October is domestic violence awareness month. Last year, I went to the Mayor of Buffalo's office as he announced this proclamation for the City. Since then, I've been published in several periodicals and papers, been a guest on many radio shows, a key speaker, become an author, columnist, photojournalist and a roving reporter, bringing community events to the online and social media audience. And if that's not enough, I coordinated a global concert to expose domestic violence. (See EXPOSURE Concert: Because love shouldn't hurt).
Mid-October 2007 was the end of my 22-year virtual prison term as a controlled and abused person at the hands of my husband. Finally the police effectively intercepted when our daughter called 911 (once I had enough "evidence"). He was removed from the house and I made a decision and promise to our kids, never to take him back again. I made this common mistake three times previously and fell for his apologies, returning to him.
I spent a year doing some real soul-searching. The biggest weight over my head was my ex's parents. I didn't want to 'shame' them. And then, something just popped and I thought, "Why am I protecting them? I was the one needing protection. Their son was a woman beater, and that's a inexcusable crime." With that, I gained the confidence that I needed to start reaching out.
The more I shared my story, the more people responded with their experiences, whether it was theirself, a neighbor, a relative. I offer a few statements of my findings and observations, and suggest that an eye for an eye only gives us a world of blind people.
Being an avid music-lover, I began venturing out into the Buffalo NY night life, offering small "prizes" with my information stuck on the back, 'Love shouldn't hurt. 716-548-5013 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 716-548-5013 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
I offer support to anyone impacted by domestic violence or abuse. Currently, I do this on a national level via chat, Skype, email, Facebook, even from my living room. It's most important to let people know they are not alone, and that someone out there will talk to them unbiased, offering an ear to listen and an objective opinion to help them realize they are worthwhile people and don't deserve to be put down.
An important fact: Abusers are cowards. That's right. We may look at them as larger-than-life, as well-respected powerful creatures. The truth is, they are weak. They feed off nurturing souls, gently hacking away at our self-esteem, and the next time you look up, you notice you're way upstream, no family, no friends, no support. This is exactly where they put us, so that they feel powerful. The abuser gains a sense of power by shaping us, brainwashing us, to do things their way.
Another fact: Men are victims almost as much as women. In this society, men are profiled and stigmatized as rough, apathetic, tough barbaric characters. Men are human beings, with real feelings. To not be able to express feelings creates pressure, suppression and that is not only unhealthy, it often leads to depression. As a social animal, human beings like to feel some form of acceptance. For anyone to degrade another, regardless of gender, is nothing more than a bully. People who feel the need to step on someone to make theirself look better is a shallow weakling acting out. Nobody loves a bully. Call their bluff and watch them run and cower.
I can't tell you how many men have told me truly heart-breaking stories: From being thrown down the stairs, to being emotionally controlled and drained, told how useless or unattractive they are, you get my drift. Regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, nobody ever deserves to judge or put down another. We all have opinions and are entitled to express them. That's what makes us different from each other, it's what gives us our individualism. To be unique, accepted and a feeling of comfort rather than cast out as a reject is not too much too ask. If its not hurting anyone or showing disrespect to others beliefs, don't knock someone for being theirself, think about it.
I share my story at organizations and colleges. I take my audience in my old living room as I describe what life was like with a controlling abuser, taking a month to ramp up just to go to Kmart, being interrogated for being two minutes late from work, the constant false accusations and belittling. I hope to make people think before speaking, think before acting, to prevent, and stop domestic violence and abuse. When I finish, people line up to congratulate me, to hug, to share their story and those of loved ones, to invite me to present at other venues, or ask advice. A woman waiting to meet me was in tears for my victory because she bore the same battle scars. I embraced her and said, 'I'm here for you, I am your voice. You are here today for a reason and I'm so glad.'
The emotional support shown to me is very touching and nearly indescribable. People reach out to me from all walks, all hours of the night, saying to keep it up, and how it is making a difference. I even got a piece of fan mail (I framed it). It is gingerly rewarding. I feel like I'm running in a vat of molasses and I can't reach people fast enough. I love people for what they are and want to help them take their own reins. I didn't take 22 years of abuse for nothing. My bad experiences, combined with the hundreds of stories I am told, expand my knowledge base and in turn I help people to cope, understand and live beyond domestic violence and abuse, without limitation to age, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Nobody ever deserves it, and it's never okay.