Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Leaving more difficult for abuse victims than we imagine

She spoke as a girlfriend, abused by her boyfriend.

She spoke as a wife, abused by her first husband.

She spoke as a daughter, abused by her father.

The cold, harsh sentences don't even begin to illuminate the pain Natalie Baird shared last week at the Spring's annual Gift of Peace event. In an address wrought with emotion, Baird told of living with fear, dealing with bruises and being choked until she passed out.

She delivered reminders about the physically and mentally debilitating acts of domestic violence and how everyone needs to help eliminate this horrid societal ill.

But my biggest take-away involved Baird's mixed feelings about her father.

A former board chairwoman for the Spring, she was set to deliver the keynote at the 2012 Gift of Peace event, with her second husband, Cory, by her side.

But Cory had to drive to Lakeland to check on her aging father. Her mother was out of town and Baird got concerned when her dad didn't answer the telephone.

Baird confessed that Cory's departure made her angry at her father. That anger changed to regret when Cory called and told Baird her father had died. She suspended the speech and rushed to Lakeland.

The courage she displayed in returning to this year's Gift of Peace event and laying out all of her emotions left me in awe. The task may have seemed insurmountable for some, but Baird pushed forward through halting words and watery eyes, determined to make a difference.

She spoke not only of the moments of abuse her father inflicted, but how he was abused as a child. She shared that his brand of discipline crossed the line of acceptable parenting, but also explained he played a critical role in helping her break free from an abusive relationship years later.

She hated some of his acts, but appreciated the love he showered on her during other moments. She recalled with a smile how they sat together on football Sundays and rooted for his favorite team, the New Orleans Saints.

The next time someone argues that the simple solution to any abusive situation is for the victim to leave, think about the complexities of the relationship between Baird and her father and realize it's just not that easy.

We can't continue to dismiss the complicated emotions involved in domestic violence and suggest that the abused somehow invite punishment or deserve torment.

Yes, every victim needs to escape, but it's easier said than done.

"Sometimes the victim thinks death may be easier than having to live without that person," Baird said.

Probably no one understands the need to support victims more than Baird. Now a Tampa lawyer, she teamed with her husband and two other local attorneys, Miriam Velez and Jason Valkenburg, to create Are You Safe, a nonprofit that helps domestic violence victims obtain domestic violence injunctions.

Are You Safe's misson: Help every victim and their children escape abusive relationships and assist the victim in transitioning to a better life.

Baird found her way out and I love that she strives to light the path to safety for others. The Spring ( and Are You Safe ( deserve the community's support as they cast lifelines to victims whose lives may be cut short because they can't escape.

That's all I'm saying.

Leaving more difficult for abuse victims than we imagine 10/23/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 3:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Looking Back: St. Petersburg does the Calypso with Jacques Cousteau (July 15, 1975)


    This story appeared in the pages of the St. Petersburg Times on July 15, 1975. What follows is the text of the original story, interspersed with photos of the event taken by Times staff photographer Weaver Tripp.

    Jacques Cousteau (center), Sen. John T. Ware, R-St. Petersburg (left) and an unidentified man (right) speak to the media about potentially moving the Cousteau Society to the city of St. Petersburg.

TIMES | Weaver Tripp
  2. Hernando commissioners question sheriff's accounting of federal inmate dollars

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — As Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis and his staff presented his proposed 2017-18 budget earlier this month, county Commissioner Steve Champion threw out an unexpected question.

    Sheriff Al Nienhuis and the county fought over his department’s budget last year.
  3. Unused county property in Pasco could soon sprout community gardens

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Unused property in Pasco County may soon sprout community gardens that beautify neighborhoods and promote healthier lifestyles among residents, thanks to an ordinance passed unanimously Tuesday by the County Commission.

    A new Pasco ordinance allows the public to build community gardens and farms on county-owned property and also provides design, operations and maintenance standards for them.
  4. Treasure Island city manager search to start from scratch

    Local Government

    TREASURE ISLAND — City commissioners, disappointed with the number and quality of applicants for city manager, decided Tuesday to start over and hire an executive search firm.

    Treasure Island Commissioner Ken Keys thought adding former Madeira Beach city manager Shane Crawford to the pool would "bring a little too much drama.''
  5. Family escapes fire that destroys New Tampa home


    A family is safe after an overnight fire destroyed a single-story home in New Tampa on Thursday, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.

    An overnight house fire destroyed a home at 10265 Estuary Dr in New Tampa on Thursday. The family's smoke detectors helped everyone get out of the house safely, fire officials said. [Tampa Fire Rescue]