Lovern Gordon is the founder of Love Life Now, a Boston-area nonprofit that sparks discussions about domestic violence and raises money to aid women who have survived it. Intimate-partner abuse is a problem she is all too familiar with — and stopping it is a cause she has been dedicated to since her days as a beauty queen.
In 2010, Gordon won the Mrs. New England Ethnic World pageant, and decided to use her platform to take on domestic violence, in large part because her own childhood and early adulthood were marred by abusive men. She believed she could harness her platform to help end abuse by supporting survivors and breaking the silence surrounding them.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women (as well as one in four men) are physically abused by their partners during their lifetimes, and many suffer in secret. In one sign of the hush surrounding domestic violence, only 34 percent of those injured by their abusers receive medical care for their wounds, the NCADV says.
Gordon’s beauty queen reign came to an end in 2011, but she knew her work was not done. So that year, she turned her platform into a nonprofit by founding Love Life Now. Although Gordon also works part-time as a sales executive, she leads the nonprofit’s all-volunteer staff in organizing a variety of fundraisers, public outreach efforts and the production of an online publication.
These initiatives have, to date, raised thousands of dollars and collected tons of supplies like bedsheets and pillowcases for area shelters that work directly with domestic violence survivors.
A Difficult Past
In all of her work, Gordon has been candid about her own struggles with domestic violence. She was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, but her childhood was no tropical paradise. Her most vivid memories are of her father yelling at her mother and using improvised weapons, including beer bottles, to beat her.
As a teenager, Gordon left for America in pursuit of better opportunities. Once settled with family near Boston, she finished high school and began attending Suffolk University. But her past continued to haunt her. “Besides feeling helpless that I couldn’t do anything to help my mom, I kept telling myself that would never be me. I’d never let anyone put their hands on me as my father did on her,” she says.
In 1999, she met a man, and Gordon recalls that for the first couple of months, it was the sort of romance she had always envisioned for herself. But then things took a turn. He started to become jealous, and once, “he came over, and slapped me so hard I saw stars. That was the first time he hit me,” she says. “He stormed out and left, and I cried.”
Reminded her of her mother’s struggles, she initially vowed to stay away from him. But she soon took him back after he offered a profuse apology, but his violent behavior continued — then escalated. He strangled and punched her numerous times, she says, and the relationship began to take emotional and psychological tolls on her. “I continuously grew isolated from family and friends.”
Her breaking point came when she was hospitalized following an especially brutal attack. “I could have died, and no one would have known, because I was cut off,” she says. Even then, she hesitated to reach out to her family. “The doctor kept saying, ‘I can get you help.’ But in my mind, that meant getting the police involved, going to a shelter, and having my family find out what was going on in the relationship,” she says. “It meant everything to me to keep quiet at all costs.”
Despite her fears, Gordon did take the leap and ended the relationship — as well as her silence about what happened. But while the relationship was over for her, her problems didn’t end. Gordon’s ex-boyfriend began stalking her, and she was forced to file a restraining order.
Telling Her Tale
That break-up came in 2001, and at first, Gordon focused on her recovery. Once she felt more stable, she dedicated herself to her career in sales. All the while, she became more open about what she had been through.
Then, in 2010, she was dared by a friend to enter local beauty pageants. She did, and when asked to pick a cause to speak about during the competition, domestic violence was the obvious choice. “I decided to talk about it to anyone that would listen.”
When Gordon won Mrs. New England Ethnic World in 2010 and Mrs. Ethnic World soon after, she had the chance to speak publicly about her cause during press interviews, as well as at fundraisers and other charity events. Her reign as a beauty queen ended in 2011, but “I kept wanting to do more — whatever it is I could do to help” fight domestic abuse, she says. Thus, Love Life Now was born.
At the beginning, she used her personal savings and income to put on events designed to inspire people to “be part of the solution to ending violence against women.” Today, Love Life Now receives grants and donations and is able to “give back almost 80 percent of what we bring in through fundraising to shelters, who can do the real work of aiding survivors daily,” she says.
Gordon has multiple events planned for this year, including the organization’s annual drive to collect bedding supplies for survivors, its White Ribbon Night Gala fundraiser, and its Heel-a-thon, a fun awareness walk done in high-heeled shoes. She is also doing a speaking tour at high schools and colleges.
Sparking discussions and educating the public are priorities for Gordon. She wants the public to understand what those who endure abuse go through, and for survivors to know about resources that are available to them. And, she is getting accolades for Love Life Now’s impact; Gordon was recently honored by the African Caribbean American Coalition of Boston for her work.
But she isn’t in it for recognition. Rather, Gordon says she simply wants to spare others the hardships she endured. “This is something I’m passionate about because of what I’ve gone through.”