Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Finding A Way Out

An Abusive Relationship Nearly Took Her Under
Now Erin Guberman Looks to Helps Others

By Jaclyn Bolno

Two years have passed since Erin Guberman got a restraining order against the man who made seven months of her life ones of initial pleasure and ultimate torture.

Guberman, 22, was a sophomore at the University of Delaware when all she had known to be secure cracked under a cycle of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse at the hands of her boyfriend.

“I always thought that my safe little town and my incredible family and friends would protect me and keep me safe in what I call my little bubble,” she said. “But within a seven-month period, one person completely burst it, and my world would never be the same.”

Guberman and her abuser graduated together from the same high school in northern New Jersey. They sat in the same homeroom. He was part of her bubble—but the infatuation that developed within would eventually cause it to rupture.

“I thought I had found my prince charming, a nice, smart, good looking, wealthy, Jewish guy, who would protect me from harm and love me unconditionally.”

Not someone who would drag, punch, pull and throw her across rooms. Not someone who would manage to make her feel so low that eventually coercive highs were all she came to know.

“Drugs were his escape route, his way to fantasyland, to a world where he rules, and you obey,” Guberman said. It was either smoke or get hit. She chose smoke.

And when marijuana was not enough, she embraced Xanax, valium, Percocet, Vicodine, Oxycontin, and cigarettes. “Even to this day, I still don’t know how I functioned, how I survived, how my body didn’t just give in and say no more,” she said.

Guberman’s desperation was one with no escape route. The boyfriend always found some reason to hit. She began to think she was not doing something right simply because she could not figure out what she was doing wrong.

Always, he apologized after his outbursts. And she stayed. As it often does, violence followed by seemingly sincere apologies created the cycle of an abusive relationship.

“It’s what gives false hope to the victim, and leads them to stay,” Guberman said. Apologies gave her hope that somewhere behind the rage was the man who had once done nothing to hurt her and everything to make her feel loved.

This false sense of excessive love gave Guberman's abuser the upper-hand. Insecurities and doubts she confided to her boyfriend eventually were used by her abuser to convince her that he was the only one who truly cared.

“In order to get me to himself, he had to cut off my outside communication, and make me feel alone,” she said. “When you feel like you have nothing left to fall back on, you stay, even though it’s scary, and painful, you stay, because he’s still telling you he loves you.”

Eventually, Guberman realized that love was not literally supposed to hurt.

“I didn’t want to be in his world anymore, I wanted to get back to my own life, and I wanted to wake up,” she said.

After hitting rock bottom, the only way in which Guberman was able to bring all the pieces of herself back together again was to lean on those who truly loved her and wanted to help her. As she put it: “I never would have gotten through without my family and friends.”

Guberman deprived her abuser of the upper-hand when she used the sources of his verbal abuse to regain strength. He told her she was fat, she started exercising. He claimed that her family and friends hated her, she built stronger ties.

Guberman says that she does not expect to change the world, but the Guberman Family sponsors a “Seminar on Young Adult Abuse” with hope that the voices of other victims and experts will help to inform their community about the realities of domestic violence.

“If by speaking at this seminar I am helping other victims, preventing people from entering domestically violent relationships, or acting as support for others in need of it, then I am making a difference,” Guberman said.

She stresses the importance for others to ask questions when suspicious and continue to care for the abused, even when he or she may be reluctant to provide truthful answers or accept help immediately.
“Never give up on them, because when you completely give up, that is when they start to believe everything their abuser is telling them,” she said.

Guberman’s family and friends guided her out of hell and helped structure a new bubble – one in which love meant strength, not pain. They did not give up on her then and still do not as she continues to speak out and deliver the message that she will not give up on others.

Erin Guberman is a survivor of domestic violence. “It didn’t kill me,” she said. “Instead it made me stronger.” Now it is her mission to instill the strength in others.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Welcome to the Bennett Hall Observer

This is a blog created for students in English 157 (Journalistic Writing) at the University of Pennsylvania. We plan to post their work in the coming weeks and share it with the public.