By Betty Staplins-White
I like the word survivor. By definition it means:
1. A person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died
2. The remainder of a group of people or things
3. A person who copes well with difficulties in their life
Just at what point a victim of domestic violence becomes a survivor depends on how soon they can receive the help and support to move forward. Anyone that has any familiarity with domestic violence understands that it can become a cycle, and victims can get trapped within it.
I witnessed extreme domestic violence as a child, which led to a distorted view of my relationships as an adult. What I witnessed was traumatizing, and I was lucky that the cycle of domestic violence did not follow me throughout my entire adulthood.
Fourteen years ago, I experienced one relationship in which I was a victim of abuse. The only thing that saved my life was the help and support from family, friends, and advocates that gave me the courage I needed to leave.
I made a plan to leave, and was successful.
That first night, as I slept in the bed of a domestic violence shelter, my kids in the bed next to mine, I wasn’t convinced I would become a survivor. Over time, I began to heal. The willingness and open mindednesses to change my situation came when I was no longer afraid. I learned how to become who I was always meant to be - not alone, but with the help of others who had been where I had once been.
For years I had thought I didn’t deserve happiness and love, but those thoughts were lies, and eventually I learned the truth.
The truth was that I did not deserve to be abused and it was not my fault. Healing came with the realization that I had a voice, and I could use that voice to help others. There is a path to becoming a survivor of domestic violence that must begin with awareness.
When domestic violence is no longer a shameful secret, and survivors’ voices are heard and understood, healing can begin for many more victims.
So today I take a stand against domestic violence, and allow my voice to be heard. No one deserves to be abused.
If you know someone in Rhode Island that needs help, give them the following contact numbers:
- RI Statewide Helpline - 1-800-494-8100
- Crossroads Rhode Island’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Helpline - (401) 861-2760
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
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