Please reload

Recent Interviews

In honor of her mother, Inga Coffee: Ashley Jones

1/16
Please reload

Featured Interviews

Dr. CarolAnn Peterson

Why are you participating in Unconventional Apology Project?

 

“…it’s my way of making sure that victims who can’t speak for themselves have a voice.”

 

Because it’s my way of making sure that victims who can’t speak for themselves have a voice. And also because one of my former students is also a part of this project and when she said, “Would you do it?” My immediate response was, “Yes!”

 

 

 

Have you ever had the opportunity to discuss the story you are sharing with us today?

 

“Actually the very first time was telling it to a State Senate Committee and realizing that our elected officials aren’t anymore educated than the general public.”

 

Yes. Actually the very first time was telling it to a State Senate Committee and realizing that our elected officials aren’t anymore educated than the general public. And therefore felt the obligation to go out there and change laws and change the world if I could.

 

 

 

What domestic abuse experience do you want to share?

 

“...it was one of the first times though, we had had a fight and he wanted to have sexual intercourse and I said, 'No.' And I was raped.”

 

That basically any relationship can be violent and we need to make sure that we know all the warning signs even for ourselves.

 

In my situation, he came from old-line money in Los Angeles. His father was very well known in the legal field. He worked for the largest law firm at the time, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. I was from a small town and basically got swept off my feet and thought, “Oh, the Cinderella story does exist!” But, it was probably three years before the first physical assault actually happened. It was all the other subtle signs that no one told me about. Handling all of the bills, handling all of the money. Basically telling me not to worry about things…that he would take care of them. And it was one of the first times though, we had had a fight and he wanted to have sexual intercourse and I said, “No.” And I was raped. And it was very confusing. Because my whole thought was, “Gee that was strange.” I thought that it was something that he must have been not having a good day, so I just sort of ignored it until it repeated itself over and over again. And it took 2 years for me to get out. But I was fortunate. I had a very supportive mother and friends who said, “When you’re ready to leave, we’re here.”

 

And I left while he was on a ski trip for four days with the soon to be new person in his life [laughs] while he was still in a relationship with me. Which is why I tell people, don’t think that every abuser or every man is an abuser, and that they have more than one victim. So I literally left and within his getting back in 24 hours, he found me. Because I left no note, he didn’t know where I was…so I thought. And I was doing my undergraduate work and he called the school and said, “I’m filing divorce papers. Can you give me her address?” And they did. And it took probably another 3 years even being away from him for him to totally leave me alone. This was the mid ‘70s, we had no shelters, we had no hotlines. I think there were all of two shelters in Los Angeles County. But, we had to know where they were to be able to find them.  So I was getting out on my own and I thought, “I don’t want anybody to ever have to go through that.”

 

 

 

What no longer lingers in your heart and mind about your experience? What has opened up for you as a result?

 

“What opened up is literally the ability to change lives. If I had changed anything in my life, I don’t know I’d be here at USC teaching...and teaching a course that I got to create on domestic violence. And educating social workers to go out and help others.”

 

What no longer lingers is that I don’t have to forgive the abuser. It’s not my job. I always figure forgiveness belongs to the person who created the offense. They’re the ones who have to either make amends with the individual and/or with God or their higher power.

 

What opened up is literally the ability to change lives. If I had changed anything in my life, I don’t know I’d be here at USC teaching...and teaching a course that I got to create on domestic violence. And educating social workers to go out and help others. Because I tell my students they’re the next generation. Everything in my head I want them to have. And if I hadn’t had this experience, I don’t know that this is where I’d today. So the experience itself and telling my story the very first time opened up all kinds of doors I could never have imagined.

 

 

 

What is your definition of love and how does that love feel?

 

“Love is something that comes with knowing an individual good, bad or indifferent, but also loving yourself enough to know that you don’t have to accept things that are abusive.”

 

I think love is something that you have to be willing to give and to receive. Love is something that comes with knowing an individual good, bad or indifferent, but also loving yourself enough to know that you don’t have to accept things that are abusive. That the bad times happen in any relationship, but it shouldn’t include abuse. And that love is the ability to share your life…past, present and future. Whether it’s family, friends or a significant other. Simply for the fact that these are people that are willing to be with you and share with you.

 

 

 

What does leaving a Trail of Existence mean to you?

 

“It really is leaving the world better than I found it [cries but continues to speak] that victims don’t have to stay…that they know that we’re out there supporting them.”

 

I think we’d all like to think that we have a legacy. And that we all have some sort of immortality. For me it’s really a question of, I don’t care if my name sits on a building. I care…did I leave the world better [tears]…ok this one’s getting hard [laughs]. It really is leaving the world better than I found it [cries but continues to speak] that victims don’t have to stay…that they know that we’re out there supporting them. And that if they need us, as I told friends and family…if there were no shelters because funding gets cut, I’ll go back to the old days and people can sleep on my floor and my sofa. I just don’t want others to go through what others of us out in the ‘70s and before that had to go through. So if I can leave the world better than I found, then I’ve left an existence. 

 

 

 

Do you have any parting thoughts?*

 

“All they need to do is send up a flare, let us know where they are and we’ll come rescue them [big smile]. Although, as I tell my students, “You don’t get to rescue victims.” [Laughs]. But, we’ll be there. We’ll have a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on. And not to ever think that they’re alone.”

 

No victim, be they male, or female or child, has to endure anything that is uncomfortable, is bad…whether it’s sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence…to know that there are those of us out there who have been through it…we understand it and we’re there to give a helping hand. And that they absolutely at any given time, can know that there are resources that the rest of us helped create. I mean to be on the front end of the domestic violence movement is something I will ALWAYS remember. And that even if they’re in a very remote area, know that somebody’s out there. All they need to do is send up a flare, let us know where they are and we’ll come rescue them [big smile]. Although, as I tell my students, “You don’t get to rescue victims.” [Laughs]. But, we’ll be there. We’ll have a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on. And not to ever think that they’re alone.

 

 

 

*After the interview ended, Dr. Peterson recalled an exercise she does with her students at USC to explain how abusers lure their victims to stay in the relationship:

 

"You’re waiting to win the million dollars. That’s what abusers do. You put in just enough money and get nothing back. When you’re about ready to leave, abusers go, “Ok, here’s $1.50!” And you go, “Oh! Ok!” Now you’re back in the nice wrapped box that has crap inside."

 

I’ll ask my students, “How many of you have ever been to Vegas? How many of you have ever played slot machines?” And I’ll say, “So, you put in a quarter…‘cause I’m cheap [room erupts with laughter] and nothing happens. You put in a second quarter…nothing happens. You put in a third, you get back $1.50. So what are you gonna do with the $1.50? You’re gonna put it back in the machine. And why? You’re waiting to win the million dollars. That’s what abusers do. You put in just enough money and get nothing back. When you’re about ready to leave, abusers go, “Ok, here’s $1.50!” And you go, “Oh! Ok!” Now you’re back in the nice wrapped box that has crap inside. I always said they’re so good at what they do, if they could just put it to good use. 

Please reload

Follow Us
Search By Tags
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square

WARNING: this website contains accounts of domestic and sexual violence that some may find graphic or triggering and not appropriate for all ages.

 

​Copyright ©2014-2019 UNCONVENTIONAL APOLOGY PROJECT. All rights reserved. 

 

Domestic Violence Stories