We each have an opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child or adult who has experienced domestic violence in their home, including those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Helping these individuals has been a lifelong mission for Dr. Linda Olson, one that has been inspired by her personal experience.
Like millions of others, Dr. Olson says that the domestic violence she witnessed as a girl led her to enter (and remain in) a marriage that replicated this destructive pattern. Research has found that growing up in a household affected by CDV is the most significant predictor that an individual will find herself or himself in an abusive relationship later in life, and/or be the perpetrator of this behavior. “All of these negative beliefs that you develop as a child become internalized, and they exert an unconscious pull on the individual,” she says. “The individual feels compelled to repeat what feels familiar, because at some level the brain thinks this is what’s right, and that this is what ‘a loving relationship’ looks like. It also provides certainty because this is what seems familiar from childhood.”
“After enduring an abusive marriage for more than 22 years,” Dr. Olson says, “I finally realized the impact this was having on my sons, and that gave me the courage to leave. Thirty years ago, this life-threatening crisis was something that no one dared talk about with others, and – tragically – not much has changed over the years. Moat people still think that ‘domestic violence’ refers to the physical abuse experienced by adults, most often women, and they don’t realize the damaging and lasting impact that is inflicted on children who witness this behavior, even if they aren’t touched themselves.” This turning point in her own life led Dr. Olson to find ways that she could help others affected by CDV, hoping to spare them from the pain and tragedy she has experienced.
Further fueling Dr. Olson’s commitment to making a difference in the lives of others affected by CDV is the memory of her two sisters, who both died as a result of this horrific crisis. Her sister Mary endured a series of abusive relationships and died homeless and her sister Ann was stalked and killed by an abusive ex-boyfriend. The signature “Two Hearts Ribbon” on each Project Hope Bear is in honor of Dr. Olson’s sisters.