Presentation in Del Mar to highlight how domestic violence survivors ‘Leap to Success’


By Kristina Houck

Ruth Batton was taken to a secluded area in Kansas City, Mo., and shot at several times. The mother of two had been in a loving relationship for four years before her boyfriend became physically and emotionally abusive.

“He took me up into the mountains and would tell me he could kill me out there and they wouldn’t find me until spring,” Batton, 58, said.

Because of the empowerment and leadership training she received through Leap to Success, Batton now speaks about her experience with domestic violence to encourage other women to seek help.

Representatives from the organization will share how Leap to Success is helping victims like Batton during a presentation Aug. 19 at the Del Mar Community Building.

“I’m a survivor,” Batton said. “Any woman that comes out has to be strong. I’ve had to be strong to even live through it. But you don’t realize that. At the time, you feel like nothing because that’s what you hear. Leap to Success helped me dig inside me and pull me back out.”

Through Leap to Success’ Transformation Leadership program, Batton learned how to speak about her experience.

“At the beginning, I was terrified,” said Batton, a San Diego native. “I felt shame that I even went through such a thing. I felt weak because I didn’t get out of it sooner. A lot of emotions came through.

“Now I can speak of it with power. This is what I’ve been through; this is not me. It doesn’t define me.”

The Transformation Leadership program helped Batton build confidence and public speaking skills. The program also helped with her job search and interview preparation.

“I learned that I was worthy and that I was somebody,” Batton said. “We had a beautiful time building ourselves back up and learning to love ourselves. We had other women, also in the same boat that we were in, so we weren’t alone.”

Leap to Success launched in 2008. Founder Dana Bristol-Smith noticed women who gained public speaking skills through her company Speak for Success were often promoted at their jobs.

“That led me to work with domestic violence survivors — women who have lost their voice, and as a result, lost their way in life,” said Bristol-Smith, who lives in Oceanside.

In partnership with the San Diego Family Justice Center and YWCA of San Diego County, Bristol-Smith tested the professional development program she designed with domestic violence survivors in 2008. Fewer than 10 people participated in the pilot program.

“We saw that there was a huge need for this kind of program for women who were rebuilding their lives,” Bristol-Smith said. “I was incredibly amazed how wonderfully well the women did who went through the program. It not only changed how they felt abut themselves, but it really changed their whole lives.”

Today, Leap to Success provides support and training to more than 100 women per year through its six-week Leap to Confidence program and yearlong Transformation Leadership program.

With the support and skills she gained from the program, Batton now works as a caregiver and is a few classes away from earning her master’s degree in behavioral science. She has opened her home to other victims of domestic violence and is caring for four children. Batton hopes to one day open a shelter for women who have been affected by domestic violence.

“Leap to Success is important because women that have taken the step to leave a domestic violence situation are very fragile and they need support,” Batton said. “A woman without support is a woman that will possibly fail. If she fails, she’ll end up going back.”

Bristol-Smith and Lauraine Brekke-Esparza, former Del Mar city manager and Leap to Success board member, will lead the presentation from 10 a.m. -11:30 a.m. on Aug. 19 at the Del Mar Community Building, located at 225 9th St., Del Mar. To register for the event, call 858-792-7565.

For more information about Leap to Success, visit