A few days ago, I was talking to a friend about a tattoo that I wanted to get. A simple purple ribbon with the word “Survivor” written across it on the base of my neck. He looked at me and with an apparent nervousness, he asked me if we could talk about my experience with DV. Of course I agreed-I am so open about the abuse I endured and feel like if I can educate even 1 person, I am healing.
He was asking me a few questions, but I could tell he was holding back. I could tell that there were things that he wanted to say or to ask and he was afraid. I have encountered this before, and I was pretty sure of what he was thinking so I gently pushed him to tell me what was on his mind. He, like many others had the same question for me. He asked me “How could such a strong and intelligent woman like you, allow someone else to treat you like that? Why didn’t you leave?”
It is such a good question but also one of the hardest ANSWERS to understand for someone who has never been involved in a relationship that had DV in it. The answers are not so clear cut and when dealing with Domestic Violence there is no such thing as Black and White. The entire experience during and after is Grey. A murky ugly Grey. I explained to him that by the time I realized what was happening it was too late. I was alienated from my friends and family, my usually high self-esteem was beat to the ground, and I was financially dependent on my abuser. My abuser was also involved in illegal activities (he was a major drug dealer) and made sure I was with him and that all the paraphernalia was in my house. I explained that it was not as easy as just getting up and leaving. My life was grey.
He then asked me a question that no one has ever asked me before. He asked me how could I talk about my experience without my heartbreaking all over again. I stopped and thought about what he said, and for the first time in a VERY long time I realized something. I can speak about my experience because DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DOES NOT DEFINE ME. Yes, it is a part of my story. Yes, it is a part of who I am. Yes it happened to me. BUT IT IS NOT WHO I AM. I am not Abby, the survivor of DV. I am ABBY. Strong, independent woman. I am Abby mother, soon to be wife, daughter, sister, and friend. I am Abby, advocate.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HAPPENED TO ME BUT IT IS NOT WHO I AM.