One of my most common discussions with others is why I am a domestic violence speaker. After many years of digging, growing, progressing and learning, life would make no sense being anything but a domestic violence speaker, advocate and trainer. It hasn’t been easy, and it didn’t come overnight. There has to be time for healing, then gaining information and learning about the nature of the beast. Many struggling survivors contact me for advice on how they might become a domestic violence speaker. The answer is simple: First, get healed. Get restored. You can’t give what you don’t have. Understand how you got into an abusive relationship, why you stayed so long, and what it takes to leave safely. Then we can talk about becoming a domestic violence speaker.
Many who want to write a book about when they were a victim of domestic violence, and ask for advice, tips and guidance. Please hear my heart. I do not claim to be the world’s best writer, far from it. But many would do best to journal or blog. We are not all meant to become authors. A domestic violence victim getting a book published is not a simple process, nor is it cheap. If you decide to self-publish, there’s the writing, the editing, the costs of layout, design, printing, getting reviews, marketing, public relations with the media. Should you try to get picked up by a big name publisher? Now you’re looking at need for a literary or publishing agent, query letters, follow up, it becomes a fulltime job. You are likely working a fulltime job to pay the bills, or you are considering quitting and working exclusively on getting your book picked up. The chances? Like a drop in the ocean, but on rare occasion, it does happen! Do you see yourself in front of a television camera, answering questions and covering topics as an expert domestic violence speaker? You’ll need to consider that, as well.
So, why am I a domestic violence speaker? It’s in my marrow. From the age of eight, I’ve always vented my frustrations and pains through writing. So it seemed natural to write my autobiography as a victim of child sexual assault and domestic violence. The more I wrote, the more therapeutic it became. It was cathartic. Through my words on paper I was becoming a domestic violence speaker, without opening my mouth. I poured my heart and soul onto each page. I relived moments almost forgotten. Triggers were going off constantly. It ran the gamut from tears to sobbing to actually becoming physically ill. Never thought writing such a book would include allowing time for upchucking.
Many times I felt the same emotions from the years as a victim. Why was I actually writing this book? The reasons had changed. If I had gone through so much, experienced the epitome of emotional and verbal abuse, which eventually escalated to physical domestic violence and made it out safely, then I had to speak up, speak out. If I could make it out, it was my duty to spread the word to those still struggling, being battered, or on a path to their death.
My first book, Orange Blossom Wishes: Child Molested, Woman Abused—Her Victorious Journey to Freedom quickly morphed from “just a book” to a catalyst. Everywhere I went for a book signing, at least one if not several women would bend over the table, whisper in my ear, and share their deepest fears and secrets. I’ll never forget the day a lady who was over 80 years old gently handed me a book to sign. She bent over to whisper, “I’ve been married more than 60 years. When I was a little girl my father used to mess with me. You’re the first person I’ve ever told. Even my husband does not know.” I jumped to my feet, wrapped my arms around her and we cried together. I knew I had to become a domestic violence speaker, and especially a domestic violence listener.
Further, domestic violence does not consider racial discretion. After sharing my message as a domestic violence speaker at a statewide program for law enforcement, FBI and other governmental and educational officials, a very tall black man, solid as a rock and a member of a SWAT team, approached this five-foot tall short white blonde. He asked if he could have an aside with me, I stepped away and listened. At first I was shocked. He was in his early 30s. I was old enough to be his mother. He wrapped his arms around me, and put his lips to my ear. “What you said, what you talked about. When I was a little boy, my uncle messed with me, a lot. You’re the first person I ever told that to. Thank you for helping me.” I squeezed those granite-like arms, kissed him on the cheek and told him he would be in my prayers. Our eyes met, and tears were streaming down his face. It must have been quite a sight. Two absolutely opposite extremes as human beings, male and female, two generations, tall and short, black and white, embracing and shedding tears together. But at that moment, time nor location mattered. The two of us were relating, heart to heart, and that’s all that mattered. He discreetly exited the room to avoid his other macho officers seeing him cry. Wow! I had just finished sharing my story. These kinds of unexpected moments are why I have committed to be a domestic violence speaker.
All this resulted in my second book, BeLEAVEing: Safely Leaving Abusive Relationships. It’s a little guidebook that packs a big message. Inside are answers to what, how, why, when . . . What are the red flags? What did I do to deserve this? How do I know if I am a victim, how do I get out, how did I get into it in the first place? Why did this happen to me? When is it a good time to leave? Six years passed between the two books. There was a lot to learn and experience before going back into the author mode. My point to all those desiring to write of their victimization is this: Get informed, gather information, statistics, talk to survivors, advocates, shelter directors, attend conferences. If we are not constantly progressing in what we see and know about being a domestic violence speaker or writer, we are losing ground.
More important than being a domestic violence speaker, I am a messenger. When I wrote my first book, I committed that it would not be page after page of pie charts, graphs and statistics. It would be my story, from my heart, my journey from abuse to violence to freedom, life, light and hope. It still is, to this very day.
Yes, I’m one of those who gets asked constantly, “Why didn’t you just leave?” Well, that’s another blog post, like the ones already entered here. Search and find them. There are more reasons she stays, more reasons I stayed, than you can imagine.
For as long as I draw breath, I shall continue to be a domestic violence speaker, but more importantly, a domestic violence messenger. I’m convinced anyone can speak, and do it well, but without delivering a message that can be carried home and stored within a victim or struggling survivor’s heart, it’s just another speech. I will be that messenger for those who cannot speak for themselves, whether they are still trapped in domestic violence, or lying six feet beneath the ground, silenced by death as a victim.
That is why I am a domestic violence speaker.