Ahhhh....finally a moment to breath. Saturday was my local shelter's annual soup supper. Everyone at the shelter has been working overtime in order to make sure all went well and I am honored to say that I was asked to be the quest speaker. Below I'd like to share with you my speech: Hello.
I hope you are all enjoying your dinner and the excitement of the auction this evening. Itâ€™s wonderful to see the turn out here tonight, not only to raise money for support against domestic violence and sexual assault, but also to bring awareness of the existence of these issues in our very own community.
If you donâ€™t already know me, my name is Dawnâ€¦and I am a survivor of violence.
I was fifteen years old and surrounded by adults when I fell into the hands of a thirty-two-year-old porn star. In my ordeal with my abuser I was repeatedly beaten, sexually assaulted, verbally, emotionally and mentally abused. When my abuser became addicted to cocaine, he made sure I was addicted too. The situation escalated quickly with the drugs, and it wasnâ€™t long before I was violently forced to walk the streets and traded to drug lords for a score. Four people died one summer because they double-crossed the wrong person, and my boyfriend stood in the middle of the crime with the bloodiest hands. I was in constant fear that I would be next.
I was in what I knew was hell. Not only was I trapped, but due to the brainwashing I received by my abuser, I BELEIVED that even if I did escape, no one, not even my family, would ever want me again. Still the need to survive prevailed. I had to get out and I tried to run. Not once, but many times. Yet he was always two-steps ahead of me, ready to beat me back into submission, proving that any attempt to leave was futile.
I desperately needed to escape the insurmountable pain my life had become and although my mind occasionally provided a temporary solace of disassociation, the continued abuse pushed me to the ultimate edge -- attempting suicide. Fortunately, my attempts were unsuccessful. However, I again remained trapped in that terrible cycle of abuse. At the end of almost seven years, I was finally rescued from my abuser by an intervention of neighbors. They were strangers really, who were shocked to witness the â€œnice guyâ€ they knew as my boyfriend, beat me at the pool while they were having lunch. That year was 1981.
Like so many others of domestic violence I had no idea my life was like a page from a psychology book -- full of classic scenarios and syndromes. I never really understood that I was not to blame or that there was any help out there for â€œsomeone like meâ€. I was left in a lot of trouble and with a dependency to drugs and alcohol. But the most debilitating residuals of the abuse were the remorse, guilt, shame, incessant sense of worthlessness, and post-traumatic stress disorder that clung to me like an ominous shadow.
Twenty-five years have passed since I last saw my abuser and in those initial years I stumbled through life. By trial and error I found recovery, counseling, and spirit, what I consider to be turning points for me. I carried a quote by Anis Nin in my purse for years. The words, although simple, encouraged me to keep going on some of my darkest days:
"And the day came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to bloom."
Today, I have walked through my fears and dealt with my past trauma. I have a beautiful daughter who I adore and live a good, full life. I'm also a hotline volunteer and have the honor of working with other survivors as well as caring individuals whose lives were never touched by aggression â€“ all of us dedicated to advocacy against domestic violence and sexual assault.
At Shelter from the Storm I have witnessed the commitment to raising the bottom for a victim and can truly appreciate how they provide opportunities to wellness. From the after care counseling programs, attention given to children, assistance with restraining orders, shelter, the amazing SART program, teen advocacy and much, much more. Services that werenâ€™t available to protect me when I was fifteen, or help me after I escaped in 1981.
I have tremendous gratitude for the intervention that saved me from my abuserâ€™s grasp, and the shelter I received afterwards. It was the beginning of stepping out of hell for me. 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.
Iâ€™d like to end with a great quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
â€œWe 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.â€
It was a bit difficult to get up and speak to an audience of over two hundred people, but the warmth and gratitude of many, made it worth it. We really CAN all be aware!
Happy Fat Tuesday!