Domestic Violence Awareness Month: A survivor shares her story in hopes of breaking the stigma

A domestic violence survivor hopes sharing her story will help other survivors of abuse realize they’re not alone.

Domestic violence survivor Tara Pierce of Superior wants to make others more aware of the problem. (Steve Kuchera /

Tara Pierce has a seven-year history with domestic violence, but the worst stretch occurred last year in Cable, Wis.

After ending a relationship with a mentally and verbally abusive boyfriend, she began a new relationship with a man who abused her physically and severely, she said.

“It’s so emotional,” Pierce said with a cracked voice. “It's been a year and a half since my assault, and there's still days where I have flashbacks. I can't sit with my back to a door. My bedroom is positioned where I can see my door from my bed. Things in my life are forever different because of what happened to me. Because, in my mind, I'm still preparing for the worst.”

In March 2018, she was held captive for more than six hours by her boyfriend.

“He strangled me,” Pierce said with a deep breath while holding back tears. “He raped me. He just basically spent six hours torturing me, beating me.”


A police officer showed up to her house after a phone call from her worried boss, and a domestic violence liaison officer and a domestic violence advocate from New Day Advocacy Center in Ashland came for backup.

“You don't know when you fall in love with someone that they're going to be an abuser, that they're going to do the things that they do,” Pierce said. “And, when they started doing them, you don't just stop loving them. That's not quite how it works.”

Pierce wants to fight against the stigmatization of domestic violence by advocating as much as she can. She’s hoping that by speaking out and sharing her story people will be able to “put a face on the domestic violence problems here in the Northland and raise awareness about a very real issue.”

“There is a way out,” Pierce said. “I never thought that I would survive what happened to me, and I did, and I just I want to help anybody else who might be in that situation. … I don't want to be seen as a victim of domestic violence. I want to be seen as a survivor, and that takes a lot.”

According to Pierce, the advocate she had from the New Day Advocacy Center in Ashland is one of the reasons why she felt empowered to share her story and make her voice heard.

“From the beginning, I decided I can either let it define me or empower me,” Pierce said. “There's a huge difference between the two and I choose to let it empower me.”

Duluth also has Safe Haven, which operates a resource center and a shelter. The resource center is at 414 W. First St. across the street from City Hall. The shelter is at an undisclosed location for the protection of domestic violence survivors.

The resource center offers services for anyone who has experienced domestic violence and has all the services in one place so the survivors don’t have to retell their stories at different locations. It also has a legal advocacy staff to help survivors navigate the legal process, said executive director Brittany Robb.


They receive more than 1,600 phone calls on their crisis line every year. They serve about 500 women and children in their shelter and more than 1,500 people at their resource center every year, Robb said.

Safe Haven’s been helping more and more people over the years.

“We’ve seen an increase of about 75-100 people annually at the resource center,” Robb said. “Our current occupancy rate for the shelter is at 108%, so we’re overfull all of the time.”

Domestic violence has been an overarching problem not just in Duluth, but in Minnesota as well.

According to the 2018 report released by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women: “At least 14 Minnesotans were killed due to violence from a current or former intimate partner. … At least 11 minor children were left without a parent due to intimate partner homicide.”

“Domestic violence is just this overarching nebulous, unnamable force,” Robb said. “That’s an incredible thing (that Pierce is sharing her story) and on behalf of Safe Haven, we’re proud of her.”


Safe Haven will be hosting an open house at its resource center Tuesday for the community, aiming for a non-intimidating way to come forward, Robb said.

“There is also a “We Remember” candlelight memorial on display in our windows to honor those who have lost their lives to domestic violence in 2018 and 2019,” said Safe Haven’s resource center manager and legal advocacy supervisor Heather Drees. “Domestic Violence is still occurring at alarming rates and the open house is to remind the community how big of an issue it still is in society and to hopefully expand our outreach to more survivors.”

The resource center also hosts a wellness day on the first Thursday of every month, Drees said.

To get help

If you or anyone you know are suffering from domestic violence, here are some resources:

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
  • Safe Haven Shelter and Resource Center crisis hotline: 218-728-6481
  • Tara Pierce:

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