Domestic violence victim tells her survival story at Southfield event

by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Susie Feldman not only talks about domestic violence – she survived it. And she shared her emotional and inspirational story with more than 50 local women business owners and leaders at a May 21 event hosted by the Women’s Caucus Group at Southfield-based Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss.

Feldman, a successful tax lawyer and the daughter of Holocaust survivors, once appeared to have the perfect life as the suburban wife of a physician, and mother of three young children. But behind the “perfect marriage” was nine years of controlling behavior, and emotional and physical abuse.

The illusion shattered one night in a Northern Michigan emergency room, where Feldman drove herself, bruised and bleeding after her husband attacked her. Police were called to the hospital and Feldman’s children watched their father taken away to jail in handcuffs.

Feldman, who serves as Endowment Specialist for The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and on the board of JCADA – the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse – in Detroit, is a frequent speaker to groups about surviving domestic violence. She also was a speaker at JWI's Second International Conference on Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community and at the 2011 Women to Watch Gala.

Her story has a happy ending. The West Bloomfield resident is happily remarried, with three children and two stepchildren, all of them advocates against domestic violence.

The event also supported HAVEN, a Southeast Michigan provider of specialized, comprehensive services in the areas of domestic violence and sexual assault, serving the community through a series of innovative intervention, treatment, prevention and education programs to help individuals and families through all stages of crisis. Attendees donated food and/or toiletry items, and Jaffe presented HAVEN with a donation in support of the great work it provides in the community.

“We were all very moved by Susie’s story,” says Sarah Weston, Jaffe partner and Women Caucus co-group leader. “Unfortunately stories like hers are far too common right here in our own back yard. That’s why we invited Susie in to speak and partnered with HAVEN to give back to our local community at the same time.”

In addition to Feldman’s presentation, Jaffe partners Julia Perkins and Julianne Cassin Sharp provided insights on how domestic violence issues affect the practice areas of family law and immigration law.

“I believe that listening to Susie’s awe-inspiring story impacted all of us,” says Sharp, a graduate of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and member of Jaffe’s Immigration Practice Group where she specializes in employment-based and family-based Immigration and Nationality Law, including representation of individuals before the U.S. Immigration Court. “It was especially encouraging to know that Susie was fully-aware of VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) and the protections it extends to domestic violence victims, particularly immigrant victims because of how uniquely vulnerable they are to exploitation and abuse.” 

Perkins – a member of the firm’s Litigation Group and a specialist in family law litigation as well as a trained mediator in the area of family law – noted that survivors like Feldman and organizations like the HAVEN are instrumental in society’s awareness of this important issue.

“It was very nice to hear Susie’s success story,” she says. “Seeing so much of this on a regular basis, it was good to hear of a success story of a strong lady and a court system that didn’t fail her.”

Jaffe’s Women’s Caucus Group is a team of lawyers and paralegals bringing together professional women and providing education, marketing, mentoring and networking opportunities through outstanding programming. The Caucus Group also is highly active in initiatives to give back to the community. Last fall, the Caucus Group hosted Just Baked entrepreneur Pam Turkin, who shared her story about expanding a small bakery into a national cupcake empire. 

“By sharing her business and personal experiences, our attorneys and guests all gained valuable take-aways that could be immediately applied to their lives,” says Jaffe partner and Women Caucus Co-Group Leader Alicia Schehr.  “That’s what the (Caucus) Group is all about – professional women coming together and making a difference.”

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