By Sister Onellys Villegas
I am a counselor at the House of Ruth Family Safety and Support Center in Beltsville, Maryland. I knew I was called to this ministry even as I went to the mailbox to send off my resume. And, when I was told that the work would be in the area of domestic violence, I was sure that this was where I belonged.
I work primarily with Latina women who are referred to the Center by the courts, by other social service agencies that do not handle domestic violence cases, and by agencies that work with the Latino population in the area, which is a suburb or Washington, DC.
I see as many as 30 women each week—that’s too many, but I haven’t the heart to turn anyone away. Entering into the inner world of another person’s life is an awesome privilege and responsibility. Together, the abused woman and I explore her pain with love, with trust and with compassion. We work together toward her healing.
She shares her story with me and I learn about her history of domestic violence, about her parents. I get to know where she is coming from. It takes a long time before the woman realizes what is happening to her and, very important, that she does not deserve it!
This is the key factor in my counseling. I tell them that there is nothing they could possibly do that would justify being beaten. Nothing! At first this passes over them, but when they’re ready, they come to the realization: “No. I don’t deserve this.” Only then are they ready to move on—and out.
I have been blessed by the trust that these women have placed in me. They have inspired me by their courage in telling their stories and in making choices for their future. These sacred moments of shared human feelings have moved me and transformed me.
Reflection: Whose “inner life” do you share? Do you think of it as a privilege or a burden?