Month: March 2016

Forget Me Not: A Letter to New Survivors

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Dear New Survivor,

Yesterday I wrote a letter to my younger self, but today I feel led to write to you. You are the individuals who recently escaped an abusive relationship. Some of you have felt the physical blows of your attacker. Some of you are scarred to the core from the emotional abuse your partner inflicted on you. Some of you have been abused repeatedly by different people over the course of your life. And some of you are still living in fear. With each story I read, I am heartbroken by the number of individuals enduring abuse at the hands of those who are supposed to love them. I remember feeling so alone in my struggle, and as I read your comments about your newfound freedom, my mind wanders to the time when I was newly free to live my life without him.

I remember the sense of peace that washed over me when I made daily decisions for myself, the strength I felt at feeling nothing when he begged me to stay, the numbness that overcame me as I watched myself drift through a process that terrified me. There was the day I laughed like a child, as I ran through the rain, knowing I was free to be utterly and totally myself. I recall the nights I danced in my apartment to the music I loved, knowing he could not turn it off or ridicule my behavior. I remember, all too well, the high I felt knowing I was free. There was nothing that could stop me as I ventured out to a life that was my own.

But there are other things I recall as well, such as my mom expressing concern over my dating again and my friends encouraging me to attend therapy. I remember lashing out when someone questioned my choices and declaring that I was fine. There was no time for therapy. I had a life to live, a job, and school. Anyway, the worst was over. I had left and he seemed to be leaving me alone. I was happy and moving on with my life. The last thing I wanted to do was go and talk about all the negative things that had happened to me. What good was that?

My high continued for almost three years. Of course there were sad days and angry days, but nothing I needed therapy for. I was in control of my situation and didn’t need anyone’s help to move forward. The past was the past and that was where it belonged. Little did I know that by not dealing with what had happened for the last sixteen years of my life, I was doing myself, and everyone around me, a huge disservice.

It took three years for me to start falling apart, and four years before I hit absolute rock bottom. It didn’t happen in the first week, month, or year. It happened when I least expected it. I had buried so much deep inside, not realizing the damage it could cause to me mentally and physically.

There are long-term effects to domestic violence. I tell everyone I talk to and would scream it from the rooftop, LIFE CAN BE BEAUTIFUL!!!! However, it is imperative that we face our demons. They are patient when ignored. They flutter around in the depths of your mind, and survivors are often great at attempting to ignore them. We focus on our new life, children, family, and anything else we can give ourselves to. We tell ourselves, and everyone else, that we are lucky and thankful to be alive and free from the hell we once lived. But deep inside, many of us are hurting and we don’t know when the pain will go away. When we least expect it, our demons come back with a veracity that can destroy us. PTSD, triggers, depression, anxiety, nightmares, failed relationships, anger, and so much more can torment us for years.

This letter is for you, the new survivor. It is not meant to discourage you, but rather to give you hope. Find the support you need now, even if you do not believe you need it. Your future self will thank you. If you are honest with yourself, you will see the signs. The moments of pain when the world is quiet, the negative comments you inflict on yourself, the poor self-image, or lack of inspiration. Your demons are your own, and you alone can control them. I challenge you to take control now. Don’t wait another day or lose one more moment of your life to the abuse you endured.

Take action and begin finding that beautiful life. Don’t remain a victim. Take your journey to the next step and survive as the fabulous individual that you are.

Lovingly,

forget me not


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: A Letter to My Younger Self

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Dear Me,

The year is 2016 and you will turn 40 this year. I thought I would take the time to write to you and share some things I think you ought to know.

Several people have told me that I’m having a midlife crisis or that everyone goes through what I am currently experiencing. I disagree. This is not a crisis; this is progress. I am finally becoming the woman I was always intended to be. Along the line, I got derailed by an abusive relationship. I stayed with him through thick and thin, and in the end I lost 16 years of my life, sixteen years of myself. But this experience has brought me back to you. It has brought me to a place where I can share what I learned so that, perhaps, you won’t have to repeat history. It is through this journey to healing that I have come to be exactly where I am today.

Don’t ever lose your spunk. You are sassy and difficult, and that is ok. When you get older, you will learn to use that for good. People will try to take that away from you. He will slowly manipulate you into giving up that part of yourself. You will no longer be able to think or fight for yourself. Thankfully, it is a permanent character trait and can resurface even if it has been buried for years. But, please, don’t let anyone ever take that away from you. You still have the choice to walk away.

Stay true to yourself. You will always feel the need to explain yourself to everyone, or more accurately, apologize to everyone. Unless you have done something hurtful to someone, you have no need to apologize. You are a beautiful individual who will see the world differently than many. You will be overly sensitive, you will be strong willed, and you will hold your own when it needs to be held even if it destroys you. Do not allow others to persuade you to be someone you are not. Educate yourself on the things that matter in life. Do not simply follow the crowd. Be confident in your beliefs and thoughts, and remember that it is ok to be an outlier.

Always maintain an open mind. Don’t ever forget that not everyone has walked in your shoes or experienced life as you have. They have experiences, joys, hurts, and struggles of their own. You do not have to agree with their opinions to show them respect and support. Be kind to them, hear them out, and if you have to, respectfully disagree. Show love to those who will accept your love and walk away from those who do not. You are not obligated to keep trying to get love from those unwilling to return it. It’s ok to walk away. The sooner you do, the sooner a person worthy of your time and attention will have the opportunity to walk in.

Your gut feeling is an amazing tool; use it. If you are bothered by something, speak up. But always remember to do so with kindness and respect. If the person at the receiving end does not acknowledge your needs, or is unwilling to discuss them with you, move on. If you are not being treated right, move on. Always be willing to have open discussions, hear people out, and work with others to make things right. But don’t ever allow anyone to change you, hurt you, or be cruel to you. If they are doing that, they have their own issues that they need to work on. You cannot fix them. You deserve kindness and respect from everyone you allow into your circles.

Don’t ever be afraid to leave. You are strong, and you will survive. You will be better for it.

You will always think that you can lose weight or fix some character flaw you believe you have at the time. Practice hearing the compliments around you. Take them to heart and be confident in who you are. Don’t dismiss kind words from others. Don’t put yourself down to anyone, especially yourself. Your body will grow and change. Your face will get older and your mind will sometimes wander down a negative path. Fight to stay positive. Love your body and mind in whatever form they happen to be in. You are you. You are a unique being, and you deserve a wonderful and happy life.

At the end of the day, it only matters that you are in a safe, healthy, and happy place. Always remember that, and always be kind to yourself.

Love,
You


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: Talking to Teens About Dating Violence

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“He asked me out!” I squealed with joy. After two years of a high-school infatuation, he had finally asked me out. At the time, I was just shy of 16 years old and was on cloud nine. He could do no wrong and I would do anything to keep him happy and sticking around. It didn’t take long for the early warning signs to appear, but I was blind to them. Had I understood his behaviors for what they were, and acted on them, the next sixteen years of my life would have been very different. But I didn’t.

According to loveisrespect nearly 1 in every 3 adolescents in the United States is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse by a dating partner. 1.5 million students are physically abused by a dating partner each year. That is a lot of unkind behavior being dished out by those who are supposed to care for each other. Furthermore, 1 in 10 high school students have been purposefully hit, slapped, or physically hurt by someone they are dating.

In a world where there is a zero tolerance for bullying, it seems that something is amiss. How is it that we are teaching our children that bullying is unacceptable, but we have such high rates of teen dating violence? What makes a teen more likely to show aggression or use emotional manipulation against their partner? Are we teaching our teens that dating violence is a form of bullying, and something that is not acceptable?

Sadly, we may never know exactly what makes a person abusive or more likely to be a victim. Although we have an idea as to what might make a person more likely to succumb to one role or the other, there is no definitive concept that determines who we are as human beings. Childhood, home life, personality, and experiences all play a part in who are and what we deem normal behavior towards a partner. What is considered unacceptable in one home may be part of normal daily life in another. Quite honestly, we can sit here all day and piece together who is more likely to be an abuser, and who is more likely to be victimized, but the reality is that no one is safe from abuse. Some even fall into both categories as some point in their lives. There is no checklist or system for weeding out abusers before you get involved with them. Abusers and victims come in all shapes and sizes, all colors, and all education and income levels.

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What we do have, however, is education and awareness. Silence and lack of understanding are how abusers thrive. Many simply do not know what they are looking for, especially our young men and women who are just entering the dating arena.

As a young girl, I excused away any behavior that was unsavory or questionable. All I wanted was for him to like me. It never crossed my mind that in the years to come he would strip me of my self-identity, physically batter me, and emotionally torment me. I didn’t see that after divorce I would have years of relearning to do, depression to deal with, and self-acceptance issues. All I saw were issues that could be fixed or were flattering.

When he wanted me to be with him, instead of my friends and family, I told myself that it was awesome he enjoyed my company so much. When he whispered negative things about my friends to me, I thought he was looking out for my best interest. When he didn’t want to hang out with my family, I made excuses for his behavior so that he would be happy with me. I did not understand what was happening, and with each year his abusive behaviors escalated.

The information is out there, but we have to be willing to find it, learn it, accept it, and share it. We have to teach our children what is acceptable behavior and what behaviors warrant addressing. We have to build our children up into adults that know how to treat their dating partners. We have to be willing to discuss the stuff that is uncomfortable and difficult.

It is said that nearly 4,000 women are killed each year as a result of domestic violence. I am lucky to be alive, but so many others are not. Educate yourself and talk to the teens in your life. Help them to navigate the dating world with the appropriate tools to protect them from potentially abusive partners. If we all work together, we can help protect them proactively from a life that no one deserves to be caught up in.


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: Coming to Terms with Triggers

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My stomach tightens and tears start to sting my eyes. “But we have plans that week.” I try to say calmly into the phone. I tell them I will have to call back and hand the phone to my boyfriend. I’m angry and can feel myself cracking. Anxiety is taking over and there is not a solution on hand that will make me feel better. It is better if he talks to the person on the other end because I’m going to say something that will cause a problem.

I can see the look of confusion on his face. “Baby, it’s fine. Your parents can still come. We will work around it.”

But I’m still upset. His plans have been changed and I feel like this is not the time for my parents to visit. It just won’t work! I want everything to run smoothly. I don’t want them to feel like they are in the way, or for him to feel he has to entertain when he has other things to tend to. I start rambling all the reasons why it’s a problem and turn my anger on the office that messed everything up. He continues to reassure me. But, although I know my concerns are not warranted, the feelings I’m having about the situation tell me different.

The more I attempt to explain my reaction, the more I realize that what I’m experiencing is a flashback. A flashback, or a trigger, is something that reminds us of situations that caused us great stress in the past. That’s my simplified definition anyway.

Even those of who have managed to move on from a crippling abusive relationships can suffer the aftershocks of abuse—in other words, PTSD—for many years. PTSD from abuse is characterized by symptoms such as flashbacks, intrusive imagery, nightmares, anxiety, emotional numbing, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, and avoidance of traumatic triggers.
Psychology Today

In this instance, I was having a flashback to the emotional torment my husband would inflict on me anytime my parents wanted to come visit. Even when I lived close to my parents, my husband disliked their presence. He never wanted to visit them and made it very difficult on me when they came to see us. His behaviors ranged from changing dates around, to constantly questioning me on when they were leaving, to ignoring them when they were around, and asking me to lie so they would come later or leave earlier. Oftentimes, my parents could feel the tension and felt unwelcomed. In other words, he made their entire visit burdensome. And, if they stayed longer than planned or questioned his disengagement, he would make sure I was well aware of his discontent.

It may seem to be a minor issue, but it is one that still affects me. I was well aware of how unwelcomed they felt and how bothered he was. This put me in a constant state of unease as I tried to balance everyone’s happiness and comfort level. This went on for years and created an emotional reaction that would rise up in me every time my family wanted to come visit. I actually lost time with them because I would cancel trips, or not plan them to begin with, and avoid family functions because I didn’t want to deal with the pushback I got from my husband. Of course now I know that is exactly what he wanted.

Now, as I look back, I’m saddened by all that I have missed. It goes hand-in-hand with the lost time aspect I mentioned in Victim vs. Survivor. And, it is of no coincidence that this blog post follows so closely behind that one, as I’ve been battling my emotions for the past few days. This is something that happens now and again, although I still am unsure what brings it on. This time, I assume the cause is a mix of facing reality after vacation, dealing with being sick, and feeling an overwhelming need to catch up on everything. Suitcases and clothes scatter the floor, the house hasn’t been cleaned in weeks, work piles up as I’m too drained to go to work, and I feel the need to get everything on track. I’m honestly not sure if that need to declutter, and cross off the to-do list, is a personality thing or a trigger thing, as some things are so ingrained in me that I’m not sure where they started.

What I do know is that when life gets a little out of control, that is when I’m more prone to lose focus and slip backwards a bit. That is when I’m more likely to be triggered or to fall back to victim status. That is when I’m more likely to feel guilt for my past choices, even if they are not all my fault. That is when things get rocky. Although I cannot go back and change the past, I almost feel like I need to do something now to make better somehow now.

What is the point of all of this? Well, healing is a process that does not happen overnight. I write this blog in an effort to show that happiness can be found and life can be beautiful after abuse. However, it is also important to acknowledge the realities of growth. Anyone who has suffered trauma in their life will have fallout that they have to learn to deal with. It doesn’t fix itself. What is most important is that you learn to recognize it for what it is and do your best to address it. Get help if you need, seek out support, research the facts, and focus on the good. It may take time, but each and every day gets easier and you do get stronger.


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: Victim vs. Survivor

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“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
—Mary Anne Radmacher

My thoughts are pacing the floor of my mind. Sometimes, even in the best of circumstances, I feel that I lack control of my emotions and perceptions. Learning to live with me and for me seems like a simple concept, and yet it is not always that way. Each year has brought me closer to finding my true self, but sometimes I still struggle with managing where I am versus where I believe I am supposed to be. Impatience takes over and I feel a sense of overwhelming urgency to move forward to a seemingly unreachable freedom. Even though I understanding that it is about the journey and not the destination, the concept gets lost in an abyss of fears, desires, and regrets.

It is on these days that I feel that life is fleeting. It is on these days that I put too much emphasis on the time lost; the time I spent with him losing myself instead of living my life. I find myself feeling like I have to make up for lost time and accomplish every dream right now. There is no more time to lose.

So I find myself, in front of my computer, trying to make sense of my thoughts through writing. Each thought that races through my mind is meticulously placed on paper and then rearranged into something potentially tangible. My goals are easily laid out. On a professional level I want to finish editing my book and get it to print, blog at least twice a week, make more contacts, schedule more speaking engagements, focus on developing forget me not into an agency that can bring change and hope to those in need, and start a peer-counseling group. On a personal level, I want a space to call my own, to travel more, to spend more time with family, and to live every second. I want to absorb all that life has to offer. I want to be free of someone else’s grasp.

But I struggle finding the balance. My day job pays the bills and requires my attention. The upcoming calendar shows less free time than the past several months. How can I make it all fit, the work life and the love of life? With every assignment for work, my mind’s voice spouts off bitterness. I start feeling controlled and held back.
And that is where the problem lies. It is a feeling that I do not own my life or control the outcomes. It all comes back to a gut reaction created by the feeling that my freedom is being stolen from me. It doesn’t have to be true, but it is a perceived notion that exists. In reality, no one owns me or controls me, yet my reactions are pulled from the past; a point in my life when I had little say over what I did from day to day. And it is from that belief that I begin a downward spiral.

I become a victim again; a person that struggles to reign in the out-of-control thoughts that wage war in my mind. I sense a feeling of loss and sadness. My body responds to a threat that is not there. Tears brim just under the surface, and I am very easily shaken. I am frustrated when others do not understand what I am trying to say. “Don’t tell me how to feel!” runs through my head, and sometimes out of my mouth, in defense to what I perceive as personal attacks.

It is easy to become trapped in this mentality, but I cannot allow it. When I find myself here, I have to make a conscious effort to make a change. Sometimes I have to walk, sometimes write, and sometimes just cry. In the end, no matter what I have to do to regroup, it serves to get me thinking in the right direction.

Right now, in this very instant, I am in control of my life. I am loved and cared for. I am strong and am no longer a victim. I will set goals for the freedom I crave, but in doing so I will remember that each step is my choice alone. My job is a means to make money, and one that will allow me to reach higher goals that are more aligned with my life’s purpose. It has provided me with experiences that made me stronger, it will be the source that will allow me to afford the space I want to grow in, and it will allow me to travel. It may take time to reach my goals but the journey involved will build the solid foundation I need to help others find success. Each struggle will help me understand others’ experiences better.

Each time I allow myself to fall to victim status, I will be better able to fight my way back to survivor status. I know it will happen again, as it is a battle I fight more than I wish to admit. But each time I spiral downward, I rise higher and stronger.


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Yesi’s Internship Experience

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Interning with Becky’s Fund will be an experience I’ll always hold close to my heart. I’m grateful I’ve been given the opportunity to be a part of a community that truly wants to change and assist women suffering from unhealthy relationships. Not only have I learned a tremendous amount about relationships, but about myself as a young woman, a student and a Latina.

I really enjoyed researching how domestic violence specifically affects Latinas in the United States. They’re often stuck in a position where they’re raised to maintain a strong family unit which could be at the cost of their own happiness, safety and well-being. Many Latinas experiencing unhealthy relationships are often first and second generation immigrants who are unaware about the resources available to them. Through my research I learned help is everywhere for everyone and as a community we need to lend a helping hand because no one really knows what someone is experiencing behind closed doors. Becky’s Fund works to find all the proper resources for each individual depending on their story because every situation is different.

Before interning for Becky’s Fund, I knew sexual assault was prominent on college campuses. As a college student living on campus for the past three years, I never knew the extent of how big this problem is. Becky’s Fund works toward bringing awareness and more thorough education about healthy relationships on college campuses. It’s unfortunate women are taught and encouraged to speak about their experiences, only to be pushed to the side at times. However, I’m so moved and proud to see that so many celebrities, leaders, activists and nonprofits are working to make a change. Becky’s Fund has inspired me to continue raising awareness for all students affected by sexual assault to seek proper help and justice.

I am grateful for having had the opportunity to live in DC for ten weeks and intern with an amazing nonprofit where we empower, assist and advocate for women. I’m thankful for all the opportunities, advice and guidance from Becky and I’m leaving in awe with all that she does. I’ll miss the amazing group of women I’ve had the privilege to work with throughout my stay.

Empowered, Fit, and Free

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The Empowerment of a Fitness Mindset

The tattered, taped, and corner-torn box that once held a favorite pair of shoes, now stored the harrowing reminders of a wished-forgotten past. The box was kept stowed away in a darkened corner of a hallway closet. There were days she considered burning the contents to ash. On others, she found solace in knowing they were there. Like her shrouded memories and faded scars they were reminders her past was real. There was comfort in knowing they were under her control. She commanded the key. The memories and remnants kept out of sight were hers to reveal, regardless how easily they could be retrieved.

She didn’t share this side of herself often. Only a few knew. Sometimes, those who had fallen like she once fell, needed to hear her story. Sometimes, they just needed to see.

Inside were the photos. The journals. The court records documenting a history of violence she had been forced to endure. Before she had grown strong. Before being kicked-in-the-ribs out of her boyfriends apartment left her broken and crying in a high-rise hallway. Before she mustered the strength to stand up, walk away, and never look back. Before she had discovered the inner strength to reclaim her childhood dream.

To watch her now, one would never suspect she was a survivor of unimaginable harm. It would be difficult to envision her curled up and crying in the middle of the floor. Fearful of a fateful end. Because, those days were behind her now. She was a victim no more. She would never be again. Today, her story is one of empowerment, and strength, and capacity of character that exemplifies her limitless potential.

Like all eventual triumphs, she first had to travel an unrelenting road to recovery. There were trials (yes, courtroom trials) and tribulations (of varying degrees,) but in the end, she emerged victorious. It wasn’t easy. Mustering the strength to do a single push-up. Nurturing the emotional willingness to say “no” without negotiation. Learning to once again walk away without regret.

To look ever forward to the promise of tomorrow. To embrace a maturity of mind that affords one to endure disappointment without the corresponding demotion of self worth. She was a survivor. A winner. And as all winners know: Winning requires work.

It all started with a morning run. At first it was just around the block. Then down the street. Each day further than the day before. She could feel herself growing physically stronger and mentally tougher with every step she took. Every stride she stretched. Every breath she released. Until one day she ran so fast and far that she finally broke free. Free from the guilt. Free from the pain. Free from the worry of harm her soul had worn too long.

Women of wonder walk among us. Women who never quit. Women whose passion and strength raise roofs, build bridges, and give rise to new worlds. Real women, living real lives, with real struggles who utilize their own “fitness mindset” to promote a positive empowerment throughout all aspects of their life. Their reflections tell an overarching narrative of empowerment, intelligence, and strength from a fitness-centric and empowerment-minded perspective.

These are their honest, raw, and relatable contributions that help to inspire a desire to rise up, push back, lean-in, and run free. They drive others to discover their own inner-strength hidden behind the false walls in their own souls. Women who motivate others to be more than they are. Who set ablaze the kindling of achievement to accomplish nothing less than what they dare to dream.

These are their stories:

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“We can all do a little better each day to improve our health physically, mentally and socially,” says Alexia Clark, an Arizona-based celebrity fitness trainer and nutritionist. “Fitness is not only about how we look, it is also about how we feel, love and inspire each other.”

A 1 hour workout is 4% of your day that will change 100% of your life.

“There is a difference between having a fitness mindset and being a ‘gym junkie.’ What I’ve noticed most about being a fitness trainer is the positive affect fitness has on my clients. To watch as their overall outlook on life becomes more optimistic with each workout. Setting a fitness goal is a journey of self-discovery. It doesn’t matter if you’re working toward doing your first push-up or training for your first marathon. When you set a fitness goal, you learn about how to overcome obstacles. You discover the secret to inner strength that’s been hiding in your soul…just waiting to help you become a better you. We start small. Then we build. Slow and strong. Having a fitness mindset is about setting a realistic goal, and then not stopping until you get there.

“What’s also great about training clients is watching as their fitness goals help promote their life goals. I see how their fitness mindset empowers them in their relationships. I see how it helps them aspire to be better at work. Most incredibly, I see how their workouts help them to work through those darker times. The ones we all sometimes face. The breakups. The struggles. The things we wanted so much to go our way, and for whatever reason, don’t go the way we planned. In both workouts and in life, we have bad days. But having a fitness mindset is about having control over our minds and our bodies. It means knowing that just because we had a bad experience, it doesn’t mean we’re a bad person. These obstacles are just another challenge for us to overcome. Because everyday we step out of bed we are one step closer to reaching your goals. That’s why I encourage my clients to focus on right now. Today, you are stronger than yesterday. You are stronger this week than you were last month—and tomorrow—you’ll be even stronger. As long as you dedicate some time everyday toward working out on you, I promise you will get to your goals.” (Instagram: @alexia_clark / Twitter: @alexiaBclark)

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“The Miss America Organization gave me two gifts: a platform to bring a controversial issue to center stage; and the courage to advocate for domestic violence prevention in front of a larger audience,” says Amelia Wolf, a DC-based political professional and a second year Masters Candidate at The George Washington University. “I realized that winning the Miss District of Columbia crown came with the opportunity to reach out to a lot young men and women with my story of dating violence. My hope was they could learn from my experience and gain a greater understanding of how violence can sneak into a young relationship. The truth is, domestic violence can and does happen to everyone. I wanted to dispel the common misconception that violence doesn’t happen to the “seemingly pretty and perfect people.”

The stronger I became physically, the more I felt like I had the mental fortitude to excel in the other areas of my life.

“My outreach combines social media and fitness to empower women to overcome domestic violence.
I wanted to use my love of fitness to inspire other survivors. In my own life, I found that being active and dedicating myself to getting physically stronger in the midst of my break-up helped me to redevelop my self-esteem. Fitness helped to elevate my sense of purpose. The stronger I became physically, the more I felt like I had the mental fortitude to excel in the other areas of my life. I chronicled my journey on Instagram and on my blog, and now use the hashtag #StrongerThanDV to post inspirational messages and inform the public about domestic violence. My life advice? Do your squats; eat your vegetables; wear red lipstick, and don’t let boys be mean to you.” (Instagram: @WolfOfDC / Twitter: @WolfofDC)

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“Running has always been a big part of my life. It’s a major contributor to not just my physical health, but also my psychological well being,” says Colleen Scoles, a Talent Acquisition Manager with the Philadelphia Eagles.

I value my runs as a time where I have complete control over where I am going.

“In a world where there are so many things out of our control, I value my runs as a time where I have complete control over where I am going with the added value of making my body stronger. The feeling of accomplishment after finishing a race or running a long distance on my own is one that has boosted my confidence tremendously.”

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“We are not born beautiful. We are not born strong, powerful, or brilliant,” says Alison Gaul, a patent attorney, philanthropist, and startup supporter in Washington, DC. “We, all of us, women and men, short and tall, black and white, are born soft, gentle, infants; a blank slate upon which the world may imprint wonder, knowledge, fear, hate, and love. We must develop beauty, strength, knowledge, and even power.”

We can build our own beauty, one sit-up, one article read, and one confident breath at a time.

“Strength is built one sit-up at a time, one minute of meditation, one yoga pose, one mile pedaled on a bike. Knowledge is built one page of a book read, one class attended, one discussion engaged. Power is built from knowing enough to know yourself, your strengths, and all the obstacles you can overcome. Beauty isn’t bought at a make-up counter or a clothing store, it’s the glow of self-confidence that radiates from the powerful, the brilliant…the strong. We can build our own beauty, one sit-up, one article read, and one confident breath at a time.” (Twitter: @AllisonGaul)

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These stories are not one-time tales. They are the ties that bind. The common threads woven through the many lives of similar struggle and cultured circumstance. At some time or another, we will all fall. Some falls will hurt more than others. Some falls hurt us to our very core. But the darkness by which we are all sometimes embraced, instills within us the very measure of who we are. For it is in those moments we see with newfound clarity, that the strength it takes to truly heal comes not from a willingness to climb our way up, but in reaching our own hands down to where we once hung below.

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