The following is a statement of a survivor. It is a statement about her experiences as a survivor, and her interpretations of the world. The views expressed are her own, and do not reflect the views of the agency as a whole.
I call myself a survivor extraordinaire because I have survived so much. Childhood abuse and incest, being institutionalized and homeless as a youth, human trafficking, and domestic violence with all the sexual assaults that come with it. Compared to the 158 women killed last year in Texas, my friends and I are a walking miracle.
You are a walking miracle, too. But it shouldn’t be this way. And it’s not your fault.
“I stayed out by asking for help, which meant letting go of shame and silence. I reached out and kept reaching.”
Watching the 2016 election campaign, I – like survivors everywhere – am pained by demeaning, shaming, and crazy-making tactics. We are witnessing the denial of personal accountability for assaults.
We feel it in our bones again. We feel it in our soul again. We begin to feel trapped in a male-dominated world where peace isn’t an option and living in safety with respect is out of the question.
We can change our lives, we can live in peace, we can be respected, we can live violence free, and we can live a life free from being shamed. We can hold people accountable and expect justice. And we can get out.
Getting out and staying out
I got out of a 13-year relationship marred by domestic violence with only one of my three children. I had to keep going to save us all, even if it nearly killed me.
I stayed out of that relationship by asking for help, which meant letting go of shame and silence. I reached out and kept reaching.
“Take what you need. No shame, no silence. Use resources in your community, speak up. Get your needs met.”
I left several times, never sustaining my freedom until I finally found SafePlace, a resource center that is truly strength-based and trauma-responsive. From shelter and therapy to mentors, encouragement, and housing, I received full support there. All these things helped me to rewrite the story of who I was in my own eyes. SafePlace helped me rebuild and take back my life.
I now work with survivors as a survivor, working to empower through community building and support.
I found my power with others who shared lived experiences through group activities, individual trauma-informed therapy, activism, free online workshops, art, and learning how to plan goals. I tried literally anything I could get into on a nothing budget.
Other survivors have found healing through self-defense classes, acupuncture, yoga, advocacy, and education in the dynamics of sexual assault and domestic violence. No matter where or how you mix your bag-of-you together, just do it. You are worthy.
Take what you need. No shame, no silence. Use resources in your community, speak up. Get your needs met.
You may find assistance with resources in a domestic violence shelter like I did. To learn more about domestic violence or find resources near you, call the local hotline at 512.267.7233 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) at 1.800.799.7233
“Victim” doesn’t describe you
We are not just victims or survivors. We aren’t broken. We are the most courageous and powerful people on earth. It is time we started reclaiming ourselves. We are artists, we are creators, and we are human beings with rights – rights to our minds and our bodies.
You are already strong, already resilient, already coping like a ninja warrior. You have what it takes to make it. You are worthy of safety, worthy of respect, and worthy of love. Reclaim yourself in whatever way inspires you. You are the expert in you, even when it feels like we have no clue.
Women in America, now is the time to rise in solidarity. Stand up for yourselves! You are our most powerful ally and you are the hero you have been waiting for.
My continuing story
I still work at being compassionate to myself while learning to love and appreciate me right where I am, as I am. It’s an ongoing practice of radical self-love that I share openly. Everyone is welcome to join in with a journey of their own. It’s me taking up my space, defining what it means for me to honor myself, and ending in a self-claiming ceremony at One Billion Rising next year. You can follow or join the journey at Saying Yes To Love on FaceBook.
Equal rights. Equal pay. Reproductive rights. Access to health care. Protection for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Legal accountability for assailants. We can have it all. Together, we are unstoppable. Just get out there and vote!
Join One Billion Rising in solidarity against the exploitation of women Feb. 14, 2017 at the Texas State Capitol in Austin.
–This post was last edited on 11/18/2016.