"It was not until the more recent years I truly considered myself an intimate partner violence advocate. After taping the dating violence segment with Katie Couric for her daytime talk show, “Katie”, I looked around and realized that I was the only surviving participant on the show. My face was on every television that tuned in and my personal business was made public. I had to choose between unnecessary feelings of shame and a long road to triumph. I knew my advocacy work was more than appearances and sharing my story with media outlets. I needed to go out and educate other young adults, social workers, my family and friends about one of the most deadly social ills. "
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I am glad to announce that I have officially started the planning process for October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Event. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and we are raising awareness to relationship abuse by hosting a fundraiser for The National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Although I have no affiliation with The National Domestic Violence Hotline I have used their services in the past and participated with Glamour Magazine in their awareness campaign. The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides 24/7 confidential support to victims of intimate partner violence and advice for loved ones, social workers, and authorities that need guidance.
In February of this year I put together a "Valentines Anytime" Mixer for National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Activities included an educational presentation about dating violence, gift bags, raffles, "love is..." activity, photographers and my survivor testimony. About 75 guests including my friends, family, colleagues, and associates attended the event and helped raise nearly $2,000 for Break the Cycle.
This October I am hoping to do the same type of event for The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Last Sunday night I put together a list of 200 restaurants, spas, local clothing companies, nail salons, barber shops, yoga studios, and hair salons. Monday morning I sent out venue donation request letters to 22 businesses and just yesterday I mailed off the remaining letters for raffle donation request.
While I expect some to respond with a “no” or “sorry we cannot accommodate you,” I am super excited to see who says “yes”.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Many victims of crime, especially intimate partner violence rarely receive the therapy and justice in court for the crimes committed against them. Without support and those key components of the healing process they are often left trying to pick up the pieces by themselves.
Right after leaving the abusive relationship I tried to continue my life as if the abuse never happened. I was still riddled with guilt, anger, feelings of abandonment from loved ones and easily triggered by memories of the past. I held on to those feelings for a year and through therapy I realized that I was experiencing PTSD. Therapy and receiving justice in the courts for the crimes committed against me was a very important part of my healing-it gave me a piece of mind and closed a chapter in my life.
I have since entered a new relationship and created new friendships in hopes to rebuild myself and focus on my advocacy work. Surviving and publicly speaking out about my experience with relationship abuse has been the hardest thing that I have ever done. I have learned so much about myself in this healing process. You have the right to grieve, to be sad and to be angry--those are all a part of the healing process. You have to give yourself time to heal and you will find that even in healing, your life has forever changed because of the abuse.
Abuse is a traumatic experience and should be treated as such. One thing that I learned from my journey is that healing from any abuse, especially years of abuse, will take as long as your mind your body and your spirit needs. It’s been a four-year journey towards healing and I am no longer afraid to ask for help when I feel triggered.
“As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else.”
I know that I have been missing in action for quite some time (missed a bunch of S.A.A.M events) but simply put, I needed a break.
I have tried to pen this letter for a week now, but I could not come up with the right language to describe how I felt. I have been through the roller-coaster of sadness, anger, frustration, and letting disappointment getting the best of me. I also felt that I was neglecting other areas of my life, i.e. relationships/ friendships, sleep time, and me time.
A few drafts and a vacation later I decided that a few sentences can express my feelings:
Those five bullet points above are enough to put me in a not so good place emotionally and mentally. I had to do what was best for me and take a much needed break.
That does NOT mean that I stopped advocating for intimate partner violence awareness; that is impossible for me to stop doing. Relationship abuse has forever changed my life-- I am an activist against it and you can see that in my conversation, my attitude, and my beliefs.
However, I am taking a step back and limiting my speaking engagements. I will continue to write about my experiences and participate in walkathons, workshops and events to raise awareness.
This upcoming Wednesday, April 23 I will be at City Hall for the #DenimDayNYC rally and then at Columbia University speaking with MSW students.
I have some upcoming projects for later on in the year: an appearance in a documentary and a book; an awareness event in October (Nat’l DV Awareness Month); and hopefully a script for a screenplay!
This past Saturday, February 8, 2014 I hosted my first fundraiser and young adult dating violence awareness event and it was an absolute success. I am still coming down off of my high, that’s how awesome things turned out!
I first came up with this event idea in October 2013, as a teen dating violence survivor I really wanted to do something special for the upcoming Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. I decided on hosting a fundraiser for Break the Cycle, our primary national teen dating violence prevention program.
The whole planning process was full of up and downs; I reached out to business after business only to be met with a “no” more often than a “yes”. Some business owners were on board, but offered me a time that would barely bring out 20 guest, other businesses declined and said that they were very selective with their donations. I am guessing teen dating violence awareness is not their thing.
In December I had just about given up and started brainstorming new ideas to commemorate the awareness month. During the New Year holiday I reached out to the Dyckman Bar-- I had just been for the first time as a guest of a friend’s birthday celebration. I knew that Dyckman Bar was a fairly new and happening bar in Washington Heights so I gave one last shot in the dark. The very next day they were on board for the event, asked me what day I wanted to invite my guest and even offered each guest with a paid donation a complimentary cocktail.
After securing the venue I called on friends and family to help assist in making this night one to remember. My close friends donated printouts, cookies and lollipops for the gift bags and these cute white raffle tickets with purple ribbon. Just nights before the event I sat in the kitchen with my grandmother, stuffing and closing bags. I reached out to nearly 90 businesses located in New York City for raffle prize donations and received prizes from 9a Kitchen, Nail Lounge, Land Yoga, Creme de la Creme Nails by Angie, Mike Oliver Digital, and Harlem Shake. By the end of January everything came together for a successful event.
I was very nervous on the day of the event, unsure of who would should up but it was a great turnout; I had the support of friends, family, colleagues, strangers, and agencies that I have worked with in the past. Collectively we raised $1,710 for Break the Cycle. Our guest enjoyed an evening of cocktails and music while participating in our "Love is..." activity and listening to the MC, Lacey, highlight teen dating violence and myself give a survivor's testimony.
I look forward to hosting future events and working with Dyckman Bar again!