Finding her voice: Domestic violence survivor speaks up about her abuse — in her home and courtroom

Editor's note: In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, this article detailing an individual's personal abuse uses a pseudonym so not to jeopardize the survivor's safety. While she provided full details of her abuse, it has been condensed s...

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Editor’s note : In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, this article detailing an individual’s personal abuse uses a pseudonym so not to jeopardize the survivor’s safety. While she provided full details of her abuse, it has been condensed so not to break her anonymity.


WORTHINGTON - Years since her abusive relationship and navigating the criminal justice system, one domestic assault survivor is refusing to be silenced. She’s hopeful for reform on how survivors are treated by law enforcement, the court system and even lawmakers.  

A few years ago, Jenny began seeing a man she thought - at first - had attractive enough qualities. Things were going great, until they weren’t.

After a relatively nice evening together with friends, her abuser laid his hands on her for the first time and took her cell phone, keys and shoes.  


“It just never stopped,” she said. “It just felt like forever … and that was the beginning of it.”

The abuse persisted. Jenny knew she didn’t deserve to be in a relationship where she was beaten, only to wake up to a new kind of romantic apology.

She figured she had three options: speak up and feel shamed (how could she let something like this happen to her?); leave and fear ending up in a body bag; or stay. None seemed too appealing.

“How do you tell people why you’ve stayed?” she asked. “You feel foolish, ashamed and stupid.”

So she stayed quiet for months, until eventually the abuse was brought to authorities’ attention - although it wasn’t initially her idea.

There she underwent question after question asking her why she didn’t report it sooner, why she didn’t take photos of her bruises.

Why didn’t she report it the first time? “I’d been drinking, too, so would officers have taken me seriously?” was the thought process going through her mind back then.

A court-ordered protection order was eventually put in place, but that didn’t provide immediate relief.


“I wouldn’t even let my kids go play outside alone,” she said.

She changed her lifestyle, including jobs and numerous homes.  

“But that didn’t matter, he always found me,” she said.

Her abuser was eventually taken into custody, where he’d racked up additional criminal charges beyond domestic assault - ones that, in the eyes of Minnesota state law, are more serious with more significant consequences.

As Jenny sees it, the state prosecutor assigned to her case focused on getting a successful conviction on those more serious charges. While that’s not unusual practice - and Jenny agrees with the effort to get a successful conviction on those charges - she still feels it’s a system that diminished what happened to her, and lessens what happens to other domestic violence survivors.

“What the system told me - what the cops told me, what the court told me - was that what happened to me didn’t matter,” she said. “The only reason (prosecutors) were able to stack these charges against him was because of the warrant for domestic abuse. His initial charges with domestic violence should have been served separately (rather than concurrently). Laws need to change.”

Her abuser was locked behind bars, but she knew that her newfound sense of security was only temporary. She said she’s since rescinded any belief that he’ll ever let her live a life of peace, void of further threats.

After what she’s navigated thus far, she said if she were able to go back and do it all over again, she wouldn’t report the abuse.


“The day I told the cops, I signed my own death warrant,” she said about the action that resulted in adding fuel to her abuser’s fire and what happened thereafter.

“This system re-victimizes you. They have no sensitivity.”

Jenny said one thing that desperately needs to change is how some law enforcement officers approach a victim of domestic violence.

“You can’t treat somebody who reports like a statistic - it’s just another woman who’s mad that her man hit her, he’ll say sorry tomorrow and it’ll be (fine),” she said. “You have to assume they’re all done and it’s your job to protect them, but they don’t do that.”

Jenny has found some positive outcomes by forming new relationships. She has counsel from the Southwest Crisis Center - which she called her saving grace - and the empowerment to speak up and advocate for others who have undergone similar injustice.

Sometimes, Jenny said, to survive domestic violence, you have to find a reason behind it.

“Why did I get beat? Why did this happen to me?” she said, teary-eyed. “If me speaking out helps one person, then I guess what I went through mattered.”

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