INGLEWOOD — When Giana Young entered the counseling world helping others cope with being harmed by sexual abuse and domestic violence, she had no idea that one day it would be she who would be seeking advice.
At the time that Young was going through this dilemma, she was a thriving therapist trying to change lives. She was in hot pursuit of earning a doctorate degree. And she was in love.
Being a therapeutic outlet to countless young women and men as they dealt with the aftermath of the violence that was inflicted upon them, Young didn’t bat an eye in thinking that soon enough she would be sharing her story about how she became a survivor of domestic violence. She is telling that story now.
“I never imagined that I, myself, would have that experience,” Young said. “I never thought that would happen to me. I found myself in a domestic violent relationship that was very difficult to get out of, and because of the shame involved with staying and loving a person that would hurt me, I didn’t talk about it.
“I was silent about what I was experiencing. I isolated myself from my family and friends, and ultimately moved away. I ended up quitting school. I took a break from my doctorial program. When I did return to school after that relationship, my very last elective was the domestic violence course.”
As the keynote speaker at a Violence Prevention Conference that took place Feb. 3 at the Center of Hope Church, Young brought her story to nearly 200 participants. Some of the topics covered at the all-day event included discussions on human trafficking, bullying, sexual assault and intimate partner and teen dating violence.
“The issue of human trafficking, especially here in the Los Angeles area seems to be growing by leaps and bounds,” said Tera Hilliard, CEO of Forgotten Children Inc. “One of the things that we wanted to do was not only raise awareness, but to deal with the issue that is growing in our community, and really raise awareness. There seems to be a lack of understanding among our community, our community leaders, community workers about the issue of trafficking.”
Young is not alone in sharing her story. Sex and violence have become intertwined in society. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, more than one in three women and one in four men have experienced rape, endured physical violence or have been stalked by an intimate partner. The same source accounted that 51 percent of female rape victims were attacked by an intimate partner; 40 percent by an acquaintance. The after effects of these acts on victims can be extremely traumatic, causing post-traumatic stress disorder.
Data from the National Domestic Violence Hotline states that 81 percent of women who experience rape or physical violence by an intimate partner have reported such impact. For males, the number is at 35 percent.
Young can identify with both sides of that coin. For most of her three-year relationship with a former boyfriend, Young said she was abused, even dragged on the ground in one incident by her ex. In another incident, Young claims that the former boyfriend strangled her. She left him five times.
Yet because of love, she came running back to him. Young then found herself on the opposite end of that stick when she punched her ex-boyfriend one day. She was arrested. She thought she had lost everything. And the very thing she tried to escape from, she became an unwilling perpetrator of it.
“He had said something about one of my family members, and I punched him in his face,” Young said. “I went to jail that night, and while I was in jail and looked at myself. I went from a couple of years from graduating as a clinical psychologist and now I’m in jail, not in school. I had completely changed my life to be with this man.”
Young’s story of being abused to herself being the perpetrator of violence is a cautionary tale that can help a lot of people. It is also a reason that Young, who is on track to earn her doctorate degree in June, would be an effective communicator about the pitfalls on this issue as well on the matter of teen sex violence and teenage suicide.
“The concept of [the conference] came after having a conversation with a young lady in 2013 at a conference I was hosting,” said Kandee Lewis, executive director of The Positive Results Corporation. “I learned a few months later she had intentions on killing herself the same day we met. She wrote in her journal she was going to commit suicide.
“But after a three-minute conversation, she acted on my request to find something that interested her and invest in herself. She realized there was a life worth living, and her life changed. Many lives were changed that day, including mine.”