Never in a million years did I ever imagine that I would become a statistic. Never in a million years did I guess that I would become so tangled in the complex, yet misunderstood, web of domestic violence. Never in a million years did I believe I would become a woman who would fall victim to physical, verbal, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional abuse. Never in a million years did I accept to be awakened with you on top of me without my consent, that I would be struck in the face with your fist or an object, that I would ever be lifted off the ground by my neck. Never in a million years did I imagine that when I turn to friends, family members, police and pastors for guidance that although I would be consoled but I would be encouraged to return to my abuser. Never in a million years would I ever be okay with you dragging me down a hallway. Never in a million years did I think that I would become pregnant by my abuser. Never in a million years did I think my strong, independent personality would fall victim to a master manipulator. Never in a million years did I dare say that my life would be altered and forever changed by domestic violence. Yet, here I am. I am alive. I am a survivor.
In honor of October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, on Saturday, October 13, 2018 Agents of International Women of H.O.P.E. collaborated with The Stewart Foundation and H.A.N.A. and created a safe space where participants had the opportunity to not only share their stories and give a voice to domestic violence. This month we decided to delve into the commonly asked question of why people stay in abusive relationships.
The roots of abuse are deep and twisted, and it is impossible to understand the dynamic of a relationship that you yourself are not a part of. Next time you find yourself tempted to say something judgmental about someone who has remained in an abusive situation for a period please don’t. Victim blaming is all too common today and if we continue to blame victims we essentially are empowering abusers. There is so much judgment surrounding domestic abuse — so much victim blaming. We need to shed more light on a topic classically shrouded in darkness. After all, if there was less of a stigma surrounding the whole thing, and if society was more willing to hear stories, rather than judge and call survivors or victims’ liars, perhaps many more would seek help sooner.
This judgment exists because society have this preconceived notion of what domestic violence looks like: an angry drunk man in a wife beater shirt and a meek woman with a black eye who will stare at the floor and tell you numbly that she walked into a door again. The reality is I am here to tell you that this is not what domestic abuse looks like.
Real domestic abuse rarely plays out like this. It is never simple, and it is never black and white. Leaving is never the easy choice — it is just one more painful choice in a reality full of painful choices. And those insisting on otherwise have no idea. Furthermore, it will take years of daily effort for one to reach a place of healing and freedom.
Thanks to our speakers Kim Hodge, Pastor Tiffany Pringle and Emily Mason who used their voice to shed light on such a perverse disease. They have shared their personal life-changing experience to help others recognize abuse and that there is hope in being able for others to escape their toxic environment. As Agents of H.O.P.E. we want to let any victim or survivors of domestic violence know that happiness is possible and abusive relationships are not normal. The conversation forced participants to change the narrative of asking why victims or survivors stay and instead asking why abusers abuse. Empowered women empower each other and together Agents of H.O.P.E. pledged to support victims and survivors of Domestic Violence.
International Women of H.O.P.E
Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Chairwoman