"The telling and hearing of stories is a bonding ritual that breaks through the illusions of separateness and activates a deep sense of our collective interdependence." -Annette Simmons
The notion that Domestic Violence is "not our business" runs deep within our culture and continues to marginalize survivors. The silencing of domestic violence is an epidemic that is cultivated and ingrained in a culture that marginalizes women and oftentimes men.
When the narratives of survivors are silenced, a culture of male dominance is reinforced. With that said, we at Center for Hope and Safety hope to bring the narratives of survivors to the forefront so that we can truly understand our collective interdependence with every member of our community. When one hurts, we all hurt. When one has the courage to tell her story, we all receive healing.
Here is one story...
Who am I?
I AM free
I AM strength.
I AM a voice
I AM independent
I AM confident
I AM an overcomer.
Three years ago I couldn’t utter these simple statements. I was held captive to a distorted definition of love. Abuse controlled my life, my voice, and my ability to grow. I allowed my educational endeavors to subside.
I am someone who dropped out of Bergen Community College while pregnant, with no intentions of returning to further my academic career. I am someone who hid my abuse for fear of shame, guilt, and judgmental statements. I stayed for fear of being alone and my lack of personal financial stability.
Who I was?
I was captive
I felt weak
I was silent
Now I want to share who supported me on my transition from Who I WAS to Who I AM.
I had no courage, but I found courage the day I stepped foot into Center for Hope and Safety, called Shelter Our Sisters at the time. I found hope when I met with my counselors.
I found faith in every encouraging word spoken by other ladies during my stay.
I found support as I embarked on my educational journey again.
I found a non-judgmental atmosphere where optimism was encouraged.
I found rest. I found guidance that assisted me in building a secure foundation.
I found hope and security in knowing that the work in me that has been started will continue until the end.
Lastly I found Jesus’ Redeeming Love for me.
Thanks to the strength I found within the four walls of the shelter and the strength that was revealed in my weakness. After entering the emergency shelter, I found guidance as I re-matriculated into Bergen Community College. I recall leaving the shelter at 6 am every morning as the night shift worker, Lourdes said her good byes. I recall standing in the snow at the bus stop with my son so I could drop him off at day care first. With my determination I graduated with my Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts in 2011.
With no affordable housing available as a single mother and a student, I was blessed with being offered a room in one of the Center’s transitional homes. With my son re-enrolled in day care and numerous loans and limited scholarships from other organizations, my college, and the Center, I was able to attend a 4- year school in the community. I persevered as a student and mother and graduated with a BA in 2014.
Even though I was informed that I was ineligible to continue receiving welfare benefits, after graduating, my determination was even stronger than I could have ever fathomed years ago. Through my years of college I realized that my experiences were woven into my purpose and calling. I applied and was accepted into a prestigious university and accelerated program.
I am so thankful to the staff, and I thank you, the community donors and supporters for giving me, and so many other women and children, the opportunities that we may not have otherwise been able to dream of.
My last words that I will leave you with, is by Author, lay theologian, and Christian apologist C.S Lewis – He said,
“Isn't it funny, how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different..."
May we continue to tell, hear, read and acknowledge the narratives of survivors.