By Dara Pearson
I was raised in the Unification Church, a fundamentalist, patriarchal religion in which women had no voice and no power. My parents had an arranged marriage, and my sisters and I were to have the same. I remember being a kid and having a tenacious loyalty to the church because it was everything that I knew. But I also had an ongoing feeling of dread that I held the same fate as my mother, who seemed flatly sad and empty most of the time. Although it was incredibly confusing, I remember promising myself that my future would hold something different, something bigger, although I didn’t know exactly what.
I now work with battered women at a shelter for domestic and sexual violence. In many ways, they are the same women that I grew up with. The church covered up the emotional, physical, financial, sexual and spiritual control of women in much the same way that they covered up tax evasion and an elite financial empire.
In many ways, it feels like home, to witness women on the edges of male dominance and exploitation. But this time, it’s different. I get to be a part of changing that, part of helping women access safety, find their voices, and develop the idea that they can strive for more and live to their fullest potential. And it’s truly rewarding work because each hour of each day is spent looking for ways to improve the quality of life for women and their children, whether it’s through higher education; employment opportunity; sustainable affordable housing; establishing supportive, quality relationships; helping women access reliable child care; or establishing the fundamentals of physical and emotional safety. Sometimes we come full circle to find that the most fulfilling life is about giving what we ourselves have been blessed enough to find.