My name is Haley and I am a survivor.
The first time I stood in front of a group of people and said those words aloud, I was barely eleven years old. Standing next to my fourteen-year old step-sister, I was able to push through the trembles and read the words we had written together.
Our story. Of knowing cops on a first-name basis and having to keep silent the earth-shattering chaos that lived inside us – that took place in our home. Our story of physically having everything we could ever ask for but being emotionally tattered and abused. Our story of confusion. And hatred. And love.
I still remember that speech. How raw and exposed I felt as I laid all my family’s secrets on the table for everyone to see. How I felt so conflicted because on one hand I wanted my Dad never to find out about the speech and on the other, I wanted him to know that I was capable of speaking. I vividly remember asking questions like Do people in jail get the newspaper? and Is my last name on the program?
Back then I was timid, lonely, scared, empty. I fought to stay at that podium.
Years have passed since that speech. Since then, I’ve lost touch with my step-sister. I went to college and, in an attempt to disappear, I travelled half-way across the world. I changed every thing and every one around me. I soul-searched and was blessed to have found a beautiful life-partner who is a true gentleman.
And yet, here I am. Back on Maui, finding the courage to speak up. Back at square one.
Because despite how far I travelled or how many people knew about my past – I never could shake the feeling that, when I was born, I brought with me violence and sadness. And even waking up next to a kind man for six years has not stopped the nightmares of teeth flying across the room or bloody clumps of hair in the stairway.
As a survivor, I know the power of being able to speak my truth. There are so many more people involved in domestic violence than just the victim and the perpetrator. And as an adult, I have the benefit of years passed that allow me to recognize my parents as human beings. People who make mistakes, but who ultimately did the very best they could with what they were given.
As time continues to pass, I continue to march and to write and to speak and to cry. I continue to push past my trembling voice to let that timid little girl inside me scream her truth to the world. I speak up because there are people who need to hear what I say… and I speak up for all the individuals who are – or have been – silenced by fear.
And it continues to help me heal and forgive.
I’m not sure if my Dad ever found out about that speech I gave so many years ago, but in the end it doesn’t matter. After all these years, I recognize that I didn’t speak up to hurt or expose him. I spoke up for me. Because I needed to release those thoughts and feelings and emotions. I needed to realize that my experience and my voice are not only valid, but they are valued.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Exactly one year ago, I wrote a post about my experience with domestic violence, and was incredibly touched by the responses I received.
If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic violence and would like to seek safety, visit the hotline. If you are afraid your internet and/or computer usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224.