Don’t Remain Silent: Kathy Peterson

As an artist and Interior Designer for 45 years (a Design Educator for 25 of those years), Kathleen Parrish Peterson feels privileged to work with many women and men who pursued her guidance both in the classroom, as well as in their homes and offices, or commercial spaces. But the more women she talked with on a casual basis about abuse in the family, the more she discovered how many women have been victims of abuse.

Her goal became helping anyone become more comfortable with the concept of using a qualified therapist to explore familial abuse. Kathy especially wants to encourage women to help heal themselves with the assistance of qualified therapists. She says it is the best thing one can do for oneself, because she’s been there and considers herself walking proof of healing through therapy.

Fearless Females Forum 5Cs: Kathleen Parrish Peterson

Credit: Nancy

1. What’s the most courageous decision you’ve made?

The most courageous decision I made in my lifetime was at age 48. I walked into a therapist’s office to confront my abusive past. I felt as though my world had fallen apart. For the next hour, my life unfolded into the capable hands of an experienced counselor and confidante. Because my daughter drove me to that appointment and sat with me holding my hand through this first step, she experienced another side of her mother that she had not seen before: a woman who was broken. The realization that I had been sexually abused by my bio-father, and experienced other kinds of abuse from my family, and step-father, I knew I needed help.

2. What choices are most important to you?

The most important choice I made was a decision to pursue degrees in Interior Design. I always knew I wanted to be a designer, and knew that I needed to leave home, physically, for that to happen.  I chose a state university 75 miles from home, as a safe place where I could grow, learn, and encounter mentors who would lead me to my dreams. The other decision I made  was to pursue a relationship with the man I fell in love with during my college years. He continues to be a godsend to me in so many ways, and we just celebrated fifty years of marriage!  We have a daughter, son-in-law, and twin grandsons who live in New Jersey.

3. What fears have you conquered?

I conquered my fear of the unknown…….what I could not perceive about myself. I knew something had happened in my life, at various times in my childhood, but I could not pinpoint what that “something” was that was destroying my self-esteem and self-confidence. I had experienced an emotionally abusive past growing up in a family which tried to deny my existence and self-worth,  from child endangering to verbal, mental, and physical abuse. I was the youngest, the un-wanted child, in a family of three children. I was conceived in spousal rape, and felt as though I never belonged to my family because they did not want me to feel as though I belonged to them.

4. What conversation made the most impact on you?

Many conversations with dear friends have had an impact on me, but the important conversations I remember first  were those with my beloved grandparents when they were taking care of me prior to my entering kindergarten. Their encouragement, their love, their compassion all contributed to my having some sense that my life was worth living.  I also remember that my mentor in college encouraged me to work on the Master’s degree as she felt I would make a good college faculty member. I followed her advice and never regretted it. I always felt strongly that my husband believed in my worth as a woman: as a college faculty member, as a designer, and as his wife.

3. What do you want women to get clear about?

Above all, women have choices they can make, either for good or for ill. I encourage women to not remain silent when berated by another person. Speak up and stand up for who you know you are as a person of worth.  We do have the capacity to believe in ourselves, so that we can also believe in others who need to hear our own words of encouragement.  If your life is threatened, report it. If you have been battered, find a safe place out of harm’s way. Then make that appointment to see a counselor!

Gratitude goes out to Kathy for having the courage to share herstory! Looking for beauty and inspiration?

You’ll find Kathy’s art and writings at  You may also access Kathy’s e-book, “One Woman’s Journey: From Abuse to Empowerment,” at her website.


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