As a teen, I never imagined the difficult journey my life would take as an adult. And as I travelled through two abusive marriages, I still didn’t understand how I even ended up there, both times. But one thing I am grateful for is how much more I have learned since leaving the torment that swallowed my life for so long.
The day I made the decision to share my story for the first time, I saw a post from a woman in Florida who had been stabbed 27 times and lived to tell her story. I felt a pit in the bottom of my stomach, a pull to join the movement to help stop anyone from ever going through what we, and so many others, have experienced.
To preface, about a month earlier, my daughter asked me to share our experiences with domestic violence in her class at school. I had no idea at the time that just sharing our story would also become a part of educating teens and bringing awareness to a cause. I had the pleasure of sharing and teaching that same lesson over and over again over the next 5 years, long after my daughter graduated. I started advocating before I even realized it’s what I was doing.
To prepare for the class, I requested the photos from the police they had taken of a particularly brutal attack in 2006, a night that would eventually change the trajectory of my life forever.
I had never seen the photos and found myself taken back by the amount of damage I had somehow over the years minimized. Not the incident itself, but the amount of pain, and sadness that it brought. Staring at the picture of my unrecognizable face, I felt all the trauma I had experienced over the years come rushing back. I knew that if I could help even one person never experience that pain, then sharing my story, our story, was worth it.
I crafted my first story about what happened to me and along with the photos, posted it to Facebook. I held my breath and closed my eyes, not having a clue how it would be received by others. The support I received from that post was overwhelming and it didn’t take long for me to realize I had just become a voice for people who never got a chance to live a life outside of abuse. I also realized that even 7 years after that attack, I hadn’t done any of my own healing. I was merely out in the world just surviving the after effects of all that abuse.
Soon after, I made a decision to fly out to San Diego on my daughter’s 18th birthday, to spend a few days with other survivors at a retreat where we had all come together to share, grow and learn from each other. A decision that I did not know at the time would change the entire trajectory of my future.
Now I have a circle of warrior sisters around the country who I am blessed to call my friends, and who are all trying to end domestic violence. One of those miraculous women I met years ago is Audrey May Prosper, the founder of NDVC. We found something that made our stories similar but those similarities also made us feel like we were set apart in a way that was hard for us to share with others because of our unique perspective about our exes.
Audrey’s vision of working on the prevention of abuse, rather than the reaction to it, was absolutely something I wanted to be a part of. I knew the numbers were not changing. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men would suffer abuse at the hands of an intimate partner in their lifetime. So does that mean that while we have amazing support systems and resources around this country, it’s not enough to stop or end domestic violence? And with this shift in approach could we actually start to see changes in the numbers by addressing the reasons people abuse while simultaneously continuing to help those suffering through it?
I have a resume full of speaking engagements, vigils, community events and advocacy work. None of which has made a dent in the amount of domestic abuse we see in this country every single day. Awareness is the first step to change but it is not enough. What I do know is that experience led me here, to a place where I joined forces with NDVC, our entire courageous crew, and Audrey. Why? Because we truly believe advocating differently is the turning point for significantly reducing the number of people being impacted by abuse. This is a mission I am proud to be a part of.