Month: May 2016

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Ella

EllaRogers-Fett

I’m Ella, an advocate and activist from Baltimore, MD. During my undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins, I served as the Co-Director for The JHU Sexual Assault Resource Unit. I joined JHU SARU as a freshman looking to change the circumstances that had led to my own abuse. Over the next four years, I devoted much of my time to educating students about healthy relationships and providing survivors in my community the resources they needed to heal. As Co-Director of SARU I facilitated on-campus trainings and discussions, hosted speakers from around the country, and worked closely with administrators to develop a new sexual misconduct policy that includes affirmative consent. I also worked as a peer responder on our 24/7 resource hotline, providing immediate emotional support and connecting survivors legal, medical, and therapeutic resources. As a member of the queer community on campus, I noticed a gap in the resources provided for survivors of assault and domestic violence that did not always account for the needs of LGBTQ+ survivors. To fill this gap, I coordinated with The Office of LGBTQ to create a survivor’s support group as one of their identity-specific meet-ups.

In addition to my advocacy on campus, I interned for the Baltimore-based art activist group FORCE: Upsetting rape culture. I focused on FORCE’s project The Monument Quilt, a crowd-sourced collection of stories by survivors of rape and abuse, written, painted, and stitched into quilt squares. I recently joined the Leadership Team for The Monument Quilt to plan for the quilts final display on the national mall in Spring 2017. I’m also currently working as a project leader for Gather Together, a group of survivors in Baltimore city organizing community dialogues about sexual assault and domestic violence and working with community partners to design public campaigns.

I’m excited to join the Becky’s Fund team this summer to work on programs and communications. I hope to use this platform to foster productive discussions about domestic violence, it’s cultural contexts and intersections with other forms of oppression, and how we can work to prevent future violence. With this broader goal, one of my focuses will be creating LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum.

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Andy

AndyGrabis

My name is Andy Grabis, and I will be interning at Becky’s Fund this summer.

I am a rising senior at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with a major in International Business and Management and minors in Economics and Spanish. In addition to my studies, I am a member of the Dickinson College Men’s Lacrosse team. As a team, we annually participate in Green Dot training and “Take Back the Night,” a walk around campus to spread awareness around the issue of domestic violence.

I was drawn to Becky’s Fund after researching the Men of Code program offered by this organization. At small liberal arts schools like Dickinson College, the athletic teams have a large amount of social influence. As an upperclassman on my lacrosse team, it is not only my job to lead on the field; I have a responsibility to help create a culture of respect and alliance on campus and in the surrounding community. Through the Men of Code program, I want to teach these young student athletes how to connect the leadership skills they gain on the field to their schools and communities. These young men have the opportunity to become leaders amongst their peers by becoming allies to victims of domestic violence and by demonstrating what it means to be in healthy relationships.

During the course of this internship, I hope to learn the inner-workings of not for profit organizations, as well as develop my understanding of the legal side of domestic violence. I am very excited for this opportunity, and hope that the skills gained during the course of this internship will be conducive to my professional development.

Forget Me Not: Men and Abuse

MEn and IPV

Did you know that nearly half of all men experience psychological aggression from an intimate partner in their lifetime? 1 in 4 men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking, and 1 in 7 experience severe physical violence. 40% of men have reported at least one form of coercive control (isolation, threats, blackmail, etc.) by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

While women are not typically identified as the primary abuser, plenty of men suffer at the hands of their female partner. I mention female partners, because men are in a rough position. Domestic violence is about abuse, power, and control, not about whether you are male or female, gay or straight, or tough or weak.

But societal norms tell men that it is not ok to talk about abuse, to “man up,” or to take control of the situation.

This is a topic we have long ignored, myself included. I started telling my story as a female that suffered at the hands of my husband. I often refer to abusers as men within my story, and outside of it. When you Google Domestic Violence, it is generally pictures of abused women that appear. But it is not just women who suffer. Women also can be the abusers. Men can be the victim, suffering in silence just as I was. But I often fear that their voice is ignored.

I, personally, will be learning more about this topic, and it will be the subject of future blog posts. I encourage you to chime it. And to the male victims out there who have spoken up, thank you! Please continue breaking the silence so we can bring light to this equally important issue.


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

Forget Me Not: Choosing Survivor Status

survivor status

I’ve noticed a trend; one I can relate to all too well. There are a lot of people out there, men and women, who know they need help, but fight the prospect of actually seeking it out. I was there. At times I still am. It’s kind of like losing weight. I know I have gained weight and it is affecting my life. I’m sluggish and cranky, my clothes don’t fit right, and I feel a little too self-aware (and not in a good way). It affects my attitude and my demeanor, how productive I am, and my general outlook on life at times. But, cutting the sugar and going to the gym are a little more work that I’m ready to put in.

Emotional healing is the same way. I know I’m not acting right, but I don’t want to fix it. I know I don’t feel right, but I tell myself that I’m stronger than this and will get a hold of my emotions soon. I don’t want to feel weak, but I don’t have time to work through these issues. Help is needed because I cannot keep living my life this way, but seeking it out is a little more than I’m prepared to do. I’ll get around to it later. Time heals all wounds, right?

Time helps to put all wounds further behind you. They no longer have the same effect as they once did because they are further into your past and you have had time to put some distance between those experiences and your current life. However, they do not fully disappear on their own. Wounds are like a small infection just under your skin. It’s nothing, you say, and you ignore the redness. But as time goes by, it grows and grows until it is interfering with your life and health. Soon, your days are filled with a much larger issue that interferes with everything you do.

Emotionally, you might become agitated, overly sensitive, protective, defensive, depressed, and anxious. As the days go by, more of these emotions creep in as a defense mechanism to the pain you have experienced. You know you have been here before and you thought you had moved passed it, but the feelings are slowly coming back. And, guess what? That affects your work, your relationships, your family, and your happiness. It steals your joy.

Sadly, I believe that these emotions and behaviors become so much a part of us that we don’t even always realize how much they are interfering with our life. But, I assure you that others do. We cannot ignore our pain away. It is important to understand that you need help in order to thrive. You must be willing to accept the help that is around you and seek out support. A simple support group or group of friends who have been in your shoes may suffice. Or you may need to seek out more traditional means, such as individual therapy or group counseling with a trained professional.

No matter where you are, however, don’t get caught in the trap of shame or pride. Most of us cannot do it on our own. We all need support. When you refuse to seek out that help, you are hurting yourself, your children, your work life, and those you love most. You deserve happiness and peace, and it is up to each of us to personally make the choice to heal instead of choosing to stay stuck. That is the difference between remaining a victim and becoming a survivor. Allow yourself the opportunity to actually work on it. You, and those around you, will be thankful for your effort.


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

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Emily

emilybpic72ppi

Hello! My name is Emily Birnbaum and I will be interning for Becky’s Fund this summer.

I am an incoming junior at Kenyon College in Gambier, OH. There, I cover student government for the school paper and host a weekly radio show. I am also the Director of Philanthropy for my sorority, Alpha Sigma Tau, whose mission on campus is to create a safe space for people who feel marginalized on campus. I have helped my sorority partner with several non-profit organizations in Columbus, OH that work with issues such as LGBTQ+ domestic violence and homelessness. Last summer, I interned with Hola Cultura, a bilingual magazine, where I wrote about the ways in which the D.C. housing crisis impacts the Latino community, and Salvadoran Enterprises for Women, an organization that gives women in El Salvador the resources they need to start their own businesses. Although I frequently find myself disheartened by global inequality, my interactions with non-profit life have given me hope. There are people actively working to solve these issues each and every day. That is why I am so excited to work with Becky’s Fund this summer.

When Becky told me I had been selected for this position, I was thrilled. My dedication to women’s issues, particularly gendered violence, is at the core of my personal and academic life. As a sociology major, I spend a majority of my time considering the ways in which structures of inequality impact our daily lives. Researching the patriarchy and the physical, emotional, and spiritual damage it does globally is impactful work, but it’s important to me to know these realities on a personal level. I have watched women in my life enter and struggle relentlessly to exit abusive relationships. I have heard their stories and felt their pain. I genuinely believe that the work Becky’s Fund does helps people escape the cyclical nature of domestic violence. Their educational programs such as Men of Code, Becoming Your Own Heroine and National Domestic Violence College Tour help change culture and conversation. Their direct services support survivors through painful, and sometimes dangerous, transitions. I will be honored to help this organization in any way I can this summer. The women here have so much to teach me about how non-profits organize, program and ultimately truly help.

Forget Me Not: Finding My Path

Finding Path

Never in my life did I envision what Forget Me Not would become. This morning I sit here, reflecting on the past and contemplating the future, which is — I know — against everything I teach and subscribe to. However, in some instances, I believe it is ok to look back and be mesmerized by how far you have come. I reflect back with positivity and look forward with hope and renewed strength. I sit in this moment and can write to you because this is where I am supposed to be; this is where my life has led me.

Four years ago I started writing Forget Me Not as an open journal. As I told my story, and shared why I believed things to be as they were, I hoped that it could help others know that they were not alone. It didn’t take long, however, before reliving all my hurts was more detrimental than useful. I found myself crying uncontrollably in front of my keyboard, struggling to come to terms with anger and resentment, and wondering why my life was so screwed up. I felt alone in my quest for peace, even though I wanted others to know they were not. I felt lost and depressed, and could not envision a life different than what I was experiencing. So, I quit writing.

My focus became a complicated mission of simply trying to work on myself. I’ve documented much of that journey through this blog and consider myself in a constant state of progress. Over time, and with much work, things did get better. And then, this past December, I found myself sitting in front of a campfire in complete silence. My heart and mind were both in a very good place. Next to me sat my love, a man I am now blessed to share my life with. We both sat in silence, meditating in the darkness. I would periodically open my eyes to watch the flicker of the flame, never once having to look to him. His presence was strongly beside me and I was at complete peace. As I allowed my mind to quiet, my thoughts began to wander. I was surrounded by beauty, the calmness of the night was pristine, and I was encased in absolute comfort. Then, out of nowhere, I heard a voice tell me that I needed to self publish.

My eyes popped open with the thought as I was a caught slightly off guard. Self publish? Self publish what? A dialog started to take place in my mind. I had not written anything in years. But I knew the answer almost before I asked the question. It was time to share my story. And now, only now, could I share my journey to healing as well.

This entire revelation came to me in a place that made no sense logically. There was no talk of my marriage, my past life, or my writing. What was there that night was the realization of growth and joy. This was a place I never imagined I would ever be. This is exactly what I had wanted my whole life. This is what life is supposed to be. And now, it was time to help others reach that place.

With that, I started writing. I wrote my story, which will hopefully soon be a published memoir. I started blogging again and I started talking. I talked, and talk, to anyone who will listen. I speak at events, to small groups, in private settings, and through my writing. It is now my mission to break the silence on domestic violence and the long-term effects it has on so many.

As I share my story, others begin to open and share with me. They share their pain, their struggles, their stories, and their healing. They cheer me on and reach out for support. I spoke out about domestic violence in a marital setting and learned of child abuse, child sexual assault, and rape. My goal was to educate and support, and I am being educated and supported. And as more and more individuals share their story, a light is shone on this monster that hides in the shadows of society.

In private settings, I have found that more and more individuals feel comfortable sharing and opening up, about their own experience, when they learn my story. I have several people I know talk freely about their abuse who have never mentioned it before. And those who overhear the conversations then come forward with questions, which leads to both healing and understanding. It is both sad and beautiful.

I know in my heart that this is the beginning of a very good thing. My personal healing has grown a hundredfold as I find meaning in what I endured. I want to thank each and every one of you who have reached out, shared, and supported this cause, both victims and non-victims alike. Thank you for your willingness to look at abuse head on, confront it, and shine your light on it. Thank you for choosing not to ignore this difficult subject. Keep breaking the silence and the silence will be no more. Without it, abuse will be starved out and humanity just might prove itself kinder and gentler.


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

Forget Me Not: Finding Your Voice

voice

As a writer, I’ve been told that I need to find my voice. According to numerous online resources, our writing voice is not something that is easily defined. It is something you find, that you learn with practice, or that you develop in time. Voice is the unique writing style of the author. It is what makes you different from everyone else out there. A fingerprint of sorts. This has been my assignment as my book gets closer to print.

Will I ever know if I have my voice, as it is defined by the editor that reads my memoir? Perhaps not. What I know is that I found my true voice not that long ago. I found the strength and healing I needed to put my words to paper and speak my truth in the words that came to me. My story is my voice. My story is my reality. Not everyone will like my story or care to read it, just as not everyone reads my blog.

My story is not a popular one. It is framed as sadness and hopelessness. It tells the tale of too many women and men. So many can relate to my struggles although their pain was brought on by a parent, a loved one, or a rapist. Domestic violence is a vast umbrella that encompasses pain inflicted on one individual by another where you should feel the safest. It is a very uncomfortable topic for those who have lived it, those who inflict it, and those who wish to not know of it.

As I write, and as I work to build Forget Me Not Advocacy Group, I am caught off guard by the compliments as well as the criticisms. I am tickled by the number of supporters who reach out to me in quiet moments and share their kind words with me. They keep me going as they raise me up. They believe in the need for education and supported healing. However, just as I’m tickled by those who support, I’m alarmed at how many put down or undermine my objective.

“Not everyone will support a cause such as yours.” “I know you don’t intent to sell many books.” “Don’t create too high an expectation, this is not a cause everyone will rally behind.” “It will take years to get support.”

While I understand that these comments were made with the intent to help, I also understand the damage that they can inflict. With each similar comment made, I am hearing you say that my pain does not amount to the type of pain a cancer patient endures. I hear you telling me that my business will likely fail. You are projecting your fears, or your failures, on me. But, you are also giving me the strength I need to create an organization that will succeed in helping those in need.

You see, with every reason you find to tell me why domestic violence is not as important to the world as any number of causes, you remind me exactly what my purpose is. You give me a purpose for my voice to rise above all the noise in our society and to speak my truth as loud and as often as I can.

Thank you for making me stronger. Thank you for helping me understand how important it is to get the word out, to support those who feel the rejection and shame by society, and to help educate our young people so they can find their voice in this crazy world. Together we will stand up against domestic violence in all of its forms and yell NO MORE. And one day, the world will hear our cries and come stand by our side. They will no longer turn away from the injustices done by our fellow humans — one against another — but will look it straight in the face and acknowledge it for what it is; something that affects more individuals than any other cause there is.

Then, we will stand together and end the one thing we have control over…how we treat those we love.


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

Forget Me Not: Crawling Out of the Darkness — Part 3

Darkness 3

The path to healing is one that is difficult and time consuming. I don’t believe that anyone just gets over something. They may be good at covering it up, pretending it doesn’t matter, or telling themselves to ignore it and move forward, but it never truly goes away.

I have found myself having conversations with those who state that they were in abusive relationships or marriages, but claim they are fine. They brush it off as if it has had no effect on them. They state that they do not need support, therapy, or help and are often unwilling to say much more about the subject. This really saddens me for two reasons.

First, it used to make me feel that there was something wrong with me because I was unable to deal with the aftermath of my abusive marriage. Why were they so strong and I was so weak? Maybe I should toughen up and be like them. But then, I would have a second, and almost simultaneous, reaction to their claims. Perhaps they were not really abused at all and they just think they were. Maybe their husband was angry or snippy, or they were not getting what they wanted in life, but surely they did not experience domestic violence as I had. If they had, they would not be ok. Victims are not just ok. And, that thought, whether accurate or not, made me angry.

These things are not for me to know. I’ve since seen that many of these individuals who claim they are ok, really are not. They just have not allowed themselves to heal. Instead, they have chosen to cover it up and pretend. This, of course, is their choice, but I often see the pain they are causing themselves and their loved ones by taking this path. Neither myself, nor anyone else, can make you choose to heal. No one can make you want to come out of the darkness and into the light. It is up to you to take those steps.

Through this mini-series, I’ve shared with you two main things that helped me to get moving in the right direction. First was putting one foot in front of the other. Taking each moment as they came and focusing on survival, then time, and then moving forward. Second, I got out and got active. I had to physically remove myself from the safety of my home and get outside and doing something I loved. Lastly, I believe it is important to find peace in yourself.

This last step may be even harder than the first two, but it is in my opinion the most important piece to long-term happiness. This is where you clear from your mind all the terrible things your abuser said to you, and all the things you believe about yourself because of your experiences. The feelings of disappointment, hatred, and regret have to go. The self-loathing and putting yourself down must become a thing of the past. This is where you learn to see yourself as a new and beautiful being that is worth happiness.
This process took me the better part of a year, and that was just to get to where I could actually visualize myself as a happier person. It is the retraining of your negative thoughts and emotions. Let me give you some examples of what I experienced.

Example 1: It’s the middle of the night and I wake up anxious. I can’t sleep, my stomach is in knots, and my heart is pounding. I don’t know what I’m anxious about so my mind starts to fill with every single thing I’m scared of in life. My mind starts racing with all of these fears and my anxiety builds.

What do I do: I tell myself that it is all in my mind, and then start working to control my breath. Long breath in, “Breathe in love.” Long breath out, “Breathe out fear.” Long breath in, “Breathe in peace.” Long breath out, “Breathe out sadness.” You get the drift. Soon, I feel my body starting to calm down. I focus my mind on the words and my body on the breathing and everything starts to relax. I do this until my mind is calm enough to refocus or until I fall back asleep.

Example 2: A friend or family member does not agree with my plans for my life. I feel the need to explain to them and get their support, and find myself frustrated and crying. They hold fast in their belief about how my life should be, and I’m feeling corned again, by someone else who is not living my life. This, of course, is coming from a trigger.

What do I do: (Disclaimer — I’m still working on this one.) I remind myself silently that they do not understand where I am coming from with my reactions (the crying and the anger), so these reactions serve no purpose. I remind myself that they are not my husband and do not mean harm to me. I remind myself that my choices are my own, for good or bad, and unless they affect the other person, then that person really has no opinion on the matter. I allow myself to walk away from the situation and ask the person to respect my choices. I do not apologize for who I am. Because of this, I’m learning to be stronger in who I am and make the choices that are best for me, not make choices based on the opinion of others.

These are just two examples of issues that I have personally dealt with. As I become stronger in myself, I find that the depression and anxiety lift. I have no doubt that I will struggle with them from time to time, but they are much more prevalent when I put myself in situations with which I am not happy and content.

You shouldn’t stay in a job you hate because others think you are crazy to leave. If you are not happy there, find a place where you are happy. You shouldn’t attend activities you do not enjoy because you have always done so. Find other ways to spend time with your friends and make friends who enjoy the same things you do. You should not give in to your ex because he manipulates your children. Find the strength to seek out the help you need, from a professional that is a good fit for you, and learn how to deal with your ex in a way that is less stressful to you and is not teaching your children that manipulation is a viable option for getting what you want in life.

The final step to crawling out of darkness, for me, was to find my purpose in life and believe in myself…as an individual. It is important that you find ways that work for you, as we are all different in our personalities and our healing. But whatever you do, find those things that work and start implementing them. Be patient with yourself, keep trying when you fail, and know that you are on the right path. As always, I’m here cheering you on.


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

2016 Investing in Hope Featured on Bisnow

2016GC2

Guests spent an afternoon tailgating, sun soaking, and wagering at the annual steeplechase. Becky’s Fund hosted its annual Investing in Hope tent, which has fundraised against domestic violence for 10 years. Here, founder Becky Lee flanked by sponsors CCAA’s Clarence Wright and WPGC’s Guy Lambert.

Read more…

Forget Me Not: Crawling Out of the Darkness — Part 2

Darkness2

“Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking across the floor. Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door!”

In my last post I talked about the first step to healing from the dark pit of depression and anxiety. Those of you who have follow me have probably picked up that I rarely sugar coat things. Life can be downright impossible sometimes and it is up to us to pull ourselves up and make it better. It is easy to get stuck in a rut of despair, sadness, and frustration. But, it is often very difficult to move out of that rut.

Many of us have experienced extreme trauma in our lives, from domestic violence, to child abuse and rape. These experiences have left us scared and struggling to find happiness and peace in life. What is more difficult, from my point of view, is that society is often quick to judge those experiences, or simply ignore them. For some reason, it seems that society simply does not want to discuss these terrible aspects of humanity. I believe, personally, that it often hits too close to home, and that it is easier to look away than deal with the unpleasantness of the terribleness happening around you, to those you love, or to you.

Because of this, victims often feel alone and as if their hurts do not matter. Or, that no one understands where they are emotionally. When you lack support in your healing, it makes it all the harder to actually heal. It compounds the situation.

And this is why, sadly, we must, as victims, find it in ourselves to move forward. It never hurts, of course, to find forums where there are others that understand your pain and cheer you along in your healing journey. But, no one can make you better but you. And, the first step to healing is to simply survive. You will never move forward if you are stuck where you are.

This was, by far, the most difficult thing I have ever done for myself. It was a concept that was so foreign to me that making it happen was the equivalent of blasting myself into space. It took immense amounts of practice, failure, and retrying before I was able to make the slightest move in the right direction. But once I did, I was able to move on to making progress in other areas of my life.

Finding Something You Love

The second thing I did, in my journey to healing, was to find something I loved. For me, this was biking. Biking later led to kayaking, which then led to roller blading. Basically, I got myself involved in activities I could do outside, on my own. I wasn’t ready to make friends, join groups, or get involved in anything else that involved people. But I knew I needed to do something that brought me joy. As a matter of fact, my therapist told me to find a hobby. Yes, it took my therapist assigning this task as homework before I moved forward. My outdoor excursions got me out of the house, into the sunshine, and exercising. These three things are all great for increasing happy hormones. I’m not a scientist or a therapist, so you will just have to trust me on this.

You don’t have to bike or kayak to get moving, but find something you love. Take a walk, start an exercise program, go hiking, read by the water, take your dog to the dog park, take a ceramics or painting class—the options are limitless. Just find something that gets you out of the house and moving.

Make the Changes on Your Timeline

It’s important to stress that everyone’s healing will happen differently. First, you have to make yourself want the change, then you have to start moving forward, then you have to start doing something productive that you love. This is not going to happen overnight. I’d love to see everyone, who is struggling, jump out of bed and take on the world, but I know that is unrealistic.

It took me several months to get to the point where I started riding my bike. And sometimes, I would ride to the ocean, sit on the beach, and sob. I tell you this because it was no easy task. But please do not be discouraged. If you are in this negative place, there is nowhere to go but up. Remember that you are worth it, no matter what society, your abuser, your parents, your friends, or you tell yourself. You are worth it!!

And, I am here for you…others understand you…you can do this. Keep pushing forward. Hugs.


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

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