Survivor Voices: Removing My Mask


This week’s Halloween-themed blog post is from Survivor MC, a member of our Survivor Speakers Bureau.

During Halloween season it’s fitting to speak about scary movies, spookiness and wearing masks. For Halloween you get one day to be someone else: a super hero, a funny character, stepping back in time or the future and choosing to wear a scary mask.

There are several kinds of masks:

  1. The adorable and cute one – little cartoon characters living in a fantasy land
  2. One that represents another person’s face like wanting to be someone else for a day
  3. Then another one that’s really scary, and ugly, and when someone walks behind you it invokes real panic.

When the night is over on Halloween you take off your mask and get to go back to your otherwise normal and peaceful life.

But for me and many other victims of Domestic Violence, it’s not like that. It’s quite the opposite really.  Every day I wore a mask pretending that everything was fine; it was the cute adorable kind of mask.  I went to work, I took care of my infant, I went to church and tried to do everything normally. However inside I was scared, I was afraid, and I had no peace of mind.  

My husband berated me verbally and/or physically abused me every day.  And yet I found a way to go out with my mask acting like I was ok.

I’m would like to speak to you about the mask I was wearing and coming out from behind the mask.

I have a strong Christian faith; I went to college and built a strong bond in my community.  I am a person that loves social justice and stood up for the rights of others. I loved church and made it a strong backbone of my life. I even sing on the praise and worship team and usually I have a huge smile on my face.

But there was a season in my life, not too long ago, where right after service I would walk out the doors into the parking lot on the verge of tears and even contemplating death.

You see, people that are in an abusive situation feel like they have to wear a mask.  I became extremely isolated. I stopped participating in the praise and worship team, I went to church less and less, I made excuses of why I had to be with my husband every waking moment of my free time. Because if I did something without him, or God forbid I spoke to people he did not approve of, there would be a steep price to pay.

My husband told me that my friends where jealous of me and did not want us to be happy, and I allowed him to alienate my friends.

Abuse victims wear this mask every day on the outside pretending that things looks nice, things are ok, beautiful and charming outside of the house but on the inside, the reality makes you scared, and makes you lose of sense of self .

And it’s like a roller coaster, because one minute they love you, can’t live without you, but the next there is violence, threats and unimaginable events that you have to endure.

For me, separation finally occurred after one hospital visit and a doctor that was so concerned for my welfare and the welfare of my child that they called the Department of Children and Families, which led to the police being called.

The separation was violent. And even then, I didn’t know that I was in an abusive situation. I just knew that I was married to a difficult person that loses his temper. 

I was put in contact with REACH by the court system and by the Department of Children and Families. They almost begged me to call REACH. I didn’t even want to.

Well, let me tell you it was the best call I ever made.  The difference between my faith community and the court system is not that they had all of the answers, but that they knew where to point me. You don’t have to have all the answers in order to help someone.

REACH allowed me to remove my mask and help me on a road to get my life back.  The person I really am, guiding me at my own pace to live a life where I’m self-sufficient, regaining self-confidence, coping with the fear and giving me knowledge of domestic violence and recognizing the signs of abuse. 

Now when you see me smile…It’s not a mask, it’s how I really feel inside and out.