My name is Zuleika Gonazalz-Felton. I used to be a successful artist who traveled the country, I was on top of the world and… I was being abused. The same year my art was being nationally recognized was the same year the man I thought loved me tried to take my life.
It didn’t start with physical abuse. It started with subtle signs of control and escalated to things like offering to drive me places and then forcing me to walk home.
The feelings of embarrassment caused me to hide behind the shadows of shame, feeling unable to share with loved ones what was happening to me. In order to better understand what I was experiencing, I reached out to CASA. An advocate validated my feelings and explained that his behavior was a sign that violence could escalate quickly. She helped me create a safety plan in case he became violent and reminded me that CASA’s door would always be open should I want additional services.
Two weeks after I left him, he attacked me. He strangled and beat me until I was unconscious. I am alive today because of that safety plan. I heard that CASA advocate’s voice in my head as I fought for my life.
This month marks ten years since I met with that advocate. After ongoing support from CASA to overcome my PTSD, I was able to spend a few years using my art and voice to advocate against domestic violence across the nation. Today, I work at CASA full-time as the Batterer Accountability Specialist and CPI Advocate Supervisor.
I’ve helped so many survivors in my role that it’s hard to believe my position at CASA didn’t exist just a year ago. CASA is one of only three domestic violence organizations in Florida that have created a Batterer Accountability Specialist to help support survivors and assists the criminal justice system in holding abusers accountable. This position is just one of the many ways CASA continues to find innovative solutions to combat domestic violence.
But we can’t do it without you.
COVID-19 has provided many challenges, most of which we’ve been able to overcome in our program delivery, but we need your support this holiday season to keep these critical programs going.
As a recipient of CASA’s services, turned CASA volunteer, turned CASA staff member, I can tell you first-hand that your support helps save lives every day.
Because of supporters like you, I am alive today, empowering survivors to find safety, hope, and peace in their journey as I once did.
Thank you in advance for your support this holiday season.