It has been quite the 48-hour period for me. My position as an author and speaker, as well as my history of escaping from abusive relationships and breaking into emotional well-being set me off on a journey. I had no idea the locations it would take me. Others are asking me to share my story, and discuss the battle to break free from domestic violence and mental abuse. In one day I visited The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, as well as theFamily Justice Center and ended as I visited with a reporter for ABC. All our conversations contained much the same subject matter─How do we combat domestic violence? I came home with my head spinning, still trying to process all the new information I’d been furnished by experts. It suddenly dawned on me that somewhere along the line I had become a bit of an expert on the subject, as well. Most of my expertise came at the hands of personal trauma. My firsthand experiences had become a fertile ground for growing vast amounts of knowledge.

Through the years, in an effort to find my own emotional well-being, my encounters led to appointments with mental health counselors or medical staff. Now there are often meetings with other victims who share their sufferings and traumas, as well as with professionals who work against domestic violence. Statistics have been thrown at me en masse. During and even after the times of abuse, I knew I was a statistic, but that didn’t seem to give me any peace or reassurance of a light at the end of my tunnel of darkness. The “statistics” were the victims making the headlines. They were the ones dying. I did not want to become one of those statistics. How could I make a difference? How could I personally find my own emotional well-being and become emotionally healthy? In the mix I gained a very dear friend who is a forensic nurse and rape crisis interventionist. I often wondered how she could be subjected to such horrors and still remain so positive and perky. Then, I realized I could choose to do the same. I could take the terrors and traumas of the past and turn them to stepping stones and building blocks for the future. Why not turn it all into a vehicle to carry not only me to my own inner healing, but to encourage and motivate others to find their way to the light of hope and freedom?

During the past few weeks we have been inundated with news reports of violence. Americans viewed news reporters on the scene at Fort Hood in Texas, while our nation tried to make some sense of a senseless act. As that news was being reported, another story was breaking during the very moments I was walking through the ABC newsroom─there had been a shooting at an office in Orlando, only 45 minutes away from my home. The report stated a disgruntled employee who had been discharged more than two years prior decided to get even, as he walked into the office and randomly fired his weapon. The levels of violence in America are growing to epidemic proportions. What has changed? Is it the economy pushing us over the edge, leading to domestic violence, murders and suicides? Is it the war in the Middle East? Are we still trying to recover from 9/11? I suppose the questions could go on without end, huh?

I do know this. I learned a lot of valuable information during my visits to the various organizations, agencies and television station last week. I have come to know there are people out there who are doing their very best to make a difference. There is the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. There are laws either in place or that have legislators standing behind them. They are working to push them through, to help others who are in a similar place as I was those years ago, being subjected to emotional and physical abuse. I have learned that, for the most part, the perpetrator is usually known to the victim. I have learned from personal experience, as well as hearing from other victims sharing their own stories, that almost without exception, it began with words!

I’ve also learned there are warning signs that raise red flags when there is a likelihood of an abusive relationship. The ABC reporter shared with me a list of 16 Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship as she handed me a small pocket-sized sheet furnished by The Spring. Because I care about you, the reader, here they are:

1. Pushes for a quick relationship

2. Jealous and possessive, constantly calls you by phone

3. Tries to control your

4. Unrealistic expectations

5. Isolates you from friends and family

6. Blames others for his/her problems, feelings and/or mistakes

7. Checks your phone for text messages and call history. May track you with GPS

8. Says his/her feelings are easily hurt

9. Cruel toward animals or children

10. “Playful” use of force during sex

11. Yells and calls you names

12. Rigid sex roles

13. Sudden mood swings

14. History of battering

15. Threats of violence

16. Threatens to reveal personal or damaging information about you to your family, friends or employer

You may not relate to all of these. Maybe you only relate to most of these. If so, I plead with you to consider your situation, and your options. In retrospect, had I been given access to this list when I was younger, there would have been at least 10 or 11 of these warning signs present. If you need help, there is a National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233. They have a safe website where you can find assistance, as well.

Good luck and Godspeed!

Visit Carolyn and learn more about her story at her website.

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