Last Friday evening, my local university's Womens Center held a "Take Back the Night" rally at our town square. Along with another wonderful presenter, I was asked to speak. So below is what I threw together on that day to share with the audience. I kept in my favorite quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. and message of awareness here as I had written into my presentation at the Soup Supper because I believe so much that we all need to be reminded that we can help. I thought I would share it with you. Peace, Dawn
Hello my name is Dawn and I am a survivor of violence.
When I heard there would be a Take Back the Night March and I was asked if I might want to share part of my experience as a survivor, my first thought was where do I begin?
Out of a mind numbing litany of painful days from six years of an abusive past -- one day in particular -- one 24 hour period -- jumped clearly to the forefront of mind. It was what I call my worst day and my darkest night.
At the height of abuse in a relationship that started when I was fifteen and my abuser thirty two, I sat one evening in a dilapidated motel room with my boyfriend and watched with mounting dread as he drained the last drop of cocaine out of an exhausted pipe. I knew he was about to snap and he would do what had become a sick and twisted pattern he would lash out, punch me, hit me, slap me, pin me down in any cruel way he could and rape me to vent his rage. I began to cower as his lip curled and his bood-shot glare shot daggers of hate in my direction. He leapt up from his chair to grab me, and I made a mad dash for the door. I didnt make it and a struggle ensued. But this time it was different. This time his hands slipped and I miraculously was able to make a second try for the door and race out into the night.
Wearing only my night shirt and slippers I bound across a busy intersection and into a local convenience store, begging for help from anyone as I hid behind the store clerk. Nobody knew what to do with me. A young frightened couple agreed to take me somewhere safe after having seen my boyfriend lurking outside, but the only address I had was a long shot, a friend, who my boyfriend had long ago distanced me from. It was the only place I hoped I could go and spend a safe night.
The couple let me off on the street in front of my friends house and drove off, not waiting to see if I would find safety, only glad to be relieved of the responsibility of me. I approached her door, held my breath and knocked -- then knocked again -- then knocked again. There was no answer -- and in the frozen fog of an early December morning, I shivered on the porch and cried.
After what seemed liked hours I gave in to the hopelessness and rejection of that closed door and made my way to the street to hitch hike back to my abuser. May be he would be sleeping. I could just sneak in and get warm, I told myself desperate to be somewhere off of the streets.
I did get a ride. Almost right away and for an instant I felt lucky. It took less than five minutes before the drivers hand was at my throat. Im going to kill you bitch he growled as he squeezed harder and drove far into the upper desert.
I cried and begged him not to hurt me. He told me to shut up. I plead some more and then I bargained. Please mister, Ill do anything you want, please, just dont kill me. He smiled and kept driving. At a desolate stretch of the highway he slowed down. I then took what was my only chance at survival and jumped out of the moving car. Bloody and bruised I ran towards a nearby onramp, flagging wildly at every vehicle that passed. To my great relief another couple, older this time, pulled over and let me in. I thanked them and breathlessly asked to be taken to the police.
The police systematically took down my story and checked my wounds. I had lost my slippers and tore my nightgown in the fall and was given a blanket to stay my shivering. Daylight crept in on us and I thought how this morning could have been so much different. I could have been lying on the side of the freeway, a rape and murder victim. When the police finished, they asked if they could take me to someones home perhaps back to my boyfriends.
I didnt understand. Why would they want to take me to him? I told them he hurt me. But I didnt say a word and exhausted I allowed myself to be driven back to my abuser.
He greeted us at the door and thanked the police for bringing me home to him. He put his arm around me and lovingly guided me inside, smiling and waving goodbye to the officers until the door was shut and they were gone. Then he turned to me and proceeded to savagely beat me, leaving me broken, bloody and alone for days.
In looking back, I dont know how I could be alive. I was a girl in a deadly relationship, who thought when she finally had the courage and opportunity to break away from her abuser she would be free and find help.
I wanted to shout please help me. I wanted someone to reach out to me and know what to do. I wanted someone to see me, see that I was in trouble and that I had been hurt. I wanted someone to be there with an answer, a solution, a number, a place anything.
But that wasnt the case. Instead it was a night where nearly every turn I made was more rejection and brutal assault.
If you are a victim or feel you are being victimized. If you know of someone who is or might be in danger, I URGE you to contact the womens center on campus or Shelter from the Storm and speak to someone who can help. We have numbers here at the table and flyers are being passed out. There are a broad range of services available for whatever stage of assistance you may need.
Lets educate ourselves. We can offer help. Real help. Please, dont let someone slip through the cracks because you didnt know they were reaching out.
I believe that we all have the ability to speak out against violence. We can all be the eyes, ears and temporary voice for someone who is in trouble. We CAN all be aware.
Before I go, Id like to make a shout out to my daughter. I want to tell her I adore her and think she is amazing.
Id like to end with a great quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.
Thank you. And. Peace.