Yesterday was a huge day for me. Yesterday I stood on a stage in front of over 200 adults and shared my story. Yesterday I was one of eight speakers at TEDxNSU. This was, by far, the biggest public speaking event I have ever done.
As a teacher and the educator at Forget Me Not Advocacy Group, I am often in front of groups of people often, many of them children in teens. Very rarely, however, do I find myself in front of a large group, on a timeline, or in front of video cameras. This speech took months of preparation, several rewrites, and hours of practice.
After all of that, I feel confident that it wasn’t a disaster. Good feedback was received, but I’m sure when I actually view myself on tape there may be some cringing involved. But that is ok, because the reason I’m writing today is to share the power that I felt telling my story verbally, the confidence that coursed through me as I stared out at those strange faces and shared things I used to be terrified to say out loud, and the strength that filled me as I challenged the audience to BE THE CHANGE that brings domestic violence out of the shadows.
There is power in sharing. It is not a power that an individual basks in or a power that is forced over another. It is a power that fills you with wonder, with relief that you have come so far, and with confidence that in sharing, others will learn and be empowered. It is a power in taking back control of your life, no longer living in fear, and no longer allowing another to hold even a thread of control over how you live your life. It is a power that pulsates through you and radiates out to others, telling them in a physical and verbal sense that your cause is important.
Yesterday I shared statistics that many were unaware of. 81% of parents do not believe, or are unaware that teen dating violence exists, yet 1 in 3 teens report having experienced emotional, physical, sexual, or verbal abuse at the hands of a dating partner. Adult intimate partner violence affects more women than breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer…combined.
Were you aware of that? More are affected by domestic violence than three of the top cancers endured by women. But are we marching by the thousands against domestic violence; to raise awareness? Are we painting the country purple to show our support to victims and survivors; to tell abusers that we stand against them? No, we are not. And that idea saddens me greatly.
No matter why you believe this is; shame, guilt, fault, etc. is really irrelevant. That fact is that we are not talking about it and it is happening at unacceptably high rates. It must be stopped. We must say NO MORE. We have to shine our light on it and drag it out of the shadows where it can no longer survive.
When you share your story as a victim and survivor, you are telling the world that abuse is unacceptable. You are putting the blame on abusers instead of victims. You are taking the shame out of speaking up and owning your past. You are showing the world that you are done protecting your abuser – out of fear, sympathy, or love. There is power in that. And it sparks a conversation.
As I challenged my audience yesterday, I will challenge you. Will you be the change? Will you educate yourself and acknowledge that domestic violence is happening at unacceptable rates? Will you shine your light on domestic violence by speaking up?