TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains information and material related to domestic, sexual and physical violence, as well as emotional abuse and suicide that may be triggering to survivors.
October is domestic violence awareness month! To kick start the month, I was able to co-facilitate a workshop developed by One Love Foundation on relationship violence for the women of Lambda Zeta. I don’t think I was prepared for the number of women who spoke out and shared their personal stories about relationship/dating violence however it was such an impactful night. It really had me thinking. Going back and forth in mind. Do it. Don’t do it! You can’t! But you can. You can be open. Be honest. And pushing aside all the doubt and hesitation, here is just a glimpse of my story.
From the outside looking in, I had a great life. My parents were still married, I had loving siblings, good grades, plenty of friends, and I was always involved in school. You name it, I did it. Student government, colorguard, drama, I was co-captain of the cheer team and I even ran track for a year or two. People always told me how ‘lucky’ I was. But I never felt that lucky.
My junior year in college, I decided to take a family violence class. I know this isn’t exactly the class that students are overexcited to be enrolled in but as a health science major, I was interested. If you would have asked me before this class if I ever experienced abuse or violence of any kind, I would have replied no without hesitation. Partly because I was too embarrassed to admit it, partially because I never classified my experiences or fully knew how, but the main reason being that I chose to bury those memories. Forget them. They were deep, deep in a locked chest that was never meant to be opened, let alone discussed. To me, thinking about them made them real and talking about them made the emotions real. Emotions I had never fully dealt with and covered up so nobody would know I was hurt. I pretended A LOT and relied on the popular saying Fake it until you make it with full faith that the make it part would happen eventually.
As I sat through class and listened to my professor, it became harder and harder for me to pretend there wasn’t a connection between the issues we were discussing and my own life. I had to acknowledge the truth. The truth was, I started concealing and repressing memories at a young age. It was my coping mechanism. The textbook stories, news articles and even movies we watched in class opened the flood gates for so many thoughts to rush in. However now these recollections served as real life examples for terms, words and definitions. Emotional abuse was the countless times my then boyfriend yelled at or demeaned me to later apologize and tell me he would kill himself if we ever broke up. Sexual assault was the night a co-worker I trusted, pulled me upstairs, ignored me saying stop and forcefully ripped my pants off. It also took this class for me to acknowledge that ‘discipline’ isn’t being hit or thrown to the floor for not cleaning well enough or having friends in the house to get a drink of water.
So why do I explicitly share this all with you? Because the women of Lambda Zeta taught me something very important as I stood in front of them that night. They showed me how important it is to talk about and share our experiences. We often think that no one else could possibly understand what we’ve been through, or maybe they won’t believe us or judge us. But talking about it, can lead to healing, recovery and even help someone else. These women were brave to be so vulnerable and at times emotional in a room full of people. However it led to the discovery that they had a support system within Sigma Kappa and they didn’t have to face these challenges alone. It is crucial that we open doors to discuss issues related to domestic violence and sexual assault and even more important to learn and be educated on the issues that so many college women and men face today. If you want to learn more or wondering where to start, I got you covered!
Here are a few resources I’ve found to be helpful:
National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-SAFE (7233)
National Sexual Assault Hotline (800) 658-HOPE (4673)