Survivor’s play about abuse, mental health, HIV is linking public to services

Domestic violence survivor Karen Chattum shares her story, hopes to help others

A domestic violence survivor is telling her story in an innovative way, and it's catching the attention of agencies such as the San Antonio Police Department and the Metropolitan Health District.

SAN ANTONIOUpdated Friday at 4:18 p.m.

The play, “Hurting Became a Habit,” which was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at the University of the Incarnate Word, has been postponed until further notice due to concerns about the Coronavirus.


A domestic violence survivor is telling her story in an innovative way, and it’s catching the attention of agencies such as the San Antonio Police Department and the Metropolitan Health District.

The play, Karen Chattum's “Hurting Became a Habit,” was written by Karen herself.

She was married to her abuser for 23 years.

"I was open to that because I was still dealing with the hurt from me as a kid surviving molestation," she said. "I can openly say that now without tearing up."

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As part of her recovery, she started an organization called We SPEAK on Purpose.

"It's narrative therapy," Chattum said. "I write to bring attention to social issues most people won't talk about comfortably in their own home. So we, on purpose, go out and speak about family violence survival, we talk about mental health and we talk about HIV."

This weekend, Chattum and her cast will perform the play at the University of the Incarnate Word with the support of county-wide organizations, including SAPD’s Crisis Response Team and Metro Health’s HIV and violence prevention team.

"I don't just want to hand out pamphlets. After the play is over, people are all emotional and say, 'Oh my God, I'm going through that, and I didn't know what to do or who to speak to.' We connect them with a person and link them into care. Get them tested right then and there before they go home and talk themselves out of knowing what their status is," Chattum said.

Metro Health Violence Prevention Manager Jenny Hixon said all of these health issues are interconnected.

“We know that people who are HIV positive — that disclosure in and of itself can lead to a violent episode. We also know that people who are in relationships experiencing violence oftentimes can’t negotiate safe sex. People who are HIV positive in violent relationships also have a lower compliance rate with the antiretroviral treatment because denying access to medication and medical care can be a part of that cycle of abuse,” Hixon said.

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"This isn't just about intervention; it's about prevention, too. If we can get one person not to go through what I went through, then this makes sense to me," Chattum said.

The play is free to the public and will be performed Saturday, March 14, and Sunday, March 15, at UIW's Maybee Library Auditorium at 4301 Broadway St.

Karen Chattum’s “Hurting Became A Habit” offers a creative narrative therapy with a comical twist on the insight of low self-esteem and self-harming birthed by the stigma of HIV, the pain of rape, incest, molestation and lack of parental support.

The storyline is based on six characters — a counselor, case manager and the four residents of a transitional home for women striving to reauthor their stories and ultimately gain tools that will aid them in dealing with life on life’s terms.

Parental discretion is advised. The play includes serious subject matters.

Community organizations that will be offering services and resources at the event are as follows:

1. University of the Incarnate Word with help from Dr. Doshie Piper

2. Center For Health Care Services / Metro Health

3. BEAT AIDS Coalition Trust with the help of Michele Durham

4. SAPD Crisis Response Team

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Dale Keller is senior news photographer at KSAT-12.