(Trigger/Content warning: this post discusses domestic violence.)
I have read a lot of statistics and personal testimonies about Domestic Violence situations. Most of us know the patterns. Most of us are familiar with the statistics. Oftentimes statistics are just numbers unless you or someone you know have become one and have lived that hell personally. Many of us have, including myself. While we can, and should, do our part as individuals and as groups, to lobby for protection, for awareness, and for support, we also need to realize that, as difficult as it may seem, each of us has been given free will.
While it may seem the most difficult thing to accept that we maintain some control of our destiny in most cases- especially after years of being told otherwise- it is ultimately the most empowering realization. I know it was for me. As a victim of the most extreme forms of physical and verbal domestic abuse for six years- having been beaten bloody and unconscious on a regular basis, having been raped and tortured almost daily- I came to a point where I knew that while I had the support of family and friends, it was ultimately me alone who would make the final decision to walk away from something that wasn't right and could no longer continue. That was probably the most difficult thing for me to do in my whole life.
I always believed that marriage is something you do not take lightly. I took the words "till death do us part" literally up to that point. My children- whom I loved and cherished more than anything in the world- were the product of this marriage. Up until I made this difficult decision, I thought it was my duty to God, and to my family to continue things as they were. Until I realized that "till death do us part" took on a whole new meaning. If I had stayed, this man would have killed me. Each beating escalated to the point that I was convinced this man will end my life at some point had I stayed.
Imagine how I felt the day I decided to walk away for my own safety and for the safety of my children. I didn't sneak out of the house. I waited for the father of my children to come home. I looked him in the face and told him I was leaving, and with escorts, I did so with my children and ran for three years in fear. Today, I have attained the financial stability to provide for my family after a long and hard road, that far exceeds the money my ex husband would not allow me to have in our marriage.
Today, I am engaged in a wonderful, healthy relationship that made me realize that I wasn't the problem all along as my ex husband told me every time I was beaten for offenses only unacceptable to him. I cannot promise you financial success after you leave a marriage, nor will I tell you that leaving a marriage or relationship is the right thing to do in a particular case. But I will tell you that the cycle of violence can end with you and with those whom you allow to help you should you find yourself trapped in an abusive relationship.
From the time I said "I do" I fell under the umbrella of statistics that show that a woman is battered every 15 seconds in this country. In the time it took you to read this, approximately 6 women were battered in one form or another by an intimate. What happens behind closed doors is not none of our business, because behind those closed doors could be your sister, your mother, your daughter, your friend..even you.
This is how I envision a stop in the cycle. I envision a candle that lights the way for others. I have a candle and perhaps others do as well. And that is a start, but imagine what happens when the flames of two or more candles join. They shine brighter and with greater strength but don't suffer in their individuality. So, I have a flame and maybe you or someone you know does also. What do you want to do with them? They could mean the difference between life and death for those who cannot yet make their voices heard.