Even though it was many years ago, Roosevelt University graduating student Daniela Lasakova doesn’t forget the experience.
He twisted my hair in his hand and dragged me into the kitchen where I saw a knife on the table,” Lasakova, writes in her recently completed honor’s thesis.
“I wanted to take it for protection, but something inside me told me not to retaliate. Everything would have been different.”
Today, things are very different – and in a positive way – for Lasakova who will walk across the stage at the Auditorium Theatre for a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Roosevelt University on Friday, Dec. 13.
A native of the Czech Republic, Lasakova, 44, came to the United States in 2001 for travel and a better life. She overstayed her visa, and today remains undocumented, but on a waiting list for a deferred-action of a U Visa that will one day make it possible for her to become a U.S. citizen.
“I lived in shadows for a long time, and advise anyone in that situation not to be frightened – you do have rights,” said Lasakova, who became a candidate for the visa protecting the safety of women and children in harm’s way following several incidents in the U.S. in which someone she knew well physically attacked her.
At the time, she did not speak much English and did not understand a lot about domestic violence and its consequences. However, she did want a college education, and the chance to turn her situation into a learning experience.
“Daniela’s positive attitude is noteworthy considering her background,” said Elijah Ricks, assistant professor of forensic psychology, who advised Lasakova on her honor’s thesis about Battered Women Syndrome. “This is a student who is joyful about how far she has come in her life, and it will be sad to see her go.”
During three years at Roosevelt, Lasakova has been president of the Roosevelt chapter of the Psi Chi club. She has also worked to raise awareness about domestic violence on campus, posting fliers in many locations on where to go and whom to contact for help. A resident of Lindenhurst, Ill., she is also part of a domestic violence ministry group at her church, the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Lake Villa, Ill.
“It takes a support system to recover – and I want to continue to be part of it,” she said.
Already accepted at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Lasakova hopes to get a master’s degree for a future career as a psychologist working in prisons with battered women who are serving time for crimes committed against their attackers Interest in such work stems from her own experience of being beaten, and that moment in time when she wanted to pick up the knife on the table and use it against her attacker.
“The prognosis is always better for individuals with a strong support system,” Lasakova writes in her honor’s thesis entitled “Battered Women Syndrome: What Elements Determine the Culpability of a Battered Woman Who Retaliates Against Her Spouse?”
“My goal with this research is to bring a better understanding of intimate partner violence and the way it can affect a person’s feelings, thinking and reacting…I hope that one day I will be able to assist and help women that will get in trouble because of their history of abuse,” she writes in her thesis conclusion.