They were married and lived in a nice home in Whitestone. The agreement was that she would remain at home and take care of the children while he went out to work and paid the bills. But the picturesque life didn't last for too long. Her husband began to abuse her verbally and since he had control over the expenses, she also suffered financial abuse.
“It was hard, I felt like I was in a house with no windows and no doors, I felt like I was not living,” she said. Though her husband never touched her, she said that the emotional and psychological abuse is one of the worse to live through. “You cannot show it and say he hit me here,” she said.
Adding to the challenge, Zupanic recalled that some social workers and psychologists would overlook her concerns, telling her that because he pays the bills he must be under a lot of stress. “They would say, 'it's okay if he puts you down, it's okay because he's stressed out,' now I say no,” she said.
Last year, she found Queens College's Women and Work program, a life skills and job training program for women dealing with or emerging from domestic abuse. She spoke at the college's first Shine the Light on Domestic Violence ceremony last October using the name, “Hope.” There, she shared her story of abuse. But this year, she was able to tell attendees about her progress using her real name.
She reported her husband and now the divorce is working through the court system. Her two children are still in her care and she is currently looking for a job.
“I'm not afraid anymore,” she said. To those suffering from abuse now, she said she knows how they are feeling, “because this is the beginning.”
Zupanic credited Women and Work for giving women wings to grow stronger. She stayed with Women and Work for 15 weeks of what she called intense training until she was strong enough to make the next move. And through reading books like Eckhart Tolle's “The Power of Now” and doing yoga, she was able to gain and maintain her strength.
“I was soon ready for a fight with knowledge, a fight that you are somebody, nobody has the right to abuse you like that,” she said. “You don't have the right to put me down, neither me to put you down.”