October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month💜
It’s a subject that I never thought I would have personal experience with, but now that I do, I want to use my voice to let other men and women know that they are not alone.
Following a terrifying incident, I found myself at a crossroads. Despite being surrounded by so many friends and family members who loved me, I found myself shakily dialing the Domestic Violence Hotline to talk to a stranger. I was scared that if I admitted my situation to anyone in my life they would find it unbelievable. I was terrified that if I did decide to stay that they would never treat my partner the same way again, thus making my situation even worse. I was terrified that I would be betraying an unspoken oath of secrecy. I was scared that my christian friends would tell me that I needed to go to counseling and honor my vows to God…to give it just one more chance. But I had given so many “one more chances”. In that moment, I felt drained of all hope. How did I get here? How could this be my reality?
I was still in deep denial, but I let the advocate on the other line guide me through a series of questions. She read off a list of behaviors that would indicate that I was in an abusive situation. I was told to answer “yes” or “no” if it was something I had experienced.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, yes.
I felt the need to explain, she didn’t understand. I jumped to his defense. It wasn’t bad all the time. Some days, weeks, and months were good. Great, even. Just long enough for me to forget why I was afraid in the first place. She gently told me, “I am sure there are many good times. If it was bad all the time, you would have no reason to stay.”
I knew I needed to ask for help before I could talk myself out of it, like I had so many times before. In a dream like state, I hung up the phone and dialed my cousin, then my mother, then my best friend. Each conversation offered love and kindness to me in my confusion and pain. Each person assured me that I would be okay, no matter what that looked like. One thing that helped me the most was that not one person tried to pressure me to make a decision. They just kept telling me to focus on the “next right thing”. They brought me home and helped me process what I should do next. After seeing a therapist and talking to a pastor, I felt peace for the first time in years.
I could write a book on all of the wonderful things my friends and family have done for me this year. They held me while I cried, helped distract me with countless game nights and play dates with my nieces/nephews, and they assured me that God was not mad at me. When my chronic pain disappeared overnight, we celebrated the healing I was finally experiencing. When I decided to run a half marathon during the darkest month of my life, my mom woke up at 5:00am to drive me and cheer me on as I crossed the finish line. When I questioned if I was a failure for being 26 and divorced, they told me they were proud of me. When I received a nasty message condemning me for my choices, they reminded me that I don’t have to listen to strangers who don’t know my situation. When everything fell apart, they were there to help put it back together. This is true love.
You don’t have to do this alone. If facing your reality feels too much to handle right now, start with a step. Confide in a friend, read the book “Why Does He Do That?”, or call the domestic violence hotline. You can talk or chat online with them anonymously and they will listen without judgement. Love isn’t supposed to hurt. It is not too late to rewrite your story.