Thank you Esta Soler. Thank you Frances Perkins. Thank You Susan B. Anthony. Thank you to the thousands of advocates who made the United States of America what it is today. It certainly isn’t perfect, but I’m a living and thankful example of what you spoke so loudly and proudly about.
Thank you for advocating for my ability to live a peaceful life. I’m a woman. I’m a domestic violence survivor. And I did it with the help of my community – a community that you transformed.
Susan – without your advocacy in women’s suffrage our voices would never have been heard. You showed history that we mattered. You proved that our perspective was invaluable.
Frances – You fought for our safety in the workplace. You fought for our jobs. You were the right-hand woman to the POTUS. You were brilliant and paved the way for others.
Esta – You shined a bright light in a dark corner. Because of you, organizations like Safe Futures exist. Because of them, I had around the clock access to the information that saved my life.
I was never beaten. I was never bloodied. But I was abused. I left. That statement alone would have Esta, Frances, Susan, and their cohorts cheering. I left. I was able to get out. I didn’t do it on my own. If it had been up to me alone, I’d have never left. But I sought help, something that wasn’t always so easily accessible.
It all began when an emaciated version of myself scrolled through the Psychology Today website. I needed help. I knew it had to be my fault he acted this way. I knew I had to learn how to change myself if I wanted to live a more peaceful life. After reading dozens of profiles, I found my girl. She loved yoga, had an Italian lineage, was less than five miles away, and worked with Veterans. I called her and we set our first appointment.
I needed help changing my behavior. I needed someone to teach me how to act so I wouldn’t have to face his outbursts. I wanted to help him but couldn’t figure out how. I didn’t want my children to see it anymore. At ages three and one, I knew their exposure to this behavior was harmful. What can I do to make sure it doesn’t happen again? She suggested I reach out to Safe Futures.
What? A battered women’s shelter? She must not understand the dynamic. He’s never laid his hands on me – except that one head-butting incident, but that was years ago.
As you may have guessed, I’m a people-pleaser. And I did what most people-pleasers would’ve done, I made an appointment so I could tell my therapist I did my homework. I had a closed mind when I walked through the door. I didn’t need this type of help. They had no idea what I was going through. But I sat through the first meeting and took a nice big information packet home, along with the recommendation to read a book, Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft.
Thank you, Lundy. I had no idea what I was experiencing until I read your book. You understood my situation in a way I hadn’t. You opened my eyes to exactly what was happening. You made me realize it wasn’t my fault. And even if I could change myself, it wouldn’t resolve the conflict.
I immediately called Safe Futures and left a message for my counselor. I knew I had to have another conversation with her now that my eyes were opened. I had five more sessions after that. From those sessions, I learned it’s more dangerous to leave an abusive relationship than it is to be in one. I had to stand face-to-face with fear, danger, and risk. If I wanted a chance at raising my babies in a safe and stable environment, I had to be courageous.
And I was. There have been many twists and turns, but I’m now beginning to see the fruits of my struggle. I’m a university-educated female. I have a well-paying, reliable, and graciously flexible job. I bought my own home. I practice meditation and yoga to heal some of my inner wounds. I practice gratitude. I visit my therapist monthly. I’ve gained back the thirty pounds I’d lost from toxic stress – my body’s reaction to living in a constant state of fear. I’ve learned how to love myself. And the peace is priceless.
Thank you to all the advocates that came before me for making this possible. If I couldn’t work and support myself, I couldn’t have left. If I didn’t have family members and friends who stood up next to me when I was falling, I’d still be down. If I didn’t have a therapist as knowledgeable on domestic violence, I’d still be trying to change myself. If I didn’t have Safe Futures, I’d have been a victim to some scary statistics.
I’m here today because of all the people who came before me and all the people who stood by me. Thank you. Thank you for my second chance.
I promise I’ll make good use of it.