Breaking the Cycle of Violence by Calling for Safety & Justice
By Liz Zambrano
May 27, 2021
I wish I could say I am the first person in my family to be affected by domestic violence, but I am not. I believe I am the first to start breaking the cycle that has tormented my family for generations. During my journey, I’ve learned law enforcement and the criminal justice system only help to an extent. To help you to protect yourself & your children, find resources and heal deeply entrenched abuse patterns reinforced by cultural and societal beliefs, you need to find the proper support. The support and services survivors need to be provided immediately by law enforcement and an advocate for survivors.
When I was in an abusive relationship, I called the police to help protect my children and myself. My former partner refused to leave our home, and the police chose not to deal with him. Their solution was to have my children and me leave our home instead of him. They insisted this is the easiest solution for everyone, and we would be able to return once they remove him within three days. I packed a laundry basket of clothes and left. When the police were still unable to move him three days later, they told me to take him to court and file a restraining order.
A month passed before we were able to return home, and when we did, we found everything was gone—including showerheads, doorknobs, and cabinet handles, all of our belongings, including clothes and shoes. When I reached out to the police for support, they suggested I file a claim with the insurance and take pictures for evidence. I was never offered help with supporting my children and finding shelter, clothing, financial assistance, or counseling. They did nothing, and I was too scared to ask.
My partner had spent years undermining my self-esteem, which only added to my insecurities. As a child of immigrants, culturally, I was taught to hide any troubles or issues I might have. I had no idea how to ask for help—or that I was worthy of it. I was blessed to find support from neighbors and friends. But I was still suffering inside—even to the point of planning ways to leave this earth. My healing started years later while working at my job. I learned about StrengthUnited, a community-based nonprofit operating out of Cal State Northridge that addresses the root causes of family violence. They assigned me a parenting coach, provided individual and family therapy services, and even connected me with an advocate who accompanied me to court.
As a result of all this support, I have healed and grown as a person. My self-esteem has increased. I feel confident in supporting myself and ask for help when I need it. My journey has opened the world to me to help others. I am Chair of Voices, San Fernando Valley Chapter, a survivor-based group that provides psychoeducation and support to the community. I am also an active member of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice—a nationwide organization of crime survivors that recently issued a California Victim Agenda explaining how our government systems can become more responsive to diverse victims of crime and violence.
Today, I have three sons, about ten years apart in age, for whom family violence is more a memory than current reality. Sometimes the older children say I’m too sensitive about seeing violence in music, social media, and television. I remind them violence isn’t acceptable and teach them to treat others with kindness. I want them to be able to continue breaking the cycle of violence and to have healthy relationships.
Combating violence and providing a peaceful world for future generations doesn’t begin and end with the police. It is essential to take care of the person by providing all resources available. If we want a safer world, we must expand support for victims, ensure the help is available to all victims of crime and violence, regardless of circumstances, and the resources are up to date.