Surviving domestic violence gave her a powerful voice

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Danielle Patrice (pictured, left) met the man who would become her husband at college in Tennessee. They were two Northerners who bonded over their cultural differences while living in the South. When Danielle’s mentally ill mother died by suicide in 2009, he helped her navigate the heartache, and their friendship evolved into something more.

Their love didn’t last.

“This is someone I completely trusted at the lowest point of my life, but he turned out to be the devil,” Danielle said.

Reaching out for help

Verbal abuse evolved into physical attacks. By 2012, Danielle feared for her life and the safety of their young son. So she reached out to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton’s Providence House Domestic Violence Services in Burlington County for help.

After a brief stay in Providence House’s safe house, she returned to him. That’s not uncommon. On average, a woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The couple had another son in 2013. But the violence worsened. So in 2018, Danielle left him for good and reached out to Providence House’s outreach counseling center to heal. There, she found solidarity with other women in the program who had survived her same journey.

“Hearing the stories of other women was really powerful. We could share resources and learn from each other. It felt like that was the beginning of me learning my purpose,” Danielle said. “That really laid the groundwork for my advocacy.”

From tragedy to triumph

She is now divorced and works as an activist and motivational speaker, talking about the trauma she survived in hopes of helping other women.

She knows that her experiences are common struggles that hold lessons for abuse survivors. For example, she and her sons, now 9 and 6, became homeless and still live in transitional housing because her ex long ago quit contributing to the household, ran up debt, and still provides no support. Such financial abuse occurs in 99 percent of domestic violence cases, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

And studies show that childhood trauma increases one’s risk of intimate partner violence in adulthood. Danielle spent some time living in Providence House’s safe house when she was in third grade.

A long fight

Danielle also advocates for legislative changes, such as exonerating victim defendants (victims who get criminally charged for defending themselves from domestic violence) and mandating sensitivity classes for law enforcement.

“I used to be so scared to speak publicly. I sometimes stuttered as a kid when I spoke in class,” she said. “But this gave me the power to speak. Recovering from domestic violence is a long fight. And for me, it’s still a fight, even now. But I’m fighting for my children. I want them to know I fought and I created a voice for myself. I’m powerful all by myself.”

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For more information about Providence House Domestic Violence Services, call (877) 871-7551 in Burlington County and (800) 246-8910 in Ocean County; or Dana DiFilippo, Catholic Charities communications, at ddifilippo@cctrenton.org or (609) 394-5181, ext. 1153. This story appeared in our spring 2020 Spirit newsletter. Read the whole newsletter here.

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