No one understands better than Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos that to an outsider she has the “perfect” life. She’s married to Senate President Mike Haridopolos, has three beautiful children and is a successful family physician in Melbourne. But since disclosing her experiences as a victim of domestic violence, Dr. Haridopolos has shed new light on the issue, becoming a powerful voice for victim advocacy and tearing down stereotypes of what being a “victim” is.

Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos

“I feel like I’m fulfilling some destiny,” she says. Dr. Haridopolos was in an abusive marriage for seven years. She knew she had to break the cycle for her children, then four and one. After finishing her residency and getting a job with Omni Healthcare, she was able to leave and begin her life again. “I wanted to tear down the barrier and stereotypes that prevent people from getting help,” she says. “I feel a great responsibility in my survivorship.” Once she went public about the abuse in an article that was published in late 2011, the story was picked up statewide by the Associated Press; she became an instant advocate for victims’ rights and hasn’t stopped since. She was contacted by Tiffany Carr, president/CEO of Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, after their hotline experienced.

A surge in calls from women immediately after the article was published. Working together with Carr and with her husband’s leadership, she helped secure vital funding with the passing of three key measures to combat domestic violence – each of these important measures was adopted unanimous-ly by the Florida Senate and House. She was invited by Attorney General Pam Bondi to National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and to speak about her experience at the state capitol. She’s also spent time speaking at fundraisers for domestic violence shelters. Her next stop will be on October 5, at Serene Harbor’s event, Purses with a Purpose, a luncheon including a live auction of new designer purses, silent auction and raffles. The event benefits Serene Harbor, which offers a safe refuge and provides life changing services for women in the community who are victims of domestic violence. Tickets to the event are $40. Dr. Haridopolos finds being an advocate for victims and encouraging others to get help is cathartic. “How can I not do this in my position?”