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“In my quest to save my daughter, I found myself. I know that other women can too.”
For thirty-one years, Jeanne Mahoney endured a life of abuse. At the age of fifty, she had spent more than half of her life with a man who told her over and over that she was worthless, unfit to raise her own children, and that she would never be able to survive on her own. She listened. Time and time again, she would try to leave, knowing that deep inside she had the potential to break the cycle of violence. However, like so many abusers, Jeanne’s husband knew what to do and say to draw her back. He isolated her from her family, made her financially dependent, and every time she tried to stand on her own, he would knock her right back down.
Jeanne reached her breaking point on Mother’s Day 1995. During the holiday that is meant to be spent celebrating the hard work and selflessness that mother’s show, Jeanne’s thirteen-year-old daughter tried to commit suicide. Jeanne had had enough. She was able to take the hits, kicks, and punches from her husband but she was not about to let it ruin her daughter. She remembers, “I could not allow my abusive marriage to steal her life and her potential. I had to save her.” Jeanne took her six children to the courtroom and it was there she saw a flyer from Doorways for Women and Families. Jeanne never looked back.
Jeanne was able to receive the help and support she needed from her new family at Doorways. That stepping-stone was a major turning point in her life. “I made friends of my very own in the group. We laughed and cried together. We were taught how to make a safety plan and to recognize the signs of an abusive personality. Most importantly, we learned that it was not our fault. We were victims. My abuser had taken away my power. But slowly, I was taking it back. I even started believing in myself.” Jeanne’s children found an advertisement for the ROSE Fund and before she knew it, Jeanne was on a plan sponsored by the Hynes Foundation ready to turn her life around.
In 1996, Jeanne won the ROSE Award. Her spirit and dedication through years of hardship proved that Jeanne was a special woman. She took her six children out of a dangerous situation and they have grown to be successful, blossoming adults. Jeanne has pursued her interest in biking, triathlons, and most importantly being a mother and grandmother. Jeanne continues to give back to other women who are struggling to find the answers that Jeanne so desperately sought years ago. She is now a board member of Doorways for Women and Families. Jeanne is now a strong, confident woman enjoying life. “I am so proud of myself and my children, but I will never forget how much abuse hurts. That’s why I spend time encouraging women to find their power. I want to be their wake up call.”
A little over a year ago, newspapers across the country flashed pictures of her battered face. Shocked fans were outraged as morning after morning the headlines retold the story of Chris Brown physically attacking his then-girlfriend Rihanna. No one saw it coming; the young up-and-coming artists seemed to have a life of which most people could only dream. Now months later, another famous face has taken the spot light. Mel Gibson’s furious rants, racial comments, and allegations of physical violence against Oksana Grigorieva have become national news.
Statistically, these cases happen far more often than people are aware. In the United States alone, four to five million women will suffer from an abusive relationship each year. Along with this staggering number, domestic violence is said to be underreported 60 – 95%. Big time celebrities caught in a scandal often shed light on an issue that is grossly ignored. People are disgusted by the tapes of Mel Gibson, and shocked by Brown’s actions. Yet women across the country have to deal with their own Gibsons and Browns on a daily bases. According to a Harvard study, one in five high school girls in Massachusetts public schools have been hit, kicked, or punched. When will their stories be headline news?
“My friend was in a car with her boyfriend. They got in an argument and she tried to get out of the car. He grabbed her and hit her and held her in the car.” This is a quote from a high school student in Massachusetts, after being interviewed about dating violence in her high school. Her story scarily resembles Rihanna’s story. We know that domestic violence and dating violence span across the socioeconomic boundaries and can happen to almost anyone. So many times, people read the news articles, hear the stories, and yet, still think to themselves: not in my town, not here. The fact is that these girls are in your background, not just in inner cities or in untouchable Hollywood.
What happened to both Rihanna and Oksana is just as tragic as when it happens to average women all over the country. As we have seen, having celebrity status does not exclude one from the world of domestic violence. These stories are always complicated for foundation such as the ROSE Fund. While no woman deserves to endure any form of abuse, the issue finally becomes front-page material, where it should stay until there is no more news to report.
Dear Rose Fund Supporters and Investors,
My name is Meghan Cawley, I’m a junior at Boston College studying English, and this summer I’m working as an intern at The ROSE Fund. I wanted to share my perspective on my ROSE Fund experience, as well as a great story of a women’s courageous and successful fight for freedom and independence.
My Perspective–I had read the big stories in the news, followed the Rihanna and Chris Brown scandal and was shocked and appalled when I heard the devastating story about the death of the girl from UVA . Domestic violence: it was a word floating somewhere in the back of my mind, occasionally coming to the forefront when the Boston Globe flashed a headline across its front page. Four weeks ago, everything changed. I began my internship at the ROSE Fund where already I have learned a lot. One third of all emergency room visits for women between the ages of 18 – 44 are a direct and immediate result of domestic violence; one in five girls in MA public schools have been hit, kicked, or punched by a dating partner. I learned of all of these staggering statistics wondering just one thing: how could I have not known this? There is no way this happens in my town, not in my neighborhood.
While my internship deals with many aspects of the ROSE Fund, I am currently focusing on communications and outreach. I spend much of my time on the phone talking with the women who have had the courage to get away from their abuser and, based on your support, have gone on to receive free reconstructive surgery from the ROSE Fund. Right away, all of my former assumptions about domestic violence were shattered. These women could have been anyone from my area; they could live right down the street. These aren’t weak women, rather women who, after their lives have been devastated, have the incredible strength to break both the silence and the powerful cycle of violence. Many of them go far beyond that, helping to advocate and fight for the freedom of other women. Their stories have humbled me and inspired me . Nothing I could write could ever be as powerful as hearing these women speak for themselves. So when asked to share a brief story about a ROSE recipient that had shown tremendous courage in a fight for her freedom, and the freedom of others, I had many stories to chose from. But I felt that one woman’s story was particularly fitting. Paula Lucas is a true model of hope and inspiration, someone who not only turned her own life around, but has been tireless in her fight for the freedom and independence of domestically abused and oppressed women all over the world.
A story about fighting for independence and freedom
Every summer, people fire up their grills, break out the fruit salad, and lather up in 50 SPF to celebrate our country’s freedom. The real meaning of the Fourth of July lies somewhere underneath the red, white, and blue bathing suits and the family cookouts. It is a day to celebrate the opportunity and independence that was granted centuries ago.
For years, however, Paula Lucas was not able to partake in these celebrations, and was not able to see the joy in her three sons’ faces as the sky lit up with fireworks. For a number of years Paula Lucas was living in the United Arab Emirates as a prisoner in her own home to her abusive husband and a male dominated judicial system. Even after her husband drove into a wall going 80 mph as he was hitting Paula, she was defenseless when he checked her out of the hospital against the doctor’s orders.
Paula needed a miracle. By chance, Paula’s husband was detained in Germany for three weeks after some missing paperwork forced him to stay away from his home. Paula seized this opportunity by reaching out to her family in the United States, who believed that Paula was living a privileged life with her wealthy husband. Waking her children up in the middle of the night, Paula was able to escape with her three boys and make it to NYC and then Oregon to live with her sister. After years of custody battles, restraining orders, and divorce hearings, Paula was finally able to experience the independence a strong, confident woman deserves.
In 2003, Paula was honored with the ROSE Award because of her dedication to breaking the silence and the cycle of domestic violence for herself, her boys, and subsequently the many other women she had advocated for. Your support for the ROSE Fund enabled Paula to further her work and mission. With the money Paula received from the ROSE Award, she was able to launch a non-profit company called America Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center (www.866uswomen.org). Her organization, with a 24/7 international hotline, is dedicated to helping other American women trapped in domestic situations abroad find both the assistance and the strength to leave. The money that Paula received from the ROSE Fund over seven years ago has continued to expand and touch the lives of many women. Since its inception, Paula and her organization have assisted hundreds of women in their fight for freedom in over 175 countries! Her amazing efforts have enabled a great number of women to fully understand, appreciate and celebrate the true meaning of the 4th of July celebration this Sunday.
Friends commonly ask me if, as part of my ROSE internship, I have a difficult time hearing the horrible stories of domestic violence. It never gets easier. Every woman I have talked to that has been hit, punched, stabbed, or even shot by her abuser is as difficult to hear as the first story. However, their stories have inspired me and taught me so much. I have learned about the strength of the human spirit, the power of hope and that modest investments in the lives of women in need can pay significant dividends for years to come. Paula Lucas and hundreds of other women just like her have had the strength to break the cycle and fight for their freedom and independence. Every day I have the privilege to hear these great stories, the stories of the women who have made it through the worst. It is because of these stories that I feel so lucky to be a part of the ROSE Fund’s mission, and that the July 4th holiday will forever have a deeper meaning for me.
Thank you so much for your continued support, hopefully my perspective and Paula’s story gives you a sense of the impact that you’re contributions are having on these women’s lives. Have a happy and peaceful Fourth of July celebration!
ROSE Fund Communications Intern
Boston College 2011