October 1st marks the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). We asked the members of our Survivor Speakers Bureau why we need DVAM, and here is what one of them had to say.
I had never heard of DV awareness month. Why would I – it had nothing to do with me, right?
I mean, I heard people talk about domestic violence. I watched movies about it on TV. I wondered aloud how people let themselves be treated in ways that were inexcusable. I would never let it happen to me. Then I started to hear it – that same scare tactic that I shrugged off was being used on me. I started to remember the lies that were told to me, but only when the truth smacked me. The arguments with my sisters weren’t about strangers they saw on the street – they were about me. The looks that I got weren’t because people thought I was silly, they knew.
Years after my marriage ended, I was a shell of the person I had been before. I was just living each moment for my child, making sure that his needs were met, day by day – but I wasn’t happy. I was working, but not functioning. I was alive but not living. At the request of my mother, I went to a support group sponsored by REACH. It would be a breeze, because none of it applied to me. I wasn’t like these other women – I wasn’t. For the first few weeks, I went and listened, but I didn’t hear. Then I was handed “the wheel” – it literally looked like a bicycle wheel. The hub, the part right in the center of the wheel, was Power & Control. Connected to that were the spokes & each spoke represented a different form of abuse. From emotional, economic, sexual abuse, to isolation, intimidation, etc. As I read that wheel, the tears started falling. I found so many spokes that had been my reality. Still, I didn’t own my past – not for a few more group sessions.
When I finally showed up to group and opened up, admitted that he fed his abuse with my lack of knowledge about what abuse really was, it was the first time I heard “It’s not your fault” and believed it. It was the first crack in the wall I had built up. Each time I went and sat, listened and shared – my burden became a little bit lighter. These women, the ones that I had nothing in common with, they helped to keep me grounded and gave me a sense of self – they let me know that I wasn’t alone. Soon after, I was able to tell close friends and family something they already seemed to know. Slowly, I was able to take back the power that he held over me. The shame and embarrassment that I had felt had been turned into strength and pride.
If I had known about the “crazy making”, isolating, threatening &controlling aspects of DV, I may have recognized it sooner – maybe not. But I can tell you that now, with DV Awareness Month, I am proud to share my story, part of my soul, with an organization like REACH who has helped me and so many others. I am honored to be part of a group that is always working to break the cycle, while still so willing to hold up those in need. Showing us that we can be strong….I wish it was longer than a month.