changed her life. Today she works with an organization as an advocate to help other women overcome domestic violent relationships.

When she was done, she introduced Crusita and at once I could see everything Ruth spoke of, but unfortunately this time the physical signs of abuse were right in front of me. Crusita suffered severe disfigurement when her ex boyfriend threw battery acids at her. She had to flee her country to save her life!  She has had more than 20 surgeries thanks to the ROSE Fund and she could not thank the ROSE Fund enough. When she came up to talk she was determined to spread the awareness and was brave enough to take her jacket off to show us the scars she has to live with today. She was not shy, scared or embarrassed. She told us how it was necessary to break out of a violent relationship before it’s too late to do anything. There were many of us who were brought to tears. I have seen pictures of Crusita from before the abuse and it’s shocking to know someone can harm such a beautiful and lively young woman. Today Crusita spends her time spreading awareness about domestic violence when she is not with her new husband and two kids.

After the talk I got to speak personally to both Ruth and Crusita. They are both so friendly and so strong. Several students stayed back to talk a little more to both.  From hearing Ruth and Crusita’s stories, the students learned how to identify the signs of an abusive relationship and be cautious and aware of domestic violence.

Throughout my co-op internship here, I have learned so much and become so aware of the real world in which we live.  It is so important to spread awareness about domestic violence, and learn about the cycle of power and control.  I have heard of, read about and met individuals with incredible stories of their struggles to break out of abusive relationships and build new lives for themselves.