Phuong: From Domestic Violence Survivor to Domestic Violence Advocate

Phuong is a phenomenal Asian Women’s Home intern and domestic violence speaker. She is the lead instructor at our domestic violence trainings, and is a fierce advocate for domestic violence awareness and treatment. Why she is such an ardent advocate is clear from her story, read it here.

Anh on Her Wedding Day

“My name is Phuong. I grew up in Seattle, WA after emigrating from Vietnam. I was taught early a man’s role was to take care of the family, and a woman’s role was to be obedient to her husband.

When I was 10, I watched my stepfather beat my sister up badly, and I dialed 911. When the police officers showed up, one of them said to my dad: “Next time, don’t use a belt, use your hand!” From that day on, I learned not to trust law enforcement.  

As a teenager, I wished to get as far away from home as possible. My best friend introduced me to a boy that would become my first boyfriend. That boy was the same age as me and seemed really supportive when I shared the abuse I experienced at home. I didn’t suspect he was going to treat me even worse than my stepdad.

I moved into my boyfriend’s house as soon as I finished high school. He started making me feel guilty when I met with family and friends and would push me or kick me. He would apologize from time to time, but then the abuse would happen again. I was shocked but too ashamed to tell anyone.

After only one week of attendance, I dropped out of the University of Washington in 2007, breaking my dream to ever become a nurse. My boyfriend told me dropping out was the only way he would stop hurting me.

But the abuse kept growing. At first, he would only hit me in places people couldn’t see, but soon it was everywhere. When I interviewed for jobs, my boyfriend sabotaged these attempts by giving me bruised eyes. He also became sexually abusive. His mother would blame me for making her son angry.

A defining moment took place in 2009 when out of a jealous rage, my boyfriend tried to hit me with a baseball bat. I was fortunate that his cousin was visiting and he intervened on my behalf. His cousin became my advocate and encouraged me to leave my boyfriend.

The day I tried to move out, my boyfriend crawled on top of the roof and threatened suicide. So I stayed, but I started secretly seeing a therapist. Together, we prepared a safety plan for me to leave and later that year, I moved back to my stepdad’s home. But then my boyfriend started to stalk me and I had to file a restraining order. But being young and believing I was still in love, I gave him another chance. Nothing really changed and the abuse continued, a common pattern I have since learned about abusive relationships. In January 2012, I left him for good.

I moved to California on my own in June 2012 to leave all my past behind. I met my current husband quite accidently during work in June 2013. When we first started dating, it was challenging for me to communicate fully. My then boyfriend was very patient. We ended up getting married in September 2015 in Scotland, his motherland. With unconditional love and support from my partner, I now know what a healthy, empowering relationship is like. I can be transparent and vulnerable with him. Love is easy with him. Most importantly, I’ve learned that a worthy relationship is not defined by the number of years together but the quality of the relationship. With persistence, resilience and support from close ones, I was able to heal and now share my experiences to increase awareness about domestic violence from the eyes of a child and an adult.”  

When Phuong looks back, she wishes a younger self would have known what the difference is between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. Today, Phuong’s life has changed for the best. She is sharing her story and making a difference by helping women make healthy decisions about their relationships. She has been volunteering at AACI since August 2014 and helped our team prepare the 40 hours domestic violence training this year. She also presents to students at San Jose college campuses and Cupertino high schools.

Phuong graduated in March 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences from California State University, East Bay. She is the first one in her family to graduate college, and the first woman! Phuong visited Vietnam to meet her biological father for the first time in April 2016. She is currently planning a second wedding celebration in September 2016 in Southern California. Phuong’s commitment to being a source of support like she wished she had when she was younger and scared is extraordinary. We wish Phuong and her husband the best!



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