Think back with me for a minute. Can you remember what you were doing exactly thirty-one years ago? I was having my first child and juggling a full-time college schedule while trying to keep the avalanche-size piles of laundry from caving in on our tiny apartment! Life was mayhem!
Unbeknownst to me, while I was changing diapers and running late to class, October 1987 was designated as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For the very first time in our nation’s history, we were bringing public awareness to the “Big Secret.” What’s the Big Secret? It’s the abuse that happens behind closed doors to one in four women and one in seven men in our country (Source: National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, Center for Disease Control, 2010.)
From the onset, there has been a threefold purpose behind Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
It is to…
- Mourn those who have died as a result of domestic violence.
- Celebrate those who have survived.
- Connect those who work to end domestic violence.
Seven years after the inaugural National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, in 1994, Congress passed the first federal law to address domestic violence as a serious crime. It was at that time that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was signed into law.
Bottom line…domestic violence IS a crime.
Finally, as a nation, we were collectively agreeing with this truth.
One of the greatest resources that resulted from VAWA was the National Domestic Violence Hotline. In 2017, this 24 hour, seven days a week free hotline responded to 323,356 calls. The hotline provides vital information for those who may be experiencing intimate partner violence and directs those in crisis to numerous helpful resources which can connect them with ongoing support. Prior to this, there was not a national resource of highly trained, experienced advocates who could offer immediate and compassionate support for victims of domestic violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Today, we are witnessing courageous victims of abuse coming forward sharing their stories. With the onset of the #MeToo movement, victims are breaking the silence. They are publicly disclosing the Big Secret. From Hollywood to Washington to mid-America, the shroud of shame is being ripped in half. It’s a new day! The message is becoming clearer… you choose to abuse, you lose!
But what happens after #MeToo, when one exercises the enormous intestinal fortitude to go public with their long-held secret? What then? Certainly, breaking the silence is the first step in the healing process. However, in order to heal well, we must intentionally pursue it.
There is a huge difference between healing and healing well. In my book, Healing Well and Living Free from an Abusive Relationship: From Victim to Survivor to Overcomer, I walk the reader through the actual steps I took in my own life to not only survive a 20-year abusive marriage, but what I did to THRIVE beyond it.
My message is this…abuse changes us, but it does not have to destroy us. However, if one relies on time alone to bring about authentic healing and lasting freedom from the residual effects of domestic abuse or sexual assault, it won’t happen. Time alone heals nothing. Time just passes leaving the scars to remind us of our past pain and buried secrets.
The good news is that healing well and living free from an abusive relationship, or even a one-time abusive encounter, is not for a select few. It is for anyone who desires to pursue it. If you or someone you love has walked this painful path, you can heal well!
Today, choose to join with the community of Overcomers who have not allowed abuse to silence us or to destroy us. October 2018 can be the moment when you say,
“My life has value. I deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Abuse will not destroy me. I will heal well. I will be free. I will then reach back, take the hand of another walking the same painful path I once did, and sojourn with them toward their freedom!”
So, what is the answer to #MeTooNowWhat?
The answer is #HealWellLiveFree!