Survivor M (a participant in REACH’s Community Program) delivered these remarks at our 12th Annual Reach for the Stars Gala this past Saturday night. We are reposting them here for anyone who missed it, or wants to read her words for themselves.
Good Evening ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to share with you about the journey I’ve been on to turn my life around.
You see, I had always had a dream of a perfect family, but that dream quickly turned into a nightmare. Four words saved my life and started my journey to regaining my identity and moving forward.
My husband berated, criticized, physically hurt or threatened me every day, and when I say every day, I mean every day there was a day.
I lived in fear, I walked on egg shells around him and he told me that my new born baby would be taken away if I ever tried to leave him.
I wanted to die. I actually started making plans, writing letters to my then baby of how much I love her.
Believe it or not, I actually didn’t know that I was in an abusive situation. Not all the infractions left marks on me, the majority were about control over my time, my finances, who I spoke to. All I knew is that it felt wrong, but I didn’t recognize the behaviors as abusive.
I mean I’m well educated, successful, well-travelled and everybody loves me! I’m a real extravert by nature, but after being under the control of my husband, I hid from public functions because the consequences of being friendly to any person not on his approval list would be hell to pay.
I felt that I had no options, I was so very alone. He made me believe that none of my friends or family were there for me, and of course he had scared them all away or made them so uncomfortable they stopped coming over in case he was around.
Then came the phone call that saved my life, the call that would give me the strength to take that first step. It was my brother’s wife. She said she had had a dream, where she saw me sitting in the corner and crying inconsolably. I was dead silent as she told me this. I had made such effort to conceal my pain, my hurt, my bruises. She asked me if everything was ok, and said “feel free to open up to me.”
I hesitated but I gave her a glimpse of what I was experiencing.
She shared with me that in her 20’s she had been in a relationship with a very violent boyfriend. If it wasn’t for someone reaching out to her she probably would be dead right now.
Her last phrase resonated with me. “Don’t suffer in silence.”
Wow. That’s what I’d been doing all along. I didn’t tell my family or his because he was so darn likable and looked perfect and like prince charming on the outside. I mean who would believe me?
After hearing those 4 words I tried to take small steps to protect myself and my baby. The biggest step was deciding to call REACH.
I was scared. After all, the person I loved the most made it his purpose to demoralize me every day, the last thing I needed was an organization telling me what to do.
Abuse sucks the life out of you and makes you dependent on the abuser and that’s what happened to me. I had a 6 week old, no money, was one month away from being evicted because my husband cleared out our bank account and left me with $12, and had not paid any of the utilities. I didn’t have diapers or formula left to last me a week.
REACH was there with me. They explained to me my options, and they clarified certain legal procedures. They literally held my hand while in court.
REACH was there, helping me get to that next step, and the next step, till I no longer needed the resources and I could manage things on my own. They listened to me, they really heard me, and for the first time in years I didn’t feel like I was crazy.
REACH gave my daughter a first Christmas that I can tell her about.
I have attended support groups with other women of all socio-economic backgrounds, and what we have in common (other than the hurt) is the fact that we were suffering in silence until REACH embraced us.
They let me cry, they let me speak of the reality of my scars, and what scares me. I was not alone anymore; I was no longer suffering in silence.
REACH gave me real tools to protect myself, gain confidence again and to be back in self-control. By the grace of God I am now productive, self-sufficient and I have goals in life to leave a positive mark in my community and to raise a daughter who will also leave a positive mark in this world.
Most importantly, REACH gave me the strength to look forward to a future.
Through your support you enable other victims to no longer suffer in silence. Thank you for supporting me, for being a change for good in my life and allowing me to live a life more abundantly out loud.