Even as Domestic Violence Awareness month comes to an end, the fight to raise awareness and speak out to save lives will not stop — especially during a pandemic in which individuals worldwide are forced into quarantine with their abusers. For Sarah Ripoli, a 27-year-old woman who was witness to her mother's death by domestic violence when she was just 6 years old, this couldn't be more true.
Today, just about 20 years after her mom's murder, the Angel Energy founder is using her voice, and her business, to continue the conversation around domestic violence every day while also donating 25% of proceeds to domestic violence charities like Safe+Sound, One Love, National Domestic Violence Hotline, Women Rising, The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Child Witness to Violence Project — to name just a handful.
"Domestic violence can happen to ANYONE," Sarah reminds us, adding, "I hope those suffering in silence know that they are not alone." And thanks to warriors like Sarah and everyone spreading awareness, victims and survivors are reminded daily that they will never be alone.
Read more from my interview with Sarah in which she shared her story and how she overcame the loss, gave tips on what to look out for in relationships, talked about how to be a good support system for victims and survivors, and more.
Q. Can you share your story of how domestic violence has impacted your life?
Courtesy of Sarah Ripoli
"When I was 6 years old, in March 1999, my mother attempted to leave my father's extreme domestic abuse to save my life after he threatened to kill us both. When she won temporary custody over me a month later in April 1999, she returned home to collect her belongings. While I waited for her downstairs in the house my father shot and killed her. Being an only child, I lost my entire family that day. Fortunately, my grandparents raised me, and the rest of my adolescence turned out great despite the circumstances."
Q. How did you overcome this loss? What did that process look like for you?
"For the majority of my lifetime, I carried this burden of shame surrounding my mother's death. I was always worried about being judged for my differences, so I suppressed my emotions deep inside of me. This wasn't helping anyone including myself, so after almost 20 years, I decided to share my story with the world. Speaking my truth was more therapeutic than I initially realized, as it finally made me feel free. I know nothing will ever bring my mom back or fully fill the void in my heart but doing something to help save the lives of others in similar situations is one thing that I have control over. I decided to never let what happened to me be an excuse for my actions and created a positive narrative for my life instead."
Q. Do you feel your personal experience with domestic violence impacted the way you approach relationships in your own life?
"Losing my mom to domestic violence opened my eyes to the hidden danger of intimate partner abuse. Knowing this kind of evil exists helped me to avoid it at all costs by recognizing the early red flags."
Q. Are there certain things you look out for that you'd recommend others look out for as well?
"Two early signs of abuse to be aware of are gaslighting and isolation. Gaslighting: the abuser won't take responsibility for their toxic behavior and will make the victim question reality. Isolation: when someone begins to separate the victim from their friends and family members. The abuse brainwashes their victim into believing no one else in their life besides them can be trusted. This continues until the victim cuts off almost everyone they know and becomes isolated with the abuser."
Q. What boundaries do you recommend others set for themselves when it comes to their own safety in relationships?
"Don't feel bad for removing toxic people from your life. Your internal peace must come first always."
Q. Now you have your brand, Angel Energy. Can you tell me all about it?
Courtesy of Sarah Ripoli
"Angel Energy is a fashion brand that focuses on raising domestic abuse awareness. We donate 25% of all proceeds from our apparel to a different domestic violence-based organization every month. Angel Energy is much more than a brand, but an important movement to create change and a community where everyone is encouraged to use their voice. Our mission is to inspire resilience by spreading positivity and optimism."
Q. How can people be a good support system for those who are currently being affected by domestic violence, survivors, or even relatives?
"The feeling of shame is often why victims don't confide in friends or family about the severity of their situation. Listening without judgment is one of the best ways to support those in need."
Q. Are there any statistics about domestic violence that you find particularly important for others to know?
"Separation is the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship. 75% of domestic violence-related homicides occur upon separation and there is a 75% increase of violence upon separation for at least two years. This is why in cases of custody battles following a separation, it is so important to have a police escort present."
Q. What's one misconception people have about domestic violence that you hope to change?
"Domestic violence can happen to ANYONE — 1 in every 3 women and 1 in every 4 men will experience a form of domestic abuse in the United States alone. Domestic violence is also something that is extremely unreported, so those statistics are likely even higher. There are so many of us who have either been affected by domestic violence personally or know someone that has been a victim. I hope those suffering in silence know that they are not alone."
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