I have made a lot of changes this week. I have quit my graduate program and decided to pursue a career in domestic violence advocacy. I have told my boss I am leaving; I told my program director that I was abused by another student in the program; I have told one of our collaborators that I am abandoning our work to help domestic violence victims. But most importantly, I told one of my closest friends the truth about what happened to me.
I had already told the majority of my friends before this. However, I had not been as close with this person until over the past year, as he and I started to work together more in the lab. Even as we grew closer and I started to want to tell him my story, fear held me back. He knows my abuser through the program and I was scared he would believe him over me. Previously, I had a different friend (who is no longer a friend) who did align himself with my abuser and I became afraid that everyone would react this way. So I kept quiet.
But over the last few months, I have finally started to feel like things are going in the right direction. I have felt empowered in a way I never thought possible. I attended Take A Stand in D.C. and met some of the most inspiring and amazing people I have ever met in my life; I met Joe Biden and gave him my business card; I have gotten involved with local organizations in my town; and I have continued to speak out using this blog. I have found so much support and validation in places I never expected to find it, and I feel stronger than I have in a very long time.
So today, I took a deep breath and told my friend the secret that I had been keeping inside for a year now. And unlike my previous friend, this friend told me that he supported me, believed me, and that I would be okay. He then pulled me in and hugged me tightly. It was one of those real hugs, the kind you remember because they mean something. I had been waiting for that hug for a very long time.
I used to think that this was my secret and my cross to bear. But that isn’t true at all. There is no reason to be ashamed for having been in abusive relationship. And there is no reason to keep quiet. With every person I tell, I get a small piece of justice. There is one more person out there who knows the truth. And for me, that is making all the difference.