Hey all, it's your little insomniac checking in ;)
Seeing as I can't fall asleep (it's probably all the excitement leading up to going home in 3 days!!), I thought I'd catch up a little on my #PromisedPosts :]
Here's #p.p.2 on....you guessed it! My Miss America Service Platform, Voice Over Violence: Break Through the Silence
Last month, October, was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As a Domestic Violence Awareness Advocate, I participated in many DV Awareness activities, and along with millions across the nation, shined a spotlight on the issue, participating in a Twitter Town Hall to open up dialogue about how we can change the language and focus of the movement to prevent child abuse and teen dating violence, which can escalate and manifest itself as domestic violence later in life. **but I think I'll actually make a different post about DVAM, as I think this one needs it's own space on the blog** So, to begin...
This movement has meant a lot to me, because of my personal experience as a DV survivor alongside my mother. When people find out that my mother and I are DV survivors, they are shocked. Often times people say, "That's awful..." "No one should have to go through that..." "But you're such happy-go-lucky people..." Honestly, people don't know what to say. Therein lays the problem.
People don't have a clear concept of what domestic violence really is. It has many faces, comes in many forms, does not discriminate by gender, sexual orientation, religion, or the color of your skin. There are two roles that anyone can fall into: the perpetrator and the victim. Hopefully both become survivors, too often, only one or neither survive[s].
As DV Advocates, we are taught that perpetrators can learn from their mistakes——people don't often consider that they too might be victims of abuse and were never taught what healthy relationships are. That, however, was not our experience...
My mother sustained physical and mental abuse. My father, in a drunken rage nearly killed my mother and attacked my grandmother. He was in jail for a sum total of one night before being bailed out by his family members. I was three months old. It wasn't until I was eight, however, that my mom obtained full custody of me.
At this point, I'd like to pause and say that if reading this has impacted you, I'm glad, but please also know, that I'm not looking for pity or praise, I just want to share this with you, to impress upon you why it is that I do the work I do. Also, know that talking about my experience very, VERY rarely makes me break down or have to pause, so PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ASK QUESTIONS!!
As I was saying, my mom didn't obtain full custody until much later in my childhood, and I have to say that all of the happy memories I have are with my mother and grandparents——people who truly love me and who have taken care of me and who continue to do so. I know that the extent of my abuse is a demon that will continue to haunt me. Childhood blackouts. Remembering sheer terror when seeing my father. I can still see his fingers tapping on the center console of the car: he was always impatient, no matter where he was.
I hated going with him——I'd like to note there are very few things that children hate, or that at least I, as a child, hated: he was one of them. In fact of all of the intact memories I have of my childhood, the ones with the 'light,' the joy, were ALL of my mother and MATERNAL grandparents. The 'darkness' never set in until I thought of him. So, even though I can't recall every memory with him, I know that it was bad——because I can recall down to my mom's long BLONDE hair, Gucci sunglasses, striped top, and ballet flats, what she was wearing on one of my first trips to Disneyland...I remember that ridiculously large dalmatian I made her buy...it was the biggest in the store and it was 'Spot' because 101 Dalmatians had just come out; the dog was $70 and even though he was bigger than me, I carried him EVERYWHERE I WENT for over 2 months. Whenever I try to think of my "father" all I get are these strange feelings of loneliness, of being alone and watching the TV in his dark condo. I don't remember there ever being any lights inside. The living room was only ever illuminated by the light of day, which whenever I was there, always seemed to be overcast. My father went through women like I go through magazines. Most of the time he spent with me was with them. I can't even remember a time when I ever felt happy to be there. And most of the time, I think I ended up just staring at the blank TV screen...which if you know me, I LOVE THE TELEVISION, I can't sit in front of one without throwing it on, at least for noise.
I very distinctly remember the day he tried to force me home from school. He arrived to pick me up from grammar school. I don't remember exactly why, but something told me not to go with him that day. I just didn't want to, something felt wrong about it. When he returned in a drunken fit an hour later, I bolted. He ran after me, chasing me down like a dog that got off its leash. I had run down a flight of stairs to get to the school office, but when he reached the bottom of the stairs, he grabbed my arm. I kept screaming and wailing, until our school principal, Mrs. Carpenter, along with my school teacher, Miss Stapp (later Mrs. Navarette) came outside and found us there. He wrenched my arm, twisted it backwards until it was bruised. That was nothing new, I spent all of my childhood being bruised from getting knocked around in kickball, dodgeball, even football that I played with the boys. But this was different. At that moment, I knew that if Mrs. Carpenter had found us even thirty seconds later, my face would've received the same black and blue markings as my shins, when they kissed the concrete earlier that day. He released me from his grip and I ran to Miss Stapp, who took me to the office. Mrs. Carpenter tried to calm my father down as I sat in the back room with Miss Stapp, fearful for my life. I'm sure it's an experience that she would recall to this day, as my father is a 6'3" giant with greasy black hair and meaty hands that look like they could crush your skull. Even his frame is intimidating. But his voice, that booming yell is what made me whimper in fear, as Miss Stapp assured me she wouldn't let anything happen to me. She just kept repeating that, everytime I heard his voice get angrier over the course of that hour. I remember her sweater. I think it must have been autumn, because she was wearing one of those fuzzy pullovers, the kind that feel like you're petting an bunny or dandelion. She just hugged me for the longest time. My whole body was shaking and I was crying tears, snot, and drool. The shoulder of her sweater took a mighty rough beating that day.
I think that was one of the last straws because shortly after that, I remember meeting with a court-ordered shrink, who asked me all of these weird questions. My mom was terrified of losing me, that I might say the wrong things...I just remember her being so nervous when I got in there. I felt so small in that huge space, but I knew I'd done okay, the second we left, the look of terror fled my mom's face and we had pancakes at IHOP that day——and I got to skip a day of school!! WAHOO!
I suffered mostly psychological trauma, with fewer instances of physical abuse. And when people hear my story, they're always so 'impressed' with me. But, honestly, until a few years ago, I never thought of it as a 'big deal,' per se. Of course, to my family, it has meant a lot, but I think because we're so strong, it's not something that we ALLOWED to control our lives. What people don't realize is that, yeah, something bad happened to me. In fact something AWFUL that I would never wish on anyone happened to my entire family, but it's how you RESPOND to that negativity that counts.
I'm not going to lie to you and say that life has been sunshine and rainbows for me, since day one. It hasn't. Seeing that kind of brutality, being hit by someone who's supposed to love you at that young an age is not only traumatic, it's a game-changer. I have to work THAT MUCH HARDER...at everything. The reason I see the glass as half-empty is because I want to always be prepared for the apocalypse, because I lived through it in my youth. I'm not always the brightest, cheeriest person in the crowd——I have to work at being happy everyday. I have days when I'm up. I have days when I'm down. I have days when I'm reminded by really awful events, even now——like when my father decides it's a good time to contact me, every few years...I'm still caught off-guard by that.
All of this PTSD makes it sound like I'm depressed...I'm not, I just happen to be THAT much more sensitive to ALL of my emotions. Sometimes it can get really confusing because I know that I'm feeling so many different things at once...in short, I've been affected by domestic violence and it has taught me A LOT. I've learned about myself. I've learned about mankind. I've learned to ALWAYS LOVE WITH RESPECT. I've learned that sometimes just loving someone hard enough is not the way to help them——they must see the light for themselves.
I'm the most realistic and honest person you will meet because of domestic violence. I REFUSE to just be a survivor, I'm a thriver.
THAT is what this movement means to me——everything. It is in the very fabric of my being. And one day, I hope that perpetrators, abusers, even my father reads this and realizes the effect that he has had. That out of something ugly, can blossom something beautiful. I sincerely hope that in whatever current and future relationships he has, in whatever relationships OTHER abusers have——that you all find the light, because that darkness...that little ounce that I will carry with me until I die, it can and will break you.
So, I ask any and all survivors and fellow (or future-fellow!) thrivers who might be reading this to LET GO. You might not even be in a place to do that right now, and that's okay too. Just know that someone out there understands, even if it's not me, if our situations are so radically different, know that there's another soul suffering the same as you and that you can, and WILL survive, but to do so, that you need to GET HELP NOW!!!
I implore you to do so. Even if it's just a family friend's boyfriend's sister's child's acquaintance that you suspect might be in an abusive relationship...SPEAK UP, SPEAK OUT! GET HELP...PLEASE, CLICK BELOW!
National Domestic Violence Hotline
If you're looking to share your story, or get involved somehow, check out these other GREAT organizations :
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
National Network to End Domestic Violence
LOVE IS RESPECT
LOVE IS NOT ABUSE
Little Black Dress Society
...and the website of my new internship site/non-profit organization, inMotion, Inc. providing free legal consultations and services to DV Victims:
and watch this awesome documentary:
Sin By Silence
PLEASE, CONTACT ME WITH QUESTIONS, CONCERNS, ANYTHING!! I'd love to hear your thoughts:
firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
Nothing but Peace.Prayers.Love. (& as always, LIATG)