Domestic does not discriminate. The perpetrators don’t care who you are, even if you are a two time Olympic gold medalist.
That’s what Olympic champion and survivor of domestic violence, Ruthie Bolton, knows and she is set to tell Samoans today at the Ending Violence in Samoa (E.V.I.S.) Roundtable. The gathering at the F.A.O. Conference Room at Matautu is scheduled for 12pm.
Opened to members of the public, Bolton will use her experiences to reach out to others and raise awareness. Bolton’s message for domestic violence victims (who often feel they deserve what they receive) is to put someone else in your shoes.
“Think about someone you truly love: your child, or your niece, sister, mother,” she said. “What if they were going through that? If they were in that same chair, what would you say to them?”
Bolton is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, former W.N.B.A. basketball star and first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves.
According the The Fresno Bee, years of beatings from her ex-husband finally ended when she left him after he threatened to kill her.
Now she’s on a mission to help others get out of abusive relationships.
The following is what she told The Fresno Bee about domestic violence:
1. Try to understand
Bolton says people often have a hard time understanding why victims of domestic abuse don’t immediately leave their abusive relationship. For Bolton, guilt was a powerful factor keeping her with her husband. She felt like it was her fault, that she was failing at making him happy.
She felt confused about whether the right decision was to fight for her marriage or leave it. “I grew up in a Christian home: You’re obedient to your husband. Whatever he says goes. As a faithful woman, you’ve got to forgive, but when do you walk away?”
She didn’t want to be a quitter. “I was trying to prove to everyone that we were meant to be together, that he was my dream husband. Every time someone said, ‘It’s not going to work,’ I said, ‘Watch me.’ That’s what I did in my basketball career.”
She also didn’t want to have a failed marriage. “I didn’t want to be a statistic of divorce, I really didn’t.”
2. Be a friend
Don’t be angry with someone for not immediately leaving an abusive relationship, Bolton says, because that person already feels guilty, like they are letting down their abuser.
Bolton says one friend helped by encouraging her to seek professional help from a counselor, which she did, and by just listening. She said, “I love you, I’m here for you, I’m just a phone call away.”
Bolton wishes she’d told more people about the abuse, and that she had more support. “I wish they had come together as a team, as a group, and said, ‘I know what’s going on.’ … I think that would have helped.”
And, Bolton says, don’t just talk with a victim about the abuse.
“What things make you soar? Focus on those things. … Remind her of her greatness.”
3. Share information
Bolton wishes she had received information about domestic abuse before she divorced her husband of 10 years in 2002. “I had zero clue how unhealthy my situation was. If he didn’t hit me, I thought, ‘OK cool, my life is great.’ ”
Now she’s working to educate others as a motivational speaker and author. She puts a lot of emphasis on educating teenagers about healthy relationships. Now she is in one – Bolton has remarried and has two children.
“As women, we have to join forces and we have to stick together. We have to help our next generation so we can break the cycle.”