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How to Talk About Domestic Violence, by Alicia Harper

Please take a few minutes to read the below story . Yes, I know this is a very uncomfortable subject, but unfortunately until something hits home, it doesn’t become important to us.

Please, please don’t let Domestic Violence hit home before it becomes an important subject to you. Join the fight to “End to Domestic Violence Now” and bring awareness to help others…you never know, you may be helping someone very dear to you who is just too ashamed to talk to you for fear of you too turning your head and leaving them feeling all alone.

We not only need to learn “how to talk about” Domestic Violence, but also “how to talk to others” who have been through it or are in the midst of it right now…


Thank you and as always, much love and hugs!


February 23, 2012

How to Talk About Domestic Violence, by Alicia Harper

One woman reflects on her own experience with domestic violence and why we should use Chris Brown and Rihanna as a teachable moment.

I didn’t watch the Grammy Awards. I didn’t see Chris Brown’s performances and couldn’t tell you if they were good, bad, or mediocre. I don’t know if the rumors that Rihanna and Chris Brown are once again romantically involved true or false, but I did see the tweets during and after the Grammys.

There were tweets from Chris Brown fans that were supportive of him performing at the Grammys. For example, @KaylaMarieWatts stated: “Dude, Chris Brown can punch me in the face as much as wants to, as long as he kisses it [sic].” (This tweet has since been deleted.)

There were tweets from those who were against Chris Brown performing at music’s most celebrated night. Ethan Suplee tweeted, “Why wasn’t Chris Brown fired from ‘music’ (public dancing) when he beat up [Rihanna]? Dear ‘thugs’ and ‘gangstas’ of the hip-hop industry, how is it that none of you ‘handled’ Chris Brown?”

And there were tweets from Chris Brown himself like [sic]: “HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate F*** OFF!” and “IM BACK SO WATCH MY BACK as I walk away from all this negativity #teambreezygrammy.”

Huh? Really? Instead of tweeting about his “haters,” Chris Brown should be telling the young ladies who are “for” him that it’s actually not cool, cute, or funny to proclaim they’d want to be punched in the face by a convicted offender. Even those people who spoke up against his appearance may have missed an opportunity.

Instead of tweeting about how awful Chris Brown is, Ethan Suplee (and all of us) could be using his actions and the incident between Rihanna and him as a teachable moment. Domestic violence is a serious issue, and while I’m glad that people are talking about it, I’m baffled with the way the conversation is going down.

Rihanna and Chris Brown may be dominating the headlines, but 25 percent of American women will experience some form of domestic violence in her lifetime.* That’s one out of four women. Nearly 74 percent of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.* That’s almost three out of four people. These statistics are alarming, to say the least.

If the statistics exist and are so upsetting, then why aren’t we hearing about them and talking about it more? And when we discuss domestic violence, why isn’t the conversation more meaningful? Why is it so hard for people to speak out about (and against) intimate partner violence?

For victims, I can think of one word: SHAME. At least that’s what it was for me. 

Although my ex and I came together to create something so perfectly beautiful and precious (Aiden) for whom I am eternally grateful, we just didn’t quite fit. I’ve written about this before, but what I haven’t spoken about in this space is why I decided to end my relationship with Aiden’s other parent. Sure, I was intimidated by the statistics about children who are raised in a single parent household, and I thought about them when sweet turned sour in my relationship. Frankly, the statistics scared the heck out of me! But then I endured an incident of intimate partner violence so horrific that it scared me even more to stay in the relationship.

At first, I felt so ashamed—and embarrassed—to talk about my experience. I thought that I had to protect my family and portray this image of “perfection,” whatever that means. I felt as though I had to protect Aiden. I felt as though I had to protect my ex. I felt as though I had to protect my choices. This is who I chose to be in a romantic relationship with, I thought. This is who I chose to have a child with. This is who I chose as a partner—and my choice was not the best one. I’d even go as far as saying that my choice was wrong…painfully wrong.

I was ashamed of what others would think of me. I was ashamed of how people would look at me if they knew. I was ashamed to greet the neighbors in the hallway of our apartment building. I was ashamed that people would wonder, “How could she let this happen to her? She’s so smart. She went to a good college. She has a good career.” I could go on and on about what I thought other people would think. They left me silenced and ashamed.

It’s no secret to me now: Remaining silent does nothing but give the perpetrators more power. After reading these tweets and seeing the Chris Brown madness unfold, one more thing has become abundantly clear to me—how we have these conversations is just as important (if not more) as actually having the conversations.

It’d be great to see both Chris and Rihanna—arguably two of the world’s biggest young celebrities at the moment—stepping out and stepping up to let their fans (and the world) know that they’ve learned something (anything!) from this situation. That means conversations in which Chris is calm and composed, not throwing chairs at windows and giving everyone the middle finger. It means discussions that are handled gracefully and maturely.

These are conversations that should have happened before they released not one, but two singles together this week. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against them working together. In fact, I think that they are very talented artists. But I do feel that they owe their fans – the young ladies and men who look to them as role models whether they like it or not—some sort of an explanation. If the songs were about forgiveness, that would be one thing. They’re not. They seem more about them remembering their sex lives together.

Frankly, this is not about hating Chris Brown; not to me, anyway. I know the power of forgiveness and it has helped me move on. It’s like a breath of fresh air. So I can understand Rihanna wanting to move on. To me, this is about speaking out against abuse. Because, although we don’t know what happened between the two of them on that night, nothing that Rihanna could have said or done should merit Chris’ reaction. Period. It’s not okay.

Chris Brown clearly needs help dealing with his anger issues and outbursts. Young ladies need help understanding that although they love Chris Brown as an artist, he is still at fault for what he’s done in his personal life. Those who are saying nasty things about him could really make a difference by using his actions to educate others by letting them know that it’s not cool to have your trust violated – and in the most volatile manner—by someone who claims to love you. Because, as we can see from this incident, women of all races are vulnerable to violence at the hand of an intimate partner*, and domestic violence affects everyone—regardless of socioeconomic class.*

It’s time to start talking about it. It’s time to have effective and meaningful conversations. 

~ Source: *Domestic Violence Research Center

Alicia Harper, M.A., Ed.M. is a single mother, freelance writer, blogger, and recent graduate of Columbia University who’s now a mental health therapist. Her life is filled with all things pink, except for the one bit of blue—her rambunctious 4-year-old son. Together they make a great pair, and Alicia chronicles the trials and triumphs of being a young, single mother living in NYC at Mommy Delicious. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Taking A Look Back and Moving Forward…

As I say goodbye to another year and welcome 2012, I have taken some time to reflect on my past, understand that the experiences I’ve been through have made molded me into the person I am today. I’ve accepted that even though I can’t change the past, I do have the power to change my future so that the past does not continue to haunt me. It is a process that begins with accepting that the past is one that should not be repeated, having the will, then finding the strength to follow through and truly change the future.

When my life was turned upside down inside out, I was overwhelmed with emotions…fear, doubt, anger, love. The most difficult was losing my pets because they were my everything, my link to reality, my “kiddos”. Even afterwards dealing with continued health problems ranging from post traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, insomnia, migraines to now discovering the stress has affected my blood sugar and thyroid. I did not know if I would ever find my way through the mess of frustration, the loss of my life as I once knew, and find may way to begin again.

Fortunately, I have a strong support system. Family and friends came to visit me from out of town when they could. While I did not have much family in town, I did have friends. At first I did not want anyone to see me in the condition I was in nor did I want anyone’s help because I felt I needed to be able to do for myself. I tried so hard to hide the pain and bleeding internal wounds. I felt weak to have to lean on others, but I also did not want to deal with those stares, gossip and crude jokes from all around. I was embarrassed of another failed marriage and blamed myself for allowing myself to get into yet another abusive and unhealthy relationship. I wasn’t answering anyone’s calls not even from the insurance or my attorneys. My bills were stacking up and was behind on all payments. My weight had dropped to literally skin and bones. I honestly did not see the toll this was taking on me. My dear friends stepped in and literally camped out with me for days. They helped me see that I could not longer continue the path I was on because it was one of self-destruction.

There are many things I have learned through all of this madness. A strong support system, holding on to my faith, understanding it was not my fault, and asking for help are the most important things that have guided me to find my way back to “life”. I was able to let go of the worry what others thought of me. Accept my past as part of who I am. Keep my chin up with one foot in front of the other. While a very difficult transition, I was finally able to return to work and prove to myself that I was a much stronger person and in a better place.

Finding a strong support system is not as easy as it sounds. While family is always there to be supportive, friends, true friends…well you just never know until something like this happens to you. I believe a true friend is someone who sticks by you when you are down and celebrates with you when you are up. It’s someone with mutual trust, who understands you, knows the real you and appreciates the person you are and, most of all, doesn’t judge you.

Sure, there are many types of friendships. There are situational friends that see each other regularly, have fun together, even share occasional disappointments, but when you move or something changes, you don’t stay in touch. Then there are casual friends that meet each other once in a while, go out for lunch and dinner, catch up on the news/gossip. You like each other, appreciate the company, but are are not best friends. Of course, there are close friends who understand the real you, help when you’re in trouble and are people you can rely on in good times and bad. They will not judge you, they let you in their lives, and care about you deeply. You see these friends more like family. Such people don’t come along often and are the friendships to be cherished.

Sometimes friendships disintegrate or people grow out of them when you don’t spend time together, have fun together and talk (I mean really talk about your lives, decisions, whatever is going on). It really depends on the person. Myself, I value loyalty above all others. I would never let my friends down, I stick by them and they by me. We understand we are human and make mistakes that with the occasional misunderstanding, we know there is forgiveness and love because the relationship is more important. Yes, we always have family, but at some point, everybody needs a friend too.

Happy New Year everyone! May your faith be strengthened, life be humbled, and your journey filled with with more joy than sorrow…and if not, maybe it’s time to take a look back so you can move forward. Take some time to evaluate your past and understand what you want for your future. Ask yourself if you have the support system to help you. If you find that you have been too busy to reach out and be a friend, make the time. Make the time to cherish the family and friends who are important to you. You just never know if someone you love and cherish is afraid to ask or even realize they need help.

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Time Heals All

It’s 3 am and I can’t sleep. Gosh, have not had a sleepless night like this in a long time. Almost forgotten about them, but then something like tonight happens and it all comes crashing back. “Time heals all”…hmmmm, it’s not that simple.

Time. What exactly does time do? This is a good one because the countless “time heals all” phrase has most certainly popped up with the “just focus on the positive” and “you should be lucky to be alive”…“give it time”. Honestly, I’m not trying to sound negative. Those who truly know me, know that I do my very best to stay positive and make good choices and lead a life that I can be proud of. I’m ambitious, yet love my couch potato days. I’m a hard worker, yet I have let the laundry or dishes pile up. I’m a perfectionist, yet I make mistakes every day.

So again, what exactly does time do for you? It gives you the opportunity to reflect. Reflect on your past, while living in the present, then try to figure out how to make a different future. But does time actually heal the past? Is it supposed to disappear? When I imagine something healed…I imagine it being gone. What time does is help you cope with your past. It helps you find a way to make yourself whole again…unfortunately you need these parts of your life to keep “you” whole. Yes, it’s after 3 am and I’m wide awake, feeling like I have a ton of bricks on my shoulders, tears just slowly creeping out with an overall general feeling of blah…but if it weren’t for these pieces of me from my past that have caused sooo much pain, I wouldn’t know how to help others who feel alone and helpless because the ones they love have abused and abandoned them. So without these otherwise painful pieces of my life, I wouldn’t be me!

It’s hard to go through the challenges in life and then it makes it harder when you have the glares or avoidance from people you thought were part of your support system. To hear from those that you love the harsh and insincere words like, “you’re not taking advantage of being alive” or “you should be lucky to be alive…there are many other women that weren’t so lucky”. The worst has been, “I hope you’ve learned your lesson”. So I’m not just dealing with the tragedy of losing that which was most precious, I have to deal with the fact that people just truly don’t understand and say, well, the stupidest things and well…keep “time from healing”. Just when you thought your wounds were healing, BAM they’ve been cut open again and again and again.

So here we go again, “time”. Exactly what has time has given me? It has given me the strength to step outside of my shoes so that I can begin to understand why people do or say these, well, stupid things. I’ve learned so far that they have yet to live their lives and allow time to help them understand their past in order to change their future. They end up saying the stupidest things because they have yet found a way to let “time” help them move forward and deal with their past. Yes it hurts and is upsetting, that despite needing the strength to deal with my past, I must muster up the strength to deal with my present and also my future. Focusing on positive things in my life, living every moment better than the last, making better decisions, reach out to the people that bring out the best in me are just some of the things that have helped me keep pushing forward and brush off the not so nice things people say and do, calm my otherwise over worked mind, allow me to blog and share my life experiences in hopes of making someone else feel like they are human…but most of all, let those suffering understand that they are not alone.

After 545 days, tonight is one of those nights when it feels like yesterday. Missing my babies and well, the sick feeling inside of thinking how I could let all this happen. What triggered these feelings…just waking up in the middle of the night, wide awake. Yep, something so simple, yet so powerful. How can that be? By all means, I am grateful for this second chance to live, but at this moment, it’s…well, about “being human”.

I continue to pray that the Lord helps those find the strength to cope with their past and soften their otherwise harden hearts. So they too can in turn help others in need of some “time to heal”…after all, whether we want to accept or not, we need each other. We need compassion, we need to know that when times are tough and we are weak…we can turn to those, especially the ones we hold close to our hearts, and lean on them.

Love Without Fear…

They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Hmmm, makes me wonder if I have I ever really been in love? I don’t know, after all, each time I think I’m in love and give it a shot, it has just exploded. Yes, I’ve tried to give love a chance, but what does that really mean? What I remember most are the sick feelings in my stomach wondering when my husband would come home, who he was with, how much money he spent that we didn’t have, if he was still angry…

Anyway, how do two people know when they are in love? Is it the butterflies in their stomachs? Is it the pitter patter of their hearts? Is it how much or how little they have in common? Is it what one can offer the other…emotional support, financial security, children? I can tell you one thing for sure…if it’s real love, there shouldn’t be fear. One should not fear the one they love. One should not feel the need to walk on eggshells or hide from the truth of what happens behind closed doors.

I see my parents and think what they have is real love, but I have yet to find it. Sure my parents bicker, get upset, and time and again hurt each other’s feelings, but there is no jealousy, rage, control or resentment in their relationship. They respect each other enough to talk things through. They are sincere when they apologize to each other. They live their lives for each other and not for anyone or anything else.

My parent’s met on a blind date back in the days when relationships were respected and courtship was something to be cherished. My Aunt arranged a meeting for them one of the nights my Mom and she played bingo. The moment my Dad saw my Mom, he fell absolutely head over heals for her. He knew that he was going to marry her. They dated for a while and always accompanied by my uncle. You see, back then, when a man courted a woman, they had to be escorted. My parents both came from large families and they too wanted to have a big family. When they were only able to conceive one child, they didn’t ask the Lord why or build resentment towards one another, instead they were grateful for the love they shared and lived the very best they could. They let no obstacle come between their love.

When I imagine what love is…I think of the bond that two people have whether they are together or apart. It is knowing, without saying, what the other needs. It is doing for the other just because and not for what one will get in return. It is about making sacrifices for one another and meeting each other in the middle when you don’t see eye to eye. It’s doing what you say you are going to do. It’s where one’s strengths help balance the other’s weaknesses. It’s growing together as individuals and in partnership. It’s cherishing that person, not taking them for granted. It’s how the two work “together” to get through the tough times, making the relationship stronger. It’s about two people becoming one.

I’m not giving up on love. One day, I’ll meet the one who cherishes me, accepts the love I offer, respects me and laughs at my jokes. I’ll meet someone that I can just be in a room with and not have to say a word and know that everything is okay because we are in each other’s lives. Someday, I’ll finally get to feel what is real love…love without fear and puts a real smile on my face.

Stay True to Yourself

Sharing my story has been one of the most humbling experiences ever. I say this because every time I share, I learn something else about myself. I’m not talking about just that one horrific night I faced death. I’m talking about my life leading up to that moment and my life after.

Never thought about needing to understand myself until I was repeatedly asked, “How did you end up in another abusive relationship? Didn’t you learn the first time or are you just an asshole magnet?” Over this last year, I’ve been putting together the pieces of my life, learning who I am and understanding why I’ve made certain decisions have shown me that I’m just a “real” person. I’ve learned that I have a big heart and therefore, driven by my emotions. I look for the good in people no matter what. I am faithful, loyal and most of all, I have a great desire to help others. Because I am driven by my emotions, I also learned that I have little tolerance for behavior that hurts and this brings out the worst in me. I say the worst because this is when my wall of defense goes up. I’m very protective of the ones I love and hurt more when the ones I love hurt me. It’s been difficult, but I’ve learned that having healthy boundaries helps me keep my emotions in balance making it easier to maintain a positive light on life. I don’t have to accept behavior that hurts, but dealing with it is something so very new to me. Depending on the situation and the people involved, I either temporarily shut down or I stand up and defend.

I’m all about treating others the way I want to be treated and firmly believe that if we all just lived by this motto, the world would be a much better one to live in. Fear, lack of confidence in one’s self, envy and ignorance are some of the main root causes which leave us with a lack of better judgment.

We talk about that fact that the perfect match doesn’t exist. When in fact, this just means it’s finding that someone that gets you because they too possess the qualities that are important to you. I’m not talking about things like the color of their hair, I’m talking about what is genuine about them and what is genuine about you. The things that define you as a person, should also define your life partner. For example, good moral character, spiritual, loyal, trusting, respectful, ambitious, strong work ethic, passionate, loving and humble. These are genuine qualities important to me. Understanding the person I am has also helped me understand my life and relationships. You see, there are things that are important to me and in both of my marriages, I settled for less. This may sound harsh, but when I actually took the time to write down what was important to me, both husbands did not possess all these qualities and those qualities they lacked were the very reasons my marriages failed. I did not stay true to myself. I was fighting my hardest to prove to them that they were the center of my life. Which I now realize that was the problem. I should not have been trying so hard to “prove” anything. I was giving the relationship exactly what I was expecting from it…and that should have been enough.

If you are just starting your life or, for that matter, starting over like me, take the time to write down what is important to you so that you will never forget. Don’t settle for anything less than that which is important to you. You might think that perfect person doesn’t exist, but remember “stay true to yourself” and you will find that “perfect” person.

Growing A Thick Skin

Over the years, I’ve met so many people with very different personalities. Many who have become role models for me and have molded the person I am today. All along providing me with the strength to see through the many challenges in my life from childhood bullying, adoption, infertility, divorce, and yes…domestic violence. However, the hardest challenge I have faced time and again has been in the work place dealing with conflict, but the type of conflict that on the surface appears to be rewarded rather than frowned upon. Bullying.

Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with bullies in my life. After all, there are many types; childhood bully, teenage bully, best friend bully, life-partner bully and there’s the workplace bully. My experience has been to just mind my own business, treat these bullies with kindness in hopes of softening their hearts in that one day they will change. But the later, unfortunately, rarely happened partly because I, like many others, just sat back and said nothing. After all, I was an expert at walking on eggshells. I knew how to avoid conflict. My kindness was instead taken advantage of because the bully was nice to me in return only when they needed something. All the while, all I was doing was increasing my stress and frustration. For what? To avoid conflict for fear of retaliation. After all, we are taught as children that you let the adults, “the ones in charge”, handle the bad behavior. We are taught early on that nobody likes a “tattle-tail”. The only problem is that rarely does a bully act out in front of the ones in charge. So what do you do? Kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place, eh?

***Needless to say, the phrase “grow a thick skin” popped up over and over!***

I guess I never really thought about it. I don’t know, maybe I just didn’t understand the true meaning of this phrase. After all my career, not my personal life, has been by far more successful. So obviously I was doing something right! However, after the realization of my failed personal life, it came to light that, without knowing, I, in fact, had grown a thick skin. Yes, it wasn’t until I had to go to weekly counseling for the living nightmare of a near-death experience I so gratefully survived, that I became aware of exactly how thick my skin had become. It’s almost like an onion…you don’t truly know that it has layers, or how many layers, until you start peeling it. Then comes the challenging part of dissecting each layer just so in that you carefully and cleanly peel away each layer. You find yourself in tears at times, fighting hard to not let the onion’s strong layers get to you, but ultimately, to get to the center of the onion…you will have been forced to shed more than just a few tears, but a ton of weight you’ve been carrying because of the thick skin you were forced to grow.

People would tell me I don’t know how you do it, but you are the strongest person I know. Even though on the inside I felt like a fragile piece of crystal that could break into a million pieces in an instant. Was it strength? Weakness? Denial? No, it was the thick skin I had grown. I learned to block out the things that made me feel like I wasn’t good enough or weaker than others. This only worked for short periods of time though and got harder and harder instead of easier. Why? Well, I never dealt with the real issue. The bully! You see, it takes more effort to shield yourself of the bad stuff so as to avoid being hurt by the bully. Instead, you end up hurting yourself by carrying more weight than you need to.

So now when I hear, “Oh that’s just the way that person is, you just need to learn to grow a thick skin and shrug it off,” I just cringe! I’ve worked so hard at peeling back the layers that I say NO! Why should I have to grow a thick skin when the bully is the problem? I’ve realized that I can’t ignore them anymore. I can’t sit back and pretend that everything is all fine and dandy. I can’t continue to treat the bully with kindness when I know their behavior is wrong. It shouldn’t stop there either…if I see others being treated this way, I feel obligated to step in. Why? Because I know what it’s like to live in fear and frustration…and not speaking up only empowers the bully’s behavior and gives them permission to act as they do.

Next time you see someone being bullied, whether at work or not, stop and think how you would feel if this were happening to you. Would you want someone to tell you, “Oh just grow a thick skin” or would you prefer they stand by your side and defend against the bully? Strength in numbers, right?…so are we going to let the bully population grow or are we going to stand up and speak out?


A New Day…

Remember like yesterday the horror and pain. Standing powerless and praying, “Oh Lord if there was ever a time for rain!”

Depressed and angry the easier path. Rather, moving on and forgiving…helping others detour this very same wrath.

Tender moments I miss, many memories to cherish. My babies gone from my arms, but from my heart, they will never perish.

Pray for the day when human kindness returns…sharing today some compassion with those whose faith has seen no more.

Blessed by the Lord with a new day today. With faith and His guidance, safe passage it may.

~ Vero


A year ago my life changed forever…but the Lord has blessed me with “A New Day”…

Sometimes God sees the need to put us through some things for the purpose of making us stronger. There may not seem to be any logical reason for the trouble that we often face, but God always has a reason. Sometimes He’s just trying to make us tougher or to teach us patience. Some people suffer so that they will be better equipped to comfort others in their suffering. It’s always comforting to know that you are not alone, that someone else understands because they have gone through the same troubles that you are going through and will try to share helpful words of wisdom in hopes of lessing the burden. He knows that you are strong enough to help those who are less fortunate and without great strength to overcome and find their way through the challenges.

Are you going through some pretty tough times? Find your faith and hold onto it. The Lord is probably giving you the experience that you’ll need to help someone else later…

Healing From the Inside Out

After suffering years of abuse and ending in what was the worst possible way, I feel like I don’t really know how to begin to live again. I have been struggling with depression, anxiety and all aspects of post traumatic stress. I second guess just about every decision, that is when I’m finally able to make one, and usually it is after talking it over with trusted loved ones. I had to rely on my two best friends from Austin to come to Dallas to help me buy a car. Seriously, I needed validation that I was making a good decision. How I would love to live a normal life…even though most of the time I feel like I have no clue what a “normal life” is…rather than having to live with this hell I’ve been living.

While I keep hearing, “he’s dead, he can no longer hurt you, everyone just wants to move on.” Well I too want to move on, but forgetting about it will NEVER happen. As for him no longer hurting me, well this is far from the truth. Not only did he leave me with a literal physical mess to clean-up, he also left me with numerous internal wounds to heal. I refuse to be one of those victims that wants to pretend it was all a bad nightmare, shove it in a closet and throw away the key. Been there, done that and it only got worse. Yes, it will never go away so why not turn this horrible thing into something positive? Standing up for myself and telling “my story” in efforts to help others is the only thing that makes sense of this horrible tragedy. Yes, he was someone’s son, father and even friend, the fact remains he was “my abusive husband” and the reason why my life is now dedicated to help make this world a better place. So for those that don’t understand…well, think about how you would feel if this were happening to your daughter or son? Yes son, because when I say this can happen to anyone it includes men. Would you just sit back and turn your head, or would you be doing your best to keep your children safe and free of harm’s way? I may not have children of my own, but I know without a doubt that I would do anything to save my children. If the firemen weren’t holding me back, I would have ran back into my burning home to save my “babies”. Hearing them say, “there’s nothing you can do to save them. They are dead, they are dead!”, are words I pray to God that I will never hear again!!!

I was in shock for months after losing everything in my life as I knew it. The hardest loss that I have yet to overcome is losing my pets. They were my “babies”! There is not a day that has gone by that doesn’t remind me of something from my life before, but mostly there is not a day that has gone by that I don’t think of Molly, Lilly, and Sam. While I did not have children of my own, I loved and cared for my pets as if they were my children. While I am doing better and I do my best to look forward to the new day tomorrow brings, I just never know when something big or small will trigger a flashback. I know I can’t change the past, but I can make my future better…which is why I’m so fearful of making decisions because I want to make sure that my future is a better one. Living day by day is about all I can do.

The reason I have decided to be so open about my life is so that others will begin to understand what is domestic violence and know that it is okay to talk about it. I honestly believe that this is the only way we can impact positive change in domestic violence cases. After coming out with my story and details of my life, the one thing I have heard over and over again is that I don’t “look” like a victim of domestic violence. I’ve started responding to this with a question, “Well, what does a victim look like?” Wouldn’t you know, nobody has been able to answer me…hmmm wonder why? Well, the obvious is that you just never know who is enduring domestic violence mostly because people don’t talk about it making it difficult to put a face to domestic violence. I have always been the type of person that cares about others and puts others first no matter how hard my day is and really try to keep a smile on my face. So maybe people think that victims suffering from domestic violence should not be smiling??? Putting a painful frown on my face so that people will know “from the outside” that I’m not okay on the inside will only make it that much harder for me to heal.

Slowly, I am learning to live again. It has been almost 9 months since I nearly lost my life and still find myself numb. Attachment has been one of the biggest emotional issues. I don’t feel attachment to anything. If someone tells me they like something of mine, I just give it to them. If I lose or break something, I don’t stress over it I just go out and buy it again. I’m still living in temporary furnished housing the insurance has provided for me. In less than two months I will have only a mattress, a TV and a car…and I don’t feel a bit sad, angry, stressed, frustrated…I am completely numb to not have all this stuff! I remember that I use to measure my happiness and success by the stuff I had be it my house, furniture, nice lawn, etc, since I had no other means of happiness. The most obvious victim is one with physically visible wounds; however, the ones that are more prevalent and severely impacted are the ones with internal wounds and injuries. Another very annoying thing that people have told me time and again is “You look fine to me!” People that have not experienced anything so traumatic don’t realize the pain and the wounds left on the inside that there is no timeline to heal. What they also don’t realize is this very sentence is deepening the internal wounds even further. It’s like grabbing a hold of the knife the abuser stabbed you with and pushing it in further while you are trying so desperately to remove it. Now, I measure my happiness and success through this charity. When someone I have never met comes up to me and says “thank you, thank you for being so brave in standing up for us”, or “I sure hope you can get these laws changed cause Lord knows we need stronger ones”, or the most empowering is when a complete stranger comes up to me overwhelmed with pain and tears, hugs me so tight and leaves with a cracked smile only to learn later that this person was so thankful that finally someone, a real victim that knows what is really happening behind closed doors, is doing something to stop the cycle of domestic violence.

If you ask any victim, they will tell you they would much rather be hit than endure the emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse. The words and images are stuck with you forever. A bruised face or broken bone heals and well kind of like mothers say after childbirth…you forget about the labor pain. Well, I don’t know if I’ll ever forget about the pain from the internal wounds suffered. Do you remember that childhood saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me”? Well, words do hurt more than sticks and stones. Words leave wounds so deep that affect every aspect of your soul…every aspect for your reason for being.

So next time you are at a friend’s party or family gathering and you see all the happy faces around, don’t be so quick to judge that their life is just fine. I guarantee you that most victims of domestic violence do their best to hide the pain and suffering. If you are a true and loving friend, don’t ever forget to smile and hug those people a little more because you just never know…they may be struggling to heal from the inside out! They need to know that you will not judge them and you will support them no matter a smile or a frown on their face.

The Time Has Come

When you meet someone who has been a victim of domestic violence, what is the first thing that comes to mind? What would you say to this person? Ever wonder what it’s like to walk in their shoes, to live in fear, to live a life walking on eggshells? Probably not. Why would someone want to imagine something so dreadful? Why is it that for something that happens so often and is very prevalent in our society, we barely know anything about or know how to react? How does one go about preparing for a life of abuse?

I remember as a child dreaming of my life when I grew up living in a warm cozy home with my husband and children. Taking family vacations together. Eating pizza and popcorn on family movie night. Laughing together on game night. Braiding my little girl’s hair as she got ready for school. I even had names picked out. Yes, I was going to name my girls Valeria Adriana and Alejandra Veronica and if I had a boy, well they would be named after their father or grandfathers. I imagined a loving man embracing me when I was sad, smiling in happy times, tucking our children in bed and reading bedtime stories to them. I imagined a happy couple providing for a family.

Never did my childhood dream include someone yelling at me, throwing things at me, pushing me, choking me, leaving me without any means to support myself, much less trying to shoot me with a shotgun and burning my home down leaving only memories of the mementos I collected or gifted to me over time which told stories of my life: jars full of seashells from the trips to the beach, boxes full of stuffed animals and dolls from my childhood, the wedding ring my great aunt gave me that belonged to my great grandmother, my ring and necklace my parents gave me on my 15th birthday, my favorite pair of slippers, my pets…I never imagined myself scared of the people I loved or living in fear that one day I was going to have to run and never look back.

The time has come where we need to stop hiding from the ugly truth that domestic violence is real and can creep up on anyone at any time. The time has come to stand up and fight against domestic violence. If we take the time now to educate ourselves how to recognize and respond, if we take the time now to teach our children healthy boundaries, if we take the time now to be a part of the solution to end domestic violence instead of feeding it with avoidance, then together we can end the cycle of abuse.

Happy Holidays or Not???

This is the special time of year when we get to give to our loved ones to show them how much we care. It is about family and friends celebrating the gift of life, love and togetherness in giving and not expecting to receive. Although there are moments of holiday stress in shopping and driving, most of us are enjoying the scrambling to find that perfect gift in order to see the surprised and happy looks on our loved ones faces. Some are attending parties or baking scrumptious goodies to share the spirit of the holidays.

Unfortunately, this is not what someone in an abusive relationship is experiencing. This is the time of year that many abused victims are more at risk of being hurt because of the holiday stress. Instead of looking forward to these happy times, they look forward to the passing of the holidays. Since abusers use power and control to dominate the relationships, many victims are not allowed to see their loved ones, much less buy gifts or even decorate their homes. They are walking on eggshells trying to avoid potential violent situations rather than enjoying the holiday season.

This holiday season, please take time to look around you and be thankful for the love that surrounds you. Most of all, say a prayer for those enduring the pain and suffering of abuse and that some day they will be able to smile and freely experience what the holidays are truly about. Especially for the children that are unable to laugh and sing for fear of upsetting their abusive parents.

Wishing you a blessed holiday…