I find myself sometimes contemplating the various “levels” of domestic violence, actually vacillating between confusion and guilt. I was verbally abused. I was emotionally abused. Later I was grabbed by my arms and slapped in the face. So, that meets the criteria of physical abuse, but at what point does it cross over from abuse and become violence? Even many years after being dragged through my house and having my head rammed into a door, my mind could not process if that qualified as real domestic violence, but it was then I decided it was time to leave. It seemed perhaps a gunshot or knife must be involved to ramp it up from abuse to violence. Warped thought pattern, huh?

Whenever I appear for book signings or speaking engagements and hear about injuries other women have sustained, mine seem so trivial in comparison. The news is inundated with stories of mutilations or murders directly resulting from domestic violence. I have actually found myself apologizing for the fact I never suffered a black eye or broken bone.

Then, one day it came to me. How many of those who have experienced a broken bone or black eye either will not or cannot speak out simply because they fear repercussions from their victimizer and/or people finding out their dark, hidden secrets? And how close was I to getting that black eye? Would the next incident have been the one that produced the broken bone, or worse yet, made me another murder victim? We have no way of knowing. Obviously, I can’t go back, and “what if” or “just maybe” don’t do any good. But, I have learned this through my experience as a domestic violence advocate – the statistics reflect the odds of escalation to serious injury, or death, were stacked way far against me!

Living in the past robbed me of potential and happiness for too many years. That has become a road less traveled. I just don’t go there much anymore. A valuable lesson I learned from the years of abuse is this: Seize the moment. “Now” is truly all we have, so make it count. If you are enduring unspeakable travesty or grief, measure it in moments. Inhale deeply, exhale slowly. Do your best to clearly think and plan. Tell yourself, “I can make it. I will make it!” Then utilize each moment to get yourself into a better and safer place, whether it is emotionally, mentally or physically (Numerous options are listed on the Victim Support page of my website). There were times it was difficult to even catch my breath, much less envision a tomorrow. I often wondered if I would live to see the sun rise again, and there were many times I didn’t really care if I did. To be void of all hope was like feeling as if death had me in its constriction.

Truth is reality. For skeptics who never experienced abuse but view some domestic violence survivors as cry babies or drama queens, perhaps walking a few miles in a victim’s shoes will give you a clearer perception of what it’s like to be on this side of the line. As for me, I will continue to speak, as long as I am able. I owe it to those victims and survivors who can’t.

I no longer offer excuses. Discovering the ability to learn from the past rather than living in it, empowered me to make the most of each day, realizing that worrying and fretting unnecessarily is a waste of energy and time. Yes, we must plan – to a point. We can’t be guaranteed what will come tomorrow, or even if tomorrow will show up at all. Take control of your circumstances, and change them if they are not acceptable. Nobody should ever be expected to remain in an abusive or violent relationship. . . not ever!

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