By M, a survivor
There are rare moments in life when we can stand up for something that is timely, ethically right, and appropriate, for our identity. I’ve received this opportunity, but it came with pain, anguish, and lots of time where I had to take to heal.
Back in the fall of 2014, I was so angry, sad, devastated, and disheveled in every way. I was in a REACH support group one Tuesday night where I learned about the wave of abuse, the definition of abuse, and red flags of an abusive relationship.
Hearing this made me so emotional and so angry. I could not believe that a well-educated, well-traveled, self-proclaimed “Glam Diva” like myself wouldn’t know what true domestic abuse was. It’s there that I realized that I subscribed to the lie-filled depiction of abuse that the media puts out. The lie that we see on television and the news that it’s only poor people, uneducated people, runaways, etc. that finds themselves in this predicament.
Until that Tuesday afternoon, I would not dare consider myself a domestic violence victim. But there I was, faced with the truth, finally educated with the real definition and the reality of domestic violence and how it crosses all walks of life, that it transcends social and economic lines, and that it happens in my middle-class zip code.
I was faced with the truth: I was a victim. It wasn’t me being a bad wife. It wasn’t me going crazy and not submitting to his requests and demands. He was controlling. He was an abuser, and this is who he is.
In fact, I formally learned about boundaries for the very first time at REACH as well and it was freeing and refreshing. I try to practice it as much as possible. I asked myself why wouldn’t they formally teach this at any other point in my life? Anywhere? With all of the years of schooling, the many conversations with my mom, mentors, teachers… no one ever touched base on the patterns of abuse.
On my way out of the meeting, I looked at Jenna, my advocate, with tears in my eyes and asked in almost a defiant way, “Why don’t they teach this at schools? If I had heard this somewhere maybe I would have made a better choice. Maybe I would have made a different choice. Maybe I would have recognized a handful of red flags and applied boundaries in my relationships. Maybe I would have known that he had not respected my boundaries and I would have asserted myself.”
That faithful Tuesday night, I had now been forever armed with the truth, with the knowledge.
Jenna so gently and respectfully responded, “Soo… we do speak at different venues. Some are high schools and we inform whoever will listen about Domestic Violence 101 and prevention.”
It was shortly thereafter that I was invited to be a member of the Survivor Speakers Bureau, a program of REACH that does outreach to educate the public about domestic violence. I wasn’t ready to come out publicly then, but on the second ask, maybe a few months shy of a year later, I was ready. I was ready to use my voice for change.
Armed with the truth, my strength, regained self-esteem, I was ready.
At every speaking opportunity I feel like it’s my coming out party. I feel empowered, I feel bold, I know I am making a difference.
My goal and prayer in my heart is that if I can reach one person to recognize the red flags, to understand the wave of abuse, to assert themselves in establishing their own boundaries… then I will have used my voice for good.
My voice was stifled and my light almost extinguished, but now that I have my voice back, I will use it to make a difference in my community, to raise awareness around the world, and empower others.
Join our voices in awareness. By listening, by believing the victim, by not victim-blaming, and by simply saying it’s not okay behavior. By calling the behavior by its name… Abuse.
I’m proud that through this pain, I can use my voice for change