I had always heard that abuse is life changing. Whether you are in it for 1 year or 20 years, it can change your perspective dramatically. For an outsider, it may be difficult to understand how one part of your life could change the way you see the entire world. I was with my abuser for slightly less than one year, but yes, this one year changed everything.
And what other people do not always realize is that things are not just magically resolved as soon as the relationship ends. Dealing with the aftermath of domestic violence and abuse can be just as grueling as the actual relationship. For me, what I remember more than anything was that unrelenting fear of telling the truth. My abuser was in my graduate program. Like most abusers, he was well liked, charismatic, and charming. And this made it so incredibly easy to fall for him in the beginning, and so incredibly difficult to speak up when it all came crashing down. No one saw who he became behind closed doors. The fear that no one would believe me felt insurmountable, the risk of speaking up felt simply not worth it. So for quite awhile, I stayed silent.
In a way, I felt like I was back with my abuser - walking on eggshells, so afraid that the truth would slip out, and that I would pay the price. Because unfortunately, as hard as it is for survivors to speak up, it seems that it is even more difficult for the world to actually listen. For whatever reason, people still think it is okay to re-victimize survivors, to retaliate against us, to blame us for what happened, and to simply not believe us. They think it is okay to corner us into silence by fostering a culture where it is so undeniably terrifying to just speak the truth.
But silence can only last for so long. For me, the fear of staying silent eventually started to outweigh the fear of coming forward, the fear that no one would know who this man really is. And as I started speaking out, whether through my blog or by confiding in people, I found more strength, support, and connection than I have ever known. It is with this support that I have been able to heal and to find what I really love, which is helping other survivors and spreading awareness. And now, telling the truth suddenly feels a lot less scary.
Abuse is life changing, that is for sure. But so is speaking up. When it comes down to it, an abuser robs you of your voice and your ability to speak for yourself. Claiming your voice back can be a difficult, downright terrifying process. But our words have power, as do our stories. And as we have seen with #metoo, there are so many people out there who have stories to tell. Speaking up is the first step to ending this, to fighting back against a society that does not want to deal with issues like domestic violence. I truly believe that we can change this culture when we come together, take a stand, and let the world know will we speak out, one voice at a time.
I am @speak766 and I’m a survivor of domestic violence. I have been in graduate school studying neuroscience for the past several years, which is where I met my abuser. However, over the past 6 months, I have realized that my passion is domestic violence advocacy. I started a blog where I share my experiences, the issues we face as survivors, and encourage other survivors to speak out. I also recently decided to quit my PhD program, take a master’s, and fully commit to spreading awareness and empowering change (needless to say, my advisors were pretty surprised when I told them I am abandoning our projects to help end domestic violence). Perhaps the one positive out of all of this is I have found what I really love and what gives me meaning. And for me, that is making all the difference.