So when you look down your nose at your co-worker, friend or a stranger on TV who has a hard time leaving their abuser, remember my story. Come down off your high horse and realize that domestic violence isn’t just about hooking up with the wrong man. It isn’t about being weak or being too stupid to leave. It isn’t about not defending yourself, either. Understand that before the first blow lands, a battered woman is usually already in hell. She doesn’t need your pity or scorn. She doesn’t need your judgment. She needs your love and support. She needs somewhere to go and she needs help staying away. That was a dark time in my life. But even worse than the beatings was the way I felt about myself. Despite my upbringing and everything I had going for me, I didn’t love myself. And that’s where the problem started. A quarter of a century later, I’m a different woman. But I have to work at self-love like an alcoholic has to work at staying sober. I take it one day at a time. I have to remain vigilant, lest those feelings of worthlessness creep back into my psyche. Self-love is the first line of defense against domestic violence. I shared just a fraction of my story. Attention must also be given to the batterers and how they got that way. It’s true that hurt people hurt people. Until we get better at dealing with the hurt and doing the work it takes to heal, this horrible cycle will continue.