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Disturbing footage of NFL player, Ray Rice knocking his then fiance unconscious on an elevator earlier this year. I cannot share the video because it made me extremely uncomfortable and triggered memories that I do not wish to relive. I am actually not shocked that media outlets would exploit someone's pain and embarrassment for page traffic. That is just one of the issues that I have with this story.
I spent a little bit of time today reading the comments posted under the vide. As expected, people lost sight of the real issue, assault. We witnessed a crime followed by bad press and lack of punishment--instead people focused their attention on the victim questioning her integrity. Questioning why she would go ahead and marry Rice and support him during
Hmmm... I can speculate on a few things. Knowing how intimate partner violence works, it doesn't seem like the elevator incident and as unfortunate as it is, it probably was not the last incident. What I can relate to is the shame and embarrassment and the headache she woke up with the next day after being knocked unconscious. I can relate to the hesitation she will feel when reporting the next incident. Next time it will be a lot harder for her to seek help. She will remember the video circulating the net, the blogs, and internet trolls. She will also remember all of the ignorant comments calling her stupid, dumb, "black ****", golddigger, idiot and of course the "oh well, she got what she deserved for jumping in his face".
Instead of trying to understand why the then-fiancé decided to marry Rice, we need to focus on accountability and deterring violence by real consequences. Domestic violence is a complex issue--the victim requires support if and when they decide to leave the relationship. The facts state that relationship abuse claims the lives of 4 women a day. The facts also state that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime, equaling to approximately 12 million Americans per year.
On average it takes up to 8 times for an individual to leave the relationship. There are financial burdens, children involved, emotional ties, lack of support, legal issues, and the fear of safety that make the idea of just walking away nearly impossible. I have had the chance to speak with other battered women and some say they left the relationship on their eighth attempt; it took me 7, 8 or 9 attempts.
It takes a heap of support and courage to leave an abusive relationship. Also, the most dangerous time of the relationship is when you try to leave the abuser. They realize that your are claiming your life as your own and their days of manipulation, control, and threats are coming to an end. For the all of the domestic violence related homicides in the United States, 75 percent of the victims were killed while fleeing or after the relationship has ended.
On December 22, 2010 I walked into the precinct for the first time ever to report an attempt on my life and three years of abuse. I was accompanied by my best friend, aunt, cousin, and grandparents while I stayed on the phone with my mother. They left behind their judgment and blame--I probably would not have ever made it to that precinct without them. Many domestic violence related cases go unreported and both the abuser and victim are left without the resources needed to move forward.
Today TMZ released a video of Ray Rice assaulting his then fiancé, now wife. This early afternoon the Baltimore ravens announced (via Twitter) that they were releasing him form the organization and later he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL. Today the NFL succumbed to the pressure by the public and the horrendous truth in the video and Ray Rice was finally held accountable for his actions.
"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. "
Visit See the Triumph to read more.
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!