Thursday, October 28, 2010

5th annual Purple Thursday Awareness Day -- I am the 1 in 4

I was invited by WEAVE and the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence's press conference to mark the 5th annual Purple Thursday Awareness Day. The event was co-hosted with At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown and I was so impressed that 5 other council members (David Catania, Phil Mendelson, Mary Cheh, Harry Thomas, Jr., and Yvette Alexander) also spoke. I was asked to represent domestic violence survivors.

Here's what I said:

When I first started speaking about my experience as a victim of domestic violence, I thought my story was unique. Over the past 2 years, I’ve met other survivors and heard other stories and realized my story was more common than I ever expected.

My husband and I had a whirlwind romance, so when he threw a full Brita pitcher at my head when we were engaged, I was concerned, but excused it as a bad day.

When he threw my suitcase across the room and kicked a chair the night before our wedding, I took comfort in my wedding party’s theories of cold feet and wedding stress.

His actions were harder to dismiss when he threatened to tie me up and set the house on fire if I didn’t do what he wanted, and my excuses ran out when his rage lead to a life threatening car ride in a snow storm, with our baby in the back and my husband shouting “our son’s safety isn’t what’s important here. What’s important is that you stop the car and left me drive.” Still, I didn’t think it was domestic violence, I just thought it was a bad marriage.

When my husband's emotional abuse and controlling behavior became apparent, I knew exactly what to do - looked for experts to help.

• We completed a year of therapy together with an experienced LCSW specializing in relationships.

• I read lots of self-help books.

• And I got a personal trainer and started taking self-defense classes – just in case.

When I felt I'd tried my best, but the problem wasn't getting 'fixed' and staying was not safe or healthy for me or my baby, I knew what to do – I moved out.

When it got MORE Violent - physically violent - after I moved out, I was shocked. Suddenly and for the first time, I DIDN’T know what to do. I never imagined moving out would make it worse. I thought that was going to fix things. Still, I'm educated and engaged, I sought legal and emotional support. My assumption was I could throw money at the problem and make it stop and I was fine with that.

I hired:
• a $550/hr Bethesda-based attorney suggested I invite him over, provoke him to hit me, and then call the police

• a couples counselor - a phd - who suggested when I felt scared my husband might kill me, that I lock myself in the bathroom or take a walk around the block to let him calm down.

• and when I asked my handsome, successful well-educated boss, our company's CEO, what he would do; he suggested that since I was so much bigger than my husband, I try sitting on him the next time he tried to hurt me.

In the past, I had made a donation to WEAVE as an organizer of the V-DAY campaign at GWU, but I never imagined using WEAVE's services. At this point, however, I'd run out of high-priced experts to call. So when I called WEAVE one cold, morning in January 2009, I didn’t think my situation qualified for their help, I just wanted to see who they would suggest I talk to. Despite my lack of financial need, my successful career, or my many advanced degrees, they nominated themselves to help without hesitation.

Later that day I was at a WEAVE legal clinic and within a week had a temporary restraining order against my husband and an attorney with experience in DV law.

While the case continues to work its way through DC Superior court, I have turned to WEAVE for support again and again. When my legal bills crossed the $50,000 threshold and I lost my job (due in part to time missed at work because of hearings and my inability to travel for work due to custody issues), I turned to WEAVE for mental health support and again they came through with 1 year of counseling with an amazing social worker who really understands my situation and the cycle of violence.

Without the holistic and need-blind services of WEAVE, I don't honestly know if I'd be alive today. The journey is hard and long and it continues, but I believe WEAVE's services have delivered me to the starting line in my own life. My life and my son's happiness are daily celebrations of Domestic Violence Awareness and the services WEAVE provides to this community.