“For a good chunk of my childhood, my mother was a battered woman,” Halle Berry revealed to NBC-TV’s Natalie Morales in their 2009 interview. “Domestic violence can happen to anyone, including celebrities,” said Berry. It’s not an issue of class or economics, it’s whether you value yourself enough to expect better treatment, she notes.
The scars that came from watching her mother’s abuse at the hands of her father still linger, despite Berry’s extraordinary success. “I’ve struggled with self-worth problems. I never had to run to a shelter, but I have at times chosen the wrong partner, and I’ve run out the door if I suspected violence was possible,” she remembers.
“Domestic partner abuse eventually erodes away a survivor's sense of self, making them doubt their ability to make good decisions, and shattering their self-esteem,” says Lisa Peaty, MSW, a therapist who treats domestic violence survivors at the Mood Treatment Center at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The scars also linger for her mother. “She’s still struggling with why she put up with the abuse, and why she put her kids in that environment,” Berry told Morales. Today, Berry helps support the Jenesse Center, a Los Angeles-based domestic violence intervention program that provides shelter, support, and other services to women in abusive relationships and their children.
Patrick Stewart: Domestic Violence Condoned by Police
You’d never suspect that the distinguished, award-winning actor, Sir Patrick Stewart lived his childhood in fear of his abusive father, a World War II military hero. Stewart, who was made a knight of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth for his contributions to acting, has said, “As a child, I witnessed his repeated violence against my mother, and the terror and misery he caused was such that, if I felt I could have succeeded, I would have killed him.” Not only did Stewart feel he had nowhere to go for help as a child, he also says that the authorities often condoned the violence.
When called to the house after his father violently battered his mother, he remembers, the police or emergency medical workers would comment, “She must have provoked him,” or “Mrs. Stewart, it takes two to make a fight.” Nothing could be further from the truth, says Stewart: “Violence is a choice a man makes, and he alone is responsible for it.”
Sir Patrick is a patron of Refuge, which opened the world’s first safe house for women and children escaping domestic violence in West London in 1971.