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!
In February 2010 Congress declared the month National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. This year in President Obama's Presidential Proclamation he stated that, "each year, 1 in 10 American teenagers suffers physical violence at the hands of a boyfriend or girlfriend, and many others are sexually or emotionally abused."
I was 17 when I began a relationship that nearly ended with me losing my life. I knew nothing about dating violence, manipulation, and control but somehow I found myself entangled in this web of madness for years. I was not aware of any help lines, survivor programs, or any other teens going through the same things that I did.
1 in 4 women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime and of that group, 1 in 5 will first experience it between the ages of 11 and 17.
Just days before the 2011 new year the relationship ended and I literally found myself in a fight for my life. A few days after that, the same person decided they would retaliate by trying to end my mother's life.
Somewhere in between one of my many therapy sessions and visiting my mother in the hospital I decided that my tragedy would not be in vain.
I have my life; I have a voice, therefore I have a mission.
I have participated in major magazine articles campaigns against dating violence, symposiums, conferences, panels, walks, daytime television shows, documentaries and a number of other awareness projects. And yes, I still feel the need to share my story, my knowledge, and my experiences.
Last year at a workshop I was in a room of approximately 100 people (mainly social workers), with the majority of them being women. I stood before them to give a survivors testimony and at the end of the conference I had a bunch of secret survivors share their stories with me. I have come to the conclusion that the 1 in 4 statistic is more like 1 in 2.
No more turning a blind eye, or thinking out of sight, out of mind. Help me educate others and raise awareness to this preventable social ill.
With just 15 days into the New Year I am feeling renewed and ready for the grind! It’s easy to sit around worrying about what would happen if you fail, but it is extremely counterproductive to not even try. I have to remember to focus on the things that I can change and to remain positive about the things in life that I cannot control. With that being said, I have so many things planned for 2014; I am looking forward to professional and personal growth!
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'”
While I did not make any New Year resolutions, I have set some new high goals for myself that do involve the education of others. My commitment to raise awareness to dating violence has reached new heights. Dating violence is a community issue and I plan on making it one! I am actively planning three awareness events in the New York City area, one of which will take place on February 8th in Washington Heights. Things have been a struggle but they are coming along just fine.
Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday so I cannot help but to quote his words of wisdom and courage. The great activist said “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” And I plan to do just that--keep moving forward.
2014, let’s go!
Three years to this date, I decided to reclaim my life. I was tired of living in fear and misery. I decided that I was worth love, worth living a healthy and happy life.
Surviving and overcoming a violent relationship has been the hardest thing that I have ever done. I have learned so much about myself in this healing process. I have learn the true meanings of love, trust, and support. There have been so many ups and downs, but I know that my journey is not over.
I will continue to share my story, promote healthy relationships, and raise awareness to dating violence.
Thank you all for your support.