I am not the person I was a year ago.
If you’ve ever been the victim of domestic violence (or of sexual abuse or assault) or if you have someone amongst your nearest and dearest who has, I don’t need to explain to you what a dark, dismal place that can be. It’s all the more dark and dismal because most of us are there alone.
No one else could possibly live this way. That’s what we think. That’s what we tell ourselves. We close our eyes, close our mouths and move silently on with our lives. For many of us, we were children who had no power to make a choice.
But one year ago today, Violence UnSilenced began breaking through the layers of denial, shame, fear and mute acceptance that so many of us, too d*mned many of us, have wrangled with for significant portions of our lives. This Web site, the brainchild of Maggie Dammit, gave us a place to face our fears, collect our courage and pony up with our pasts – on our terms.
For me, the catharsis of sharing was eye-opening, gut-wrenching and nothing short of life-altering. I discovered some things about myself buried for decades. I was at first amazed and then horrified by how much had been locked away behind the face that greets me in the mirror every day. I began to see some of my most brilliant adult mistakes with amazing clarity. (I was trying to recreate my childhood! So that's what that was all about ...)
I faced realities that were shoved down so deep and unspoken for so long, I’m still not sure how they ever reached surface. But they did. And I’m SO glad they did. No one needs to have that kind of garbage residing within their psyche. No one.
Was it easy? No. Did it suddenly fix everything? No. I don’t believe it ever is easy nor that it’s ever possible to “fix” everything. So what has changed? I finally set the record straight with the person for whom it was most important: me.
As an avid DIYer, I know that some things aren’t worth repairing. You throw them out and start over anew. And for those things that are, the things that are beautiful and delicate and valuable, you put the time and the effort into lovingly restoring them. Especially when those things are key components of you.
I’ve been joined by 100 others so far – and half that many more are in a queue, all waiting to speak out through VU. In a way, it’s sad that the numbers are so great. It’s not exactly a club that the membership aspires to. (No one wakes up thinking how great it would be to be beaten/raped/molested/terrified/belittled/betrayed today.)
What would be sadder though is if that chance to share, to cleanse our souls, and to reach out to all those who may not yet be ready or even able to tell their stories, didn’t exist at all. Those stories, woven together in twice-weekly tales, are a collective digital hand reaching out to those still trapped in circumstances that no one would envy. A hand touching, then tugging, then grasping and then pulling …
Like my house, I remain a work in progress. I continue to declutter and regroup. Repair, replace and maintain. I point with pride at the things I like. I toil into the wee hours on the ones I do not.
No, I am not the person I was a year ago. No.
I’m a better one.
And I’m not alone. Thanks, VU. (And Maggie for this awesome montage.)