Harvard Alum Describes Experience with Domestic Violence

“If you and I met…you’d never guess my secret: that as a young woman I fell in love with and married a man who beat me regularly and nearly killed me,” wrote Leslie Morgan Steiner ’87, in her memoir “Crazy Love.”

Steiner, a businesswoman, author, and journalist, discussed her experience with domestic violence with Harvard community members on Tuesday evening.

The event, “From the Ivy League to a Gun at My Head: Demystifying Domestic Violence Stereotypes,” is part of Harvard’s second-ever Sex Week, a series of programs that, according to its website, seek “to promote a holistic understanding of sex and sexuality” at Harvard.

After graduating from Harvard, Steiner worked as a journalist in New York City, where she met and fell in love with the man who would become her abuser, she said during the discussion.

“This man made me feel like I was the most special person on earth,” Steiner said, reflecting on the early stages of the relationship. “It felt great. It also created this illusion that I was in control of the relationship.”

Upon moving with him to a rural area, Steiner said that he began to assault her physically and psychologically. A particularly traumatizing fight, which occurred after the couple began attending the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, motivated her to finally leave the relationship.

After sharing her story, Steiner fielded questions from the audience, which ranged in topic from inquiries regarding her experience to requests for personal advice.

Steiner said that while there has been culture-wide progress in regard to domestic violence, society still has a long way to go.

“We have a lot of support for domestic violence victims—we have hotlines, shelters, and lot of money that goes towards training,” she said. “But, in some ways, we have a very surface awareness…[there are a lot of] really-well intentioned people who don’t know anything about how complicated domestic violence is.”

She pointed to the requirement in some states that health care professionals ask patients if they are being abused as an example.

“Quite often, you go to the emergency room or doctor’s office with your partner.… There’s nobody who is going to look at their abuser and say, ‘[they] are abusing me,’” Steiner said.

Among those who attended the discussion was Noel G. de Sa e Silva ’16, who said he knew very little about domestic violence until he came to Harvard.

“More people need to come to events like this. More people need to be aware,” Silva said. “[At Harvard] people believe that they are more sheltered, but we all need to educate ourselves and educate each other about [domestic violence].”

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