“Do the things that scare you.” That’s what I’ve been telling myself over these last few months. And it has led to some pretty amazing experiences – I went to NCADV’s Take a stand event in Washington DC, where I met some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met; I told my story to a random stranger on a rooftop bar, and to friends I’d been too scared tell for the last year; I met Joe Biden and gave him my pink business card; and I quit my neuroscience PhD program and told my mentors that I’m abandoning our projects to help domestic violence survivors.

Last week however, I did something that felt even scarier than any of those things combined. I confided in a friend about some of the most painful memories I have with my abuser, ones I hadn’t ever fully spoken about before. I had been silent about these for so long out of fear. When I did try to tell someone a while ago, I was shut down. She told me I should have stood up for myself when my abuser did certain things. That what he did was partly my fault.

It’s comments like these that make me want to scream. Not only do they feel like a knife going right through the heart, but they show just how ignorant some people are when it comes to abuse and domestic violence. She missed the point entirely. The fact was that I couldn’t speak up out of fear – fear he’d get angry, fear he’d leave me, fear of yet another bad night.

An abuser gains power by robbing you of your voice, of your ability to speak for you yourself. I did things I never thought I would do when I was dating my abuser. Not because I wanted to, but because I was terrified of what would happen if I refused.

I have spent the last year reclaiming my voice and my self-autonomy. I have learned how to speak up when I had been silenced for so long. I have learned not to deny what happened, or shove it down, but to own it and be proud that I survived. Because that’s just it. We are survivors. We lived through hell and came out the other side. And we most definitely do not deserve to be judged by someone, or to be told by others how we should have acted in certain situations. At the end of the day, they weren’t there. But we were.

We deserve to be able to tell our stories, to finally voice the secrets we’ve kept inside for so long. As I have learned, the more we hold on to those painful memories and keep them in, the more power they have over us. The first step of letting them go is to let them out. So last week, I tried once again to put those painful memories into words, and fortunately, this time I was met with true compassion and support from my friend.

Yes, maybe I didn’t speak up or defend myself when I was dating my abuser. But I am doing it now, no matter how hard or scary it may seem. I have found my voice. And I am never letting it go.

14 thoughts on “

  1. Fear has many reactions. Everyone has a different way of coping and though I see what your friend was saying I highly disagree. Yes speaking up has its place but sometimes speaking up can leave you in a worse place than taking the abuse and finding a way out of the situation.
    I was in an abusive relationship when I was in my early twenties and speaking up back then meant admitting that I had allowed it to happen. Luckily I got out of it within a year or so and became a firefighter but my point is that anyone can say what they think they would do but until they are faced with the same situation they honestly have no clue.
    Being able to write blog about it, is the streagth that you gained from it. If you ever want a non-bpin pal feel free to email me:-)

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    1. It’s true that speaking up is risky. People may say very hurtful things in response and that can feel like a knife through the chest. As you say, until someone has been in that situation themselves, they have no clue. I think the point is that if you never take any risks at all, you can close yourself off from life and from connecting with others. I know for me what has made all the difference is the support I’ve received from friends, and some of the people I was most afraid to tell actually ended up being most supportive. At the end of the day, only you can decide what is best yourself. Wish you all the best – speak766

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