Pinellas domestic violence survivor helps lead other women to freedom

Asia's Tech News Daily

ST. PETERSBURG — When Zuleika Gonzalez sees the fear in her clients’ eyes, she sees her old self. When she tells them, “You will be vindicated if you stay the course,” she means it. She has been there.

Years before Gonzalez, 46, became the manager of batterer accountability services at Community Action Stops Abuse, she was a client of CASA, a Pinellas nonprofit that helps domestic violence victims find housing and helps them through the legal system. She went there, she said, because her ex-boyfriend had repeatedly punched her in the face and threatened to beat her sons.

In the months after Gonzalez first went to CASA, she said, she endured three more violent episodes, and then her abuser tried to kill her. He was arrested in 2011, convicted of domestic battery by strangulation and served almost three years in prison, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

While she was recovering, Gonzalez created a six-part art series titled Bruised But Not Broken that was displayed for a while at CASA. The first piece shows a photo of her crying, surrounded by questions written in marker: “Will the pain fade? Will I trust again? Is this the end of me?”

Through therapy and time, Gonzalez, known by her friends as Zuly, would find answers to those questions.

And by returning to CASA as an advocate, she would help other women find their answers and their own paths to freedom.

‘Why didn’t you just leave?’

Gonzalez said her last violent encounter with her abuser was when he broke into her house in St. Petersburg. As soon as she walked in and saw him with duct tape, a rope and a painter’s tarp, she bolted.

He caught up to her, she said, hitting her while she was inside her car and then on the ground until a neighbor intervened.

Until then, she had thought domestic violence didn’t happen to women like her — a college-educated mother with a successful career.

But don’t ask a victim why she didn’t just leave, Gonzalez said.

The question stings the ear of every survivor who hears it, she said, “but you rarely hear the question to the batterer, ‘Why don’t you just stop hitting her?’”

Research shows that a victim endures an average of six violent episodes before successfully leaving an abusive relationship, said CASA CEO Lariana Forsythe, and the most lethal point is when they attempt to leave.

Gonzalez said she had fallen into the pit of blaming herself before she realized the emotional abuse she had endured.

“He would have these explosive fits of anger,” she said, “and then he would say, ‘It’s your fault. If you didn’t push my buttons, I wouldn’t have acted this way.’”

Almost all domestic violence also involves financial abuse, Forsythe said.

Gonzalez said her abuser would make purchases on her credit cards that she was unaware of until she saw her bank statement.

After he went to jail, Gonzalez said, she realized she owed $25,000. One company forgave her debt after Gonzalez showed that she was a victim of domestic abuse, she said, while another sued her for failing to pay.

The cruelest debts were for lavish dinner dates and gifts he had given her.

“When he would do nice things, I would say, ‘That’s why I keep giving him a chance,’” Gonzalez said. “Finding out those nice things was another form of abuse … I felt duped.”

Getting to the other side

After the yearlong abusive relationship, Gonzalez said, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There were times when I was afraid to go to sleep because I was reliving what happened in my dreams,” she said. She took medication to manage the symptoms and met with a therapist.

Gonzalez was told she should dedicate two years to learning to set boundaries and healing her relationship with herself before dating again. So she focused on making art and caring for her sons, Kelmy and Isaiah.

Then Gonzalez’s best friend set her up on a date with her brother.

Gonzalez told him to call her when he approached the house and to wait in the car. And he should keep his hands on the steering wheel where she could see them.

“He understood and didn’t bat an eye,” Gonzalez said.

Four years later, in 2017, the couple married.

Early in their relationship, he would unintentionally trigger her earlier trauma — the first time by giving her a hug.

“It took me back to being in the car,” Gonzalez said, “and feeling the weight of that man who was attacking me and telling me, ‘I’ll kill you.’”

The couple created a plan for the next time she was triggered. He would take a step back, and when he saw that her legs had stopped shaking, he would say something to make her laugh.

“Then he would always say to me: ‘You’re safe,’ and I would say ‘yes.’ Then he would say: ‘I’m never going to hurt you.’ And I’m thinking: ‘You’re never going to hurt me.’”

Gonzalez said he doesn’t trigger her anymore.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to tell survivors who are very much in crisis that you can make it through to the other side,” she said, “and that there are good men out there.”

The intangibles

Gonzalez has a degree in sociology and criminology and had worked as a private investigator for eight years. In 2019, she joined CASA as a justice advocate.

Many CASA staffers have been touched by domestic violence, Forsythe said, but Gonzalez is the only one she knows of who was a client of the nonprofit.

When the two met, Forsythe quickly realized that Gonzalez’s legal expertise and experience as a survivor would make her an ideal advocate. Gonzalez spends most of her time at the Pinellas County domestic violence court, helping survivors.

In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, CASA received 182 referrals from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office to collaborate on domestic abuse cases, according to the nonprofit’s records. The number of referrals more than tripled in the past year, something Forsythe attributes in part to Gonzalez.

“A lot of people have a tendency to work in silos and focus on their jobs,” Forsythe said. “But she focuses on how do we create a system that’s a better environment for survivors.”

The nonprofit also has had a steep increase in calls during the pandemic, which are up 35 percent in the past year.

One survivor said she owes where she is in life to Gonzalez. They met in misdemeanor court for her first hearing against her abuser.

“She looked like a deer caught in headlights,” Gonzalez said. The Tampa Bay Times is not naming the survivor to protect her from her abuser.

The survivor, 35, said her abuser had broken into her friend’s house where she was staying and battered her. They had been in a relationship for nearly 10 years and share a child, she said. Gonzalez offered to stand at the front of the courtroom with her during the hearing.

“She gave me the courage to stand there and tell the god’s honest truth and not be afraid of repercussions from him,” the survivor said. “I will forever be grateful to Zuly for that.”

Over the next six months, she had a hearing almost every two weeks. The two spoke nearly every day.

“There was almost an instant bond,” she said. “This person has been through it and come out the other side. So it’s possible.”

Gonzalez helped her and her three kids schedule mental health counseling and join activities with other CASA survivors, including yoga and a family trip to Busch Gardens.

In June, her abuser was sent to jail for repeatedly violating his bail bond terms, according to state police records. He pleaded guilty to domestic battery a month later, in exchange for time served.

“The next survivor he does this to can get him sooner because he has already been convicted,” she said.

After he was released, he began calling her in the middle of the night and sending vile emails and messages, she said. She printed them out and brought them to Gonzalez, who highlighted the types of violations and gave copies to the state attorney, defense attorney and judge, who sent the abuser back to jail for violating probation, she said.

She returned to nursing school and graduated in 2019.

Two months later, Gonzalez was named CASA’s manager of batterer accountability services, overseeing 15 housing and criminal justice advocates.

Gonzalez stays in touch with the woman. She said every survivor who comes through CASA has helped her to heal from her own abuse.

“When you’re a victim of a robbery, tangible things are taken from you,” Gonzalez said. “When you’re a victim of domestic violence, it’s those intangible things that people don’t understand, and we are able to give back those things.”

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related


The Best Grass Seed

Expert choice If you want to create a fabulous lawn you have two main options: buy turf (which is expensive) or sow grass seed (which is not). Grass seed is ... Read more »

UK's oldest working cinema to reopen after pandemic forced its closure

The UK’s oldest working cinema is reopening under new ownership nearly two years after the pandemic forced its closure. The  112-year-old Electric Cinema in Birmingham is preparing to open doors ... Read more »

Cranston Johnson Talks Naomi And Shoots His Shot With Denzel Washington And Antoine Fuqua - Exclusive Interview

YouTube/The CW Network The CW has developed quite the slate of superhero shows in recent years. While it’s currently unclear how new series “Naomi” fits into the well-established Arrowverse, the ... Read more »

Prince Andrew's servants had sketch of exactly where his five teddy bears needed to be positioned on his bed at palace

PRINCE Andrew ordered flunkies to arrange five teddies and soft toys in specific positions on his bed every night. A sketch shows how a teddy holding a heart, other ­cuddly ... Read more »

Brian Cox on 'Putting the Rabbit in the Hat'

Brian Cox says he hopes his memoir, ‘Putting the Rabbit in the Hat,’ doesn’t put ‘a full stop’ on his life and career. (Jan. 18) Read more »

Opinion: Rams mean business after embarrassing Cardinals. Now it's time for the Bucs.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The first NFL playoff game at SoFi Stadium was a party. Michael Buffer got the crowd hyped with his famous “let’s get ready to rumble” chant. Montell ... Read more »

Los Angeles nurse killed in unprovoked bus stop attack was about to retire

Sandra Shells had served 38 years on the job. Handout / KABC-TV A Los Angeles nurse who was killed in an unprovoked attack at a bus stop was a dedicated ... Read more »

Horror scars, festering wounds and even HIV – terrifying toll of illegal tattoo ‘scratchers' targeting underage kids

OOZING wounds, lumpy scars and arms hooked up to hospital drips – this is the grim picture illicit tattoo artists don't want to paint. Yet over recent years, a rising ... Read more »

Volkswagen, Bosch team up to equip battery cell gigafactories

© Reuters/ALY SONG FILE PHOTO: A Volkswagen logo is seen as it launches its ID.6 and ID.6 CROZZ SUV at a world premiere ahead of the Shanghai Auto Show, in ... Read more »

Police arrest man in Ashling Murphy murder investigation

Police investigating the death of Ashling Murphy have arrested a man on suspicion of murder. The arrest comes just hours after the 23-year-old’s funeral. Irish police said the man, in ... Read more »

Sturgeon announces Omicron restrictions to be lifted in Scotland from Monday

Restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid in Scotland are to be lifted from Monday, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed. The First Minister said ... Read more »

Review: TV star Bertinelli pens compelling 'Enough Already'

The Associated PressThis cover image released b Harvest shows “Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today” by Valerie Bertinelli. (Harvest via AP) “Enough Already: Learning to Love ... Read more »

Europe narrows hunt for next astronauts, eyes crewed flights

BERLIN — The European Space Agency has narrowed down the candidate list for its next generation of astronauts, including dozens who have a physical disability. The agency announced last year ... Read more »

Russia shortens COVID-19 isolation to 7 days as cases surge

The Associated PressFILE – People eat their takeaway food sitting outside a cafe that is closed due to coronavirus in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. Russia is shortening the ... Read more »

Judi Love shares heartfelt post amid Loose Women drama – and fans share support

Loose Women star Judi Love has shared a post explaining that you “never know what’s really happening behind a screen”. The post comes during a difficult time in the show’s ... Read more »

How Emma Raducanu redisovered winning formula: The four key reasons she outclassed Sloane Stephens

© SHUTTERSTOCK Emma Raducanu beams with delight after winning her first-round match – SHUTTERSTOCK Emma Raducanu shone at a grand slam again as she marked her Australian Open debut with ... Read more »

Chrissy Teigen's acne frustration

© Bang Showbiz Chrissy Teigen’s acne is taking ‘forever’ to heal Chrissy Teigen is not happy with how long her acne is taking to clear up. The 36-year-old model shared ... Read more »

ALL homes destroyed on Tonga island as ‘unprecedented disaster' kills 3 and chilling new pics reveal total devastation

TONGA has suffered an “unprecedented disaster” with all homes on one island destroyed, the government has said. Chilling new pictures show the devastation caused when a volcano erupted, resulting in ... Read more »

‘It was the worst experience': Every Justice League cast member who's criticised Justice League

A bad superhero sequel is nothing special – these days, the box office is awash with them. But there is something special about Justice League. The 2017 DC comics team-up ... Read more »

Historiker melden sich zu Wort: Wirbel um angeblichen Verräter von Anne Frank

Das Versteck von Anne Frank und ihrer Familie vor den Nationalsozialisten in Amsterdam ist nach neuen Untersuchungen sehr wahrscheinlich von einem jüdischen Notar verraten worden. Doch Historiker mahnen jetzt zur ... Read more »

Tennis-Beaten Stephens warns Raducanu to expect rollercoaster ride

© Reuters/ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE Australian Open MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Sloane Stephens knows only too well the vagaries of life as a professional tennis player and offered some sage advice to ... Read more »

«Eingespielte, verschworene Truppe»: Diese 25 Spieler nominiert Patrick Fischer für Peking

© keystone Patrick Fischer hat am Dienstag sein Kader für die Olympischen Spiele bekanntgegeben. © keystone Patrick Fischer hat am Dienstag sein Kader für die Olympischen Spiele bekanntgegeben. Am 4. ... Read more »

Eishockey-Nati in Peking: Das ist Fischers Olympia-Team

© Bereitgestellt von Blick Das ist Fischers Olympia-Team Die Würfel sind gefallen. 22 Tage vor dem ersten Spiel gegen das Russische Olympische Komitee (ROC) am 9. Februar hat Nati-Coach Patrick ... Read more »

Patrizia Kummer dabei – auch Ammann und Cologna selektioniert

Swiss Olympic hat weitere 78 Athletinnen und Athleten für die Winterspiele in Peking selektioniert. Darunter sind auch zwei vierfache Olympiasieger. © Foto: Gian Ehrenzeller (Keystone) Vor zehn Tagen noch in ... Read more »

Nach Spitzenkampf BVB gegen Bayern: Morddrohung gegen Schiri Felix Zwayer

© Bereitgestellt von Blick Morddrohung gegen Schiri Felix Zwayer Nach dem Bundesliga-Spitzenkampf zwischen Borussia Dortmund und den Bayern im vergangenen Dezember (Endstand 2:3) gerät Schiedsrichter Felix Zwayer (40) ins Kreuzfeuer ... Read more »

Nach Treffen mit Lawrow: Baerbock für baldige Friedensgespräche im Ukraine-Konflikt

Die deutsche Aussenministerin Annalena Baerbock hat sich bei einem Treffen mit ihrem russischen Kollegen Sergej Lawrow für eine rasche Wiederaufnahme von Friedensverhandlungen im Ukraine-Konflikt ausgesprochen. © AFP Baerbock für baldige ... Read more »

I was dirt poor after being switched at birth while the other kid was rich – I resented mum for not swapping me back

A SOUTH African man who was switched at birth has revealed he resents his mum for not swapping him back because he grew up dirt poor while the other kid ... Read more »

Outnumbered star Daniel Roche looks unrecognisable 15 years on from first TV role

DANIEL Roche first shot to fame as the adorable, yet mischievous, Ben in the hit BBC comedy show Outnumbered. Ben was part of the Brockman family, with their everyday lives ... Read more »

Multi-millionaire Molly-Mae Hague gets paid eye-watering £400k a MONTH by Pretty Little Thing

MOLLY-Mae Hague is paid £400,000 a month by Pretty Little Thing. The 22-year-old, who is the creative director for the fast fashion brand, is taking home 13 times more than ... Read more »

Oil prices surge to a 7-year high on the back of supply disruption fears and surging demand

© Tetra Images – Dan Bannister/Getty Images Tetra Images – Dan Bannister/Getty Images Brent and WTI oil prices on Tuesday hit their highest levels since October 2014.  Brent reached past ... Read more »

Simon Jordan wades in on Birmingham City ownership situation

© Provided by Football League World Championship – Birmingham City v Swansea City Simon Jordan has expressed his confusion at Birmingham City’s owners amid a campaign from fans to get ... Read more »

I tried micro ring hair extensions for a new look and the results are actually astonishing

There seem to be two types of people in the world: those born with naturally fast-growing, thick, lustrous locks and the rest of us. While I’ve spent the last two ... Read more »

Barbados to hold first election since becoming a republic

© Reuters/POOL FILE PHOTO: Presidential Inauguration Ceremony as Barbados becomes a republic, in Bridgetown By Brian Ellsworth (Reuters) – Barbados on Wednesday will hold general elections called by Prime Minister ... Read more »

Senate poised to take up Democrats' doomed voting rights bill – live

LIVE – Updated at 15:03 Manchin and Sinema make clear they will not support changing filibuster, which Republicans have repeatedly used to block voting rights bills.   15:03 Sam Levine ... Read more »

Arsenal hero Ian Wright punches picture of Roy Keane during tour of Man Utd stadium

Arsenal icon Ian Wright poked fun at Roy Keane by playfully punching a picture of the former Manchester United captain during a stadium tour of Old Trafford. Wright, 58, and ... Read more »

Every word Antonio Conte said on new transfers, Arsenal surprise, Ndombele and UEFA appeal

Any update on injuries? No, we have the same situation as Arsenal. Before the game it was the same. What is your reaction to Arsenal game being postponed? I think ... Read more »

Hong Kong orders hamster cull and urges people not to kiss their pets after Covid outbreak

Hong Kong will kill around 2,000 small animals including hamsters after several tested positive for Covid at a pet shop. City officials said Tuesday they will also stop the sale ... Read more »

Live: Senegal take on Malawi as they fight for Group B first place

© France Médias Monde infographics Tipped as one of the Africa Cup of Nations favourites, Senegal have had a slow start to the tournament after an uninspired win against Zimbabwe ... Read more »

ASML Q4 earnings seen up 12%, eyes on Berlin fire impact

By Toby Sterling © Reuters/ANN WANG FILE PHOTO: Company representatives and government officials cut a ribbon during the opening ceremony of the EUV training center at ASML Holding in Tainan ... Read more »

Three people confirmed dead by Tongan government in Tsunami amid fears of humanitarian crisis developing

Three people have died after a massive underground volcano eruption and tsunami in Tonga on Saturday, the government has confirmed in its first update since the disaster. All of the ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic