Survivor to advocate: Madison woman works to help others affected by domestic violence

Survivor to advocate: Madison woman works to help others affected by domestic violence

A survivor of domestic abuse has made a new life for herself in Madison, and is not only healing her own wounds but helping others in similar situations.

Originally from Serbia, Nela Kalpic, 35, was just 19 years old when she fell in love with her now ex-husband.

“He was handsome and what I saw at the time as a charming guy,” she said.

She always was taken with the allure of falling for a man from the far-away land of Egypt.

“I, for a while, would write off many of his behaviors as a difference in culture,” Kalpic said.

However, it wasn’t long before those different behaviors became universally violent.

“One night, he dragged me into the bedroom and took out his belt, ” she said. “Strangely enough, I don’t really remember the pain even though I know it hurt, but I remember the look in his eye and how he savored my fear.”

That fear and pain persisted for year until Kalpic saw an unlikely way out of the situation — the Egyptian revolution of 2011.

“Egypt was unsafe but my home felt less safe that the streets of Egypt,” she said.

Seeking asylum she moved with three kids and ex-husband to the United States. One night with the help of relatives in the U.S., she made her final escape to Wisconsin.

“I packed my kids in the car — we were in North Carolina at the time — and I drove all the way to Madison,” she said.

One of her first stops was to DAIS, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services in Dane County.

“Nela had reached out to us a while back and initially started attending our support groups,” Shannon Barry, the executive director of DAIS said.

In just a few years Kalpic has gone from survivor to an advocate. She works regularly with domestic abuse victims and shapes policy at DAIS and beyond. She currently works for State Senator Jennifer Shilling at the capitol.

Just last month, Kalpic was awarded the Courage Award by Gov. Scott Walker. The award acknowledges survivors of domestic abuse who have turned adversity into triumph.

“Anyone who meets her is just really taken in by her warmth and her compassion and her passion for ending domestic violence,” Barry said.

While Kalpic said she wouldn’t wish her situation on anyone, she knows this tough journey has put her right where she wants to be.

“It makes me feel like whatever I’ve been through really hasn’t been in vain,” she said.

If you or a loved one are being abused, or feel unsafe in a relationship, you can reach DAIS any time at 608-251-4445,