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June Treston, MSN, CRNP, GNu’92

“While I was in college in my senior year of nursing school, I was involved in a very emotionally and physically violent relationship. I don’t mean a threat or a slap. I mean having my head repeatedly bashed into a sliding glass door until it broke, and then being pushed out of a car going 60 miles per hour into the middle of a busy highway in Florida. Wow, that sounds awful. Just writing it is hard. But it was an important, transformative event in my life.”

“And as hard as it was, I am grateful for the many lessons it taught me. It changed the trajectory of my career because I had a unique perspective on interpersonal violence that no formal education could provide.

The relationship was great in the beginning. We were introduced at a college party by friends and it was intense from the start. He was a musician and wrote and recorded music for me, hours of it—every song had my name in it and sang my praises. I was impressed and amazed that he loved me “that much”. He wanted to spend every minute with me. He showered me with gifts, like clothing, jewelry, and hair barrettes. I was so flattered at the time, but slowly figured out the reason he bought me these things was because he wanted me to look a certain way. He preferred my hair styled up in a bun. If I wasn’t wearing the barrettes, he would complain that I didn’t like his gift and demand that I fix my hair.

Little by little, I stopped seeing my friends and family. He told me they were trying to pull us apart. The relationship began to deteriorate, and his behavior was frightening. One evening, he pushed me down the stairs. He would spy on me at school, making sure I wasn’t speaking to other guys. These are all obvious red flags, but he told me the universe converged our paths and we were meant to be together forever. Things would get better for a while and he would shower me with gifts and praise. I wanted so much to get back to the good times, so I stayed. The severe violence started while I visited him in Florida and culminated with me crawling, covered in blood, to the side of the road.

I was fortunate along the way in my mental and physical recovery. In Florida, I randomly encountered a missionary who helped me safely get home. I do not remember his name, but I will always remember his kindness. I had wonderful family and friends who supported me. Unlike many victims, I could afford health care and counseling and got the help that I needed.

I was so changed by the experience that I was drawn to help others. Why? Because I understood their predicament. As a new RN, I started to volunteer at a domestic violence shelter in NJ, and later started a free health clinic onsite for victims and their children. For many years I chaired the Cooper Against Domestic Violence program at Cooper Hospital and coordinated mandatory training for hospital employees on the recognition and care of victims and families. I also had the honor of working on policy at the NJ state-level fighting for victims’ rights. At Penn, I’ve collaborated on research projects that focus on preventing dating violence through teen education. My extensive work has translated into the classroom through lectures, case studies, and clinical teaching. I hope to provide the education and motivation needed for new practitioners to enter clinical practice as victim advocates.”

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