As a policy advocate and academic in social justice and victimology, I read things about domestic violence and sexual assault often. Ruth Glenn’s book Everything I Never Dreamed was incredibly thought-provoking and it also brought out so many emotions for me. More importantly, for the first time, I saw myself in a book – I related to Ruth as a survivor of abuse, as an advocate, and as a woman of color seeking to rid our society of domestic and sexual violence.
I was thrilled to join Ruth, along with my colleague at UC Denver’s Center for Domestic Violence Megan Simmons, at Ruth’s book launch. We co-hosted an interview with the author at Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, CO.
Ruth’s book takes the reader on a journey through poverty, telling the story of a child longing for love and as a teen mother who enters into an abusive relationship that will last decades. She also carefully describes her trajectory into her current role as a CEO and President of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Though it all, Ruth highlights the building blocks that gave her the tools to serve as a leader in the anti-gender-based violence movement.
I most appreciated Ruth’s nod to her time at the University of Colorado Denver’s Center for Domestic Violence, where I co-teach a class for their gender-based violence certificate program that is offered to graduate students. Ruth credits the academic program with helping her better understand nonprofits, engage with the mechanics of advocacy, and build her self-confidence. I hope I am living up to what Ruth experienced as a student!
This book is for everyone – anyone who wants to better understand the experiences of a victim, her transformation to a healing space, and how all the systems failed to protect her in her abusive relationships. It will bring you to tears, make you laugh out loud, and challenge you to think of your role in making domestic and sexual violence a visible crime rather than a hidden one.
Her story requires the reader to think about how far we have come as a society in reducing gender-based violence, but also challenges us to re-think the narrow conception some people have about victims of abuse. She challenges the reader to think about what a survivor needs to leave a dangerous relationship, not just what shelters, crisis hotlines, or grant programs can offer. She truly puts victims and survivors at the center of her book and advocacy work.
Please be aware that Ruth’s story includes surviving gunshots at the hands of her abuser, and she describes other violent situations. If you need to talk to someone about your situation with domestic violence, please call Esperanza United’s bilingual crisis line 651-772-1611 for Minnesota residents. For those outside of Minnesota, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24-hours a day at 1-800-799-7233, 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or chat with them live at TheHotline.org. Bilingual advocates are available at all times.