Runway to Freedom 7
I was dishonest. I was disconnected. In a single moment I realized I was denying my story. All my inner voice could say in that moment was "Oh, shit. It's me too."
Recently, I attended a fashion event to raise awareness for domestic violence (DV). Runway to Freedom is on it's seventh year of having a fashionable yet community focused show. The money raised during the event was donated to Mary's Place, a local non-profit in Seattle, WA with a focus on empowering homeless women, children, and families. Before the fashion show started we heard from survivors of DV. It was a privilege and honor to hear their stories.
One of the models at this event is good friend of mine, Lenisa. She is a model, dancer, fitness coach, and a DV survivor. Watching her walk this runway, modeling for a cause that was personal to her, was especially empowering and uplifting.
My "Oh Shit" Moment
The host of the event asked the audience members to stand up if they were a survivor of domestic violence. People rose. I sat. She then asked for people to stand if they have ever known anyone who has been in a domestically violent relationship. I rose. She made the point that almost everyone in the room has been impacted by this cause.
It is pretty common for women (or men) who have experienced abusive relationships to not consider themselves victims or survivors of domestic violence, hence why they often stay in these relationships. In my social and professional life I encourage people to embrace and own their stories, even when it is uncomfortable or painful.
When I looked around the room at the people who stood up to having been in a DV relationship, I felt proud for them. When I stood up I thought about the people I've helped get out of DV relationships and their stories, I felt proud to be a part of their story. When I sat down...I felt disconnected. I realized I was disassociating myself and my experiences from this cause, I was distancing myself from this label. I was falling subject to the same thing I've helped other women through...the "I wasn't hit or anything so I wasn't abused, it wasn't a big deal, I don't have bruises, I'm not that woman."
My first relationship was abusive and to this day I minimize that. But guess what? Emotional abuse is abuse. Verbal abuse is abuse. Physical abuse is abuse. Abuse is domestic violence. Looking back I wish I would have stood up. Identifying as a survivor does not define who are you, it is just one piece of you. His or her abuse to you does not confine who will be. I know this because I'm a much stronger, smarter, happier person today than I was when I was in that relationship. I've gone on to accomplish and achieve so much, even with that DV experience.
Had I stood up, I would have felt a strong sense of connection with every other person in that room. I would have felt proud of myself for owning my story. Instead, I felt shameful, hidden, and disconnected. I wasn't ready to be vulnerable. I wasn't ready to be real with myself. I wasn't ready to own this painful and uncomfortable part of my story. So I turned inward to process this, I talked about it, and now I've shared it with you. Now I can be real with myself, have self-compassion, and be confident in my story.
Lesson=learned. Insight=gained. Next time, I will stand up.
Questions for thought:
- Has there been a moment for you where you've caught yourself realizing you're rejecting your story? What did you do to own it?
- How has DV impacted your life or someone you know?