Month: June 2016

Forget Me Not: What Controls You?


Over the past few weeks, I have been taking ownership of my life. I mean, really sinking deep into the root of what still controls me: security. We all know that domestic violence is all about power and control, but what happens when that power and control is directed towards someone that cannot be completely dominated — say an employee — or when you, as an individual, give up your power and allow yourself to be controlled by something, or someone, else.

I spent quite a few years rebuilding my life after my marriage. I believed that I could control my happiness by finding security, proving my abuser wrong, and keeping busy. But these things do not create happiness. Even more, finding security meant working a job that proved to be less of who I was and more of who I believed myself to be. No matter how much personal growth was taking place, the person I had to be at work remained the same. There were certain expectations, rules that had to be followed, a lot of directives, but no explanations. With each year that passed I found myself being backed further into a corner and less of the free spirit that was finally emerging in every other area of my life.

But my job gave me the security I needed. I had worked hard for it; studied hard, trained hard, and beaten the odds of getting hired in a field that many strived for. And yet I was triggered weekly. Now, I know how strange that might sound. How does one get triggered at work? For some, triggers at work come from a mean boss that yells, talks down to, or demeans their employees. Today, there are a lot of laws on the books that prohibit that type of behavior and give employees backing if their boss is acting out in that kind of negative fashion, which has likely stopped some of that behavior.

But that is not what I’m referring to. In my case, it was all about control and how those laws can be twisted by employers so that they are not breaking the above mentioned rules and, yet, still not giving up their power and control. Some call it passive aggressive behavior; I call it emotional manipulation.

It’s important to point out that there were two equally different things happening in my work life that were allowing me to be controlled by my security issues. First, I found that I did not enjoy my work. As a matter of fact, I truly disliked it and was stressed by it daily. I didn’t dislike it because I was bored; I disliked it because it was not me. I was doing something every day that put me in situations I didn’t want to be in. I didn’t like how I felt when I came home at night, I was surrounded by negativity, and I felt trapped by the numerous laws that were laid out for me to follow in my professional and personal life (trigger).

As someone who is a free spirit (i.e. doesn’t do well being told how to live their life) and someone who was emotionally, verbally, and physically abused by my husband for many years (i.e. doesn’t do well being told how to live their life), being in a work environment that was intent on controlling my actions and behaviors was not the best fit. If you understand triggers, you will understand how uncomfortable my daily life was becoming.
But there was another problem that started to rise up and affect my relationship with my job even more. As I became more and more uncomfortable with the realities of my daily interactions with work, I became defensive. I felt like a fish out of water. It was clear to me that I did not belong there, but try as I might, I was unable to find employment that was comparable. It was a two-edged sword. I could leave a good job to be happy, but then know that I would be right back to where I started seven years ago…broke. I fought hard to get this job. It took years of schooling and work, it gave me self-confidence and financial security when I needed it the most. I had become something. And he had always told me that I would amount to nothing.

Was I just going to throw it all away? That would be insane. So, I trudged forward. But the stronger I became in my personal life, the more out of place I was in my work life. I had true moral issues with what I was involved in. They were not illegal, actually quite the opposite, but they went against everything I said I believed in; everything I had become. And when I started to question what was going on, I was met with the passive aggressiveness that I was all too familiar with. It was the same as what my ex-husband used to use on me daily.

And with every comment that turned my concerns back on me and away from the organization, I saw that it was all about power and control. Anyone who seeks power and control, be it in a relationship or a job, is often willing to spin the story to suit them and question the accuser. It was all too familiar.

With each conversation and email, I saw a trend of putting the blame back on me, questioning my understanding of “simple concepts,” and diminishing my concerns as questionable or due to some form of brokenness on my part (I didn’t understand, this is how it is for everyone, I was too sensitive, I was taking it the wrong way, they were doing everything in their power to resolve the situation that never got resolved, etc.). There was never a time where my concerns were considered legitimate or worth looking at. And if I pushed too hard for answers, I was threatened with misconduct charges and punishment.

And each time I was triggered. Each time, my blood pressure rose, my emotions were frazzled, and I came home angrier than I was the day before. Soon, I felt like an animal backed into a corner. I needed the income and security but it was devouring me very slowly. It was stealing my joy. I found myself fighting with old demons like depression and anxiety all over again. I had left one controlling relationship and replaced it with another.

I was allowing the “need” for security to control me. I was ignoring my passion, for money. And, I was living a lie, daily, out of fear.

When I made the decision to move forward and trust my instincts, all of that faded away. As always, our growth is a process. We can chose to be controlled, live as a victim, or give up on our happiness, or we can choose to create change in our lives.

What controls you? Will you break free?

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

Forget Me Not: Taking on Personal Responsibility


There comes a time in each of our lives where we have to make a choice — the choice to take full ownership of our lives. As I have stated several times over, about so many issues that arise after abuse has ended, this is no simple task. However, it is a very important one. Taking ownership of your life is the difference between staying stuck and living the life you deserve.

As survivors of domestic violence, we often come out the other end a bit lost. Well, a bit lost is likely an understatement. We often come out the other end very, very lost. As is usually the case, I can only speak to my experiences, but I’m sure many will see common themes between my story and theirs.

I started dating my husband at the age of 15. We were both young and, in many ways, grew up together. He wasn’t abusive from day one, although there were signs I didn’t see. All in all, we spent 16 years together. When I finally left, it was bittersweet. I was ready to move on, emotionally and physically exhausted, and needy for love and attention, yet I was leaving the only relationship I knew and heading out on my own. Although I was scared, joy washed over me like a tidal wave of positivity. I was high on freedom. The simplest of things, like going to bed and waking up when I wanted to, were so exciting that I could see no bad in my life.

That lasted for all of about three months. Once the initial rush of being free from him wore off, the realities of life after abuse started to set in. With each negative thing that happened, I fell deeper and deeper into a life of anger and bitterness. While I struggled to pay the bills and finish school, he was working a great job. While I struggled to form solid relationships, he was getting remarried. Soon I found myself in a routine thought pattern being run by my hate and anger towards him. It was his fault I had no money, his fault I lost so much in the divorce, his fault I was in my 30s and back in school, his fault I had no children, and his fault that I was so screwed up.

He had messed me up so bad that I was damaged goods. I was depressed and anxious, struggling to focus at work, and a mess in the dating world. My friends were few and far between and I never believed I was a priority to anyone. They had better things to do than to be with me, and it seemed that everyone around me was better at life than I was. Everything was simply falling apart.

And then I got sick. My body finally succumbed to all the stress and literally started to shut down on itself. I was sleeping over 13 hours a day, could not walk around the block, and gained over 30 pounds in less than a year. My life was falling apart, and it was all his fault.

Or, was it? You see, I wanted it to be all his fault. If it wasn’t his fault, then I was the failure he told me I would be. If I didn’t believe it was his fault, then he was right that no man would want me. If I didn’t believe it was his fault, then that meant that I was one very messed up individual. I needed it to be all his fault.

The problem with this mentality, though, is that making it his fault did not do anything to improve the life I was living. In actuality, it only made things worse. The more angry and bitter I got, the more depressed I became and the less I lived and enjoyed my life. Don’t get me wrong, his actions did cause me a lot of grief and heartache. I struggled for years with thought patterns and beliefs about myself because of my relationship with him. There is fallout. It does hurt and affect your life. But, you can come back from it.

It took me hitting rock bottom and deciding that I could not live this life anymore before I sought help. It was only then that I learned that holding onto the past does not create a better future. I had to let go, make peace with the fact that my past was what it was, and decide to move forward. I had to take ownership of my life and start making it what I wanted it to be.

One can spend their whole life, or many years of it, blaming others (outwardly or inwardly) for their life situations. But it is up to us to own whatever is ailing us. I’m not sure how to say this the right way, so bare with me. It is not your abuser’s fault that you are depressed, an alcoholic, self-destructive, lost your job, or are struggling in life. Unless there are specific actions that lead to a specific low in your life (Abuser lies to boss = you lose your job/Abuser lies to court = negative outcome regarding child custody), then you have to let it go.

The fallout from abuse is real and we will all react to it in different ways, from substance abuse and self-destruction, depression and lack of self-care, to hurtful behavior towards others. It is up to you to take responsibility for your happiness and do what is necessary to let go of the past, place blame aside, and do what you have to do to get moving forward. You are responsible for your happiness, your success, and your wellbeing. Go out there and get it!

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

Forget Me Not: #MaybeSHEdoesnthityou


The hashtag #maybehedoesnthityou is lighting up Twitter and was quite the story last week. What an amazing way to bring attention to the realities of domestic violence. I’ve talked about statistics before. 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence against them by an intimate partner in their lifetime. It is important to note that these are the ones who report the abuse. Furthermore, these statistics only account for women who have reported an instance of severe physical violence. What about the ones who do not report their abusers? What about the ones who are emotionally, financially, or otherwise abused by their partner? These individuals are not counted. Which begs the question: exactly how many people out there are being abused by their intimate partner?

As I read the stories posted alongside the #maybehedoesnthityou hashtag, it came to mind that many men also suffer at the hands of an abuser. When it comes to severe physical violence, 1 in 7 men have reported abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime. But how many of them do not report the violence? How many of them are emotionally and verbally abused? Statistics tell us that men are much more likely to be the perpetrators of physical violence, but we often fall short of mentioning just how many men are verbally and emotionally abused by the women in their life. Their cries for help often go unanswered and their comments on abuse are often brushed aside. But what would happen if we added the hashtag #maybeSHEdoesnthityou? What then? Would men stand up and share their stories? Would more see violence against a man, by an intimate partner, in the same light as we see violence against a woman.

Our society tells men that they have to “man up,” “be tough,” and never admit defeat, which often leads to men feeling ashamed or unwilling to seek out help. No one should have to live a life of emotional and verbal abuse, male or female. Emotional abuse of a man is the same as emotional abuse of a woman. Yelling or screaming at your partner, name calling, treating them like a child, stalking, demeaning them, putting them down, forced control of the household and finances (“wearing the pants in the family”), and speaking poorly of them in front of others are all forms of emotional abuse.

#MaybeSHEdoesnthityou, but that does not mean that you are not being abused. Men, share your story and help educate others on this important topic. It is only by helping others to walk in your shoes that they will have a better understanding of the far reaches of domestic violence.

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

Forget Me Not: Dolphins at Sunset

Dolphins at Sunset

I’ve shared a lot about heartache and pain throughout my posts. I want others to know that I understand where they have been. It is my belief that it is only by experiencing the pain that abuse creates, personally feeling the hole that it leaves in your life, and being able to say yes, I know, I really know that one individual can completely connect to another that is hurting from similar abuses. But once there — once that connection is made — it is imperative that we raise each other up, share stories of peace and happiness, and show those around us that we are above that very pain and suffering that we connected under.

This is the place from which I come to you today. Although I write of past events that have tormented me for years, I am no longer owned by them. Although I share my darkest fears with you, they no longer control my every moment. And although I sometimes slip into a momentary sadness, my life is no longer filled with depression and anxiety.

Very recently, I was reminded yet again of the wonder that fills my life daily. Today, I want to share with you that side of me.

The sun was low in the sky as I helped my boyfriend drag the kayaks through the grass to the bay. We had been promising his family that we would show them how to paddle so that they could experience the joy we did each time we took them out. Tonight was the night. It was beautiful out. Not hot, not cold…simply perfect. We laughed out loud as one cousin tipped the kayak, face planting into the water, then posed for pictures between giggles and jabs. I then watched my boyfriend paddle off down shore with another cousin while I picked my way along the shoreline. Every now and then I would catch his glimpse across the water and he would wave and smile at me.

When he returned, he passed the kayak off to me stating that it was my turn to enjoy the sunset. He waited patiently on shore as I worked my way up to some boats where I had seen dolphins earlier. Bobbing along in the water, peace washed over me. It was so still out. The sun glistened off the clouds in various shades of red and yellow as it dipped further into the horizon. I was mesmerized by the tranquility. The slight sound of small waves washing against the boat, a periodic hum of voices traveling over the water, a cool breeze in my hair, and peace in my heart.

As the sun lowered out of view, I paddled slowly back to the shore where he was waiting with the other kayak. He was ready to go back out. He wanted to experience the beauty of dusk with me.

Back out on the water, I caught myself watching him as he paddled in front of me. I smiled to myself out of sheer happiness and giggled when he caught me. I realized just how lucky I am and how much I love the joy we find in each other’s eyes. Just as the thought crossed my mind, two dolphins passed in front of us, no more than ten feet away. We both yelled out in hushed tones at the same time and grinned from ear to ear. It was amazing!! The colors of the setting sun framed the dolphins as they continued swimming away from us. We were awe struck.

It was exactly as it should have been all along. I was in a beautiful place, sharing a beautiful moment, with an amazing man; something I never believed I would experience. Yet, here I was. Life can be beautiful. It will be beautiful if you allow it. When you find peace in yourself, life will find its way to exactly where it is supposed to be.

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

Forget Me Not: You and Me

You and Me

The other day, as I was driving through town, “You and Me,” by Lighthouse came on the radio. I’ve always liked this song, but this time it created a wave of emotions that I had forgotten about. Perhaps it is because of all the recent writing, the book, or my constant rehashing of my past, but out of nowhere, I remembered things that I had long since forgotten.

I remembered that this song used to mean something to me. And, hearing it the other day reminded me of what it used to mean and created a very deep sadness in me. A sadness for the girl I used to be.

What day is it? And in what month?
This clock never seemed so alive
I can’t keep up and I can’t back down
I’ve been losing so much time

‘Cause it’s you and me and all of the people with nothing
To do, nothing to lose
And it’s you and me and all of the people
And I don’t know why I can’t keep my eyes off of you

All of the things that I want to say just aren’t coming out right
I’m tripping on words
You got my head spinning
I don’t know where to go from here

Although the words are very obviously speaking about a man falling in love, they spoke to my heart as a woman trapped. I vividly remember what these words meant to me when I was finally waking up and realizing how broken my marriage was.

I remember the sadness that would wash over me as I believed I was “losing so much time” and how I didn’t know where to go and how to say the things that I felt in my heart. I was torn. I felt alone and lost, and yet I looked to him for my support.

I believed that it was just him and me. It was him and me, and all of the other people in the world. And I — I was only focused on him. I didn’t believe there was anyone else that could understand my pain, or my life, as he did. He had created it, and yet I clung to him because I loved him. We were broken together.

I was torn between how I felt inside and how guilty those thoughts made me feel. He was my one and only, and nothing he did to me seemed to be enough for me to see beyond him. I literally blocked out everyone else. Those outside people were a threat to my home. I could not keep my eyes off of him.

As I sit here now, free of the horrible pain I experienced trapped in that marriage, I feel so badly for my former self. She really believed these things and didn’t know what to do with those thoughts. I want to reach back in time and heal her, to pull her to safety and security. I remember being there so vividly and it stirs such sadness in me. I can’t go back and free my former self, but I can help those who are currently feeling her pain to move away from it. You are not alone. You can be free, and you have support.

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

Forget Me Not: Guilt and Confusion


Do you ever feel guilty that you left your abuser? Perhaps you question if the abuse was really that bad. Or maybe you wonder if your children would be better off had you stayed. Did you make up the stories in your mind? Maybe it wasn’t really domestic abuse at all? Maybe you made the wrong decision for yourself and your family. Maybe, just maybe, he/she wasn’t the monster you believe them to be.

As victims of domestic violence, I believe we often find ourselves questioning what reality we really live in. Even now, so many years out, I find myself questioning my version of the story. Maybe he didn’t mean to say those things. What if he wasn’t trying to confuse me? He was so young and perhaps he really did not know any better. After all, look at how he grew up; look at who his role model was.

Each time I begin to question my recollection of events, I do my best to look back on how each situation actually took place. I know I’m not making up what happened. Everything I write consists of words he used and actions he inflicted. Even though I know that my words are truth, I also know that my abuser wanted me to believe I was crazy. And, to a certain extent, he was successful. As you can see, even to this day, I sometimes question my own beliefs. I do understand, however, that the reason I sometimes struggle with these skewed beliefs is because of a certain type of emotional abuse. It’s called gaslighting.

Gaslighting is “an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power (and we know that abuse is about power and control). Once an abusive partner has broken down the victim’s ability to trust their own perceptions, the victim is more likely to stay in the abusive relationship.” — The National Domestic Violence Hotline

When you have been subjected to this kind of emotional abuse, you do not just automatically revert to “normal” belief patterns and thinking once you are free of the abuser. Many of these belief patterns remain and you are forced to reevaluate each one, creating a new belief pattern that is not altered by the brainwashing of your abuser.

When you find yourself questioning whether or not the abuse you suffered was real, or to the magnitude you remember, just remind yourself of the facts. What actually happened? Where you manipulated, called names, physically assaulted, or emotionally torn down? What words did your abuser use? Were they kind and loving, or hurtful and demeaning? Think about the facts of what happened and not necessarily the emotions attached to them. If they look like abuse, they are. Don’t question your sanity while your mind plays tricks on you. Remember that you are worth more, then pick yourself up and move forward. Practice being sure of yourself. Life is too short to live in guilt and confusion.

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

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Clarissa


My name is Clarissa and I will be interning at Becky’s Fund. I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University this past May with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. However, I found my true passion when I declared a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.

My minor exposed me to invaluable classes that opened my eyes and understanding of the world and inspired me to work to end domestic violence. Perhaps the most moving class was Violence Against Women, a service learning class where I volunteered my time for Planned Parenthood and the Young Women’s Christian Association. In Feminist Theory we theorized why domestic violence and more so, why general violence happens in our society and created solutions that we as students would be able to achieve. These classes inspired me to join student organizations such as SAVES, Students Advocating Violence Education and Support, where we educated the community on red flags in abusive relationships, consent, healthy relationships, and resources for survivors.

Even though I just graduated from VCU, I already have my sights set on graduate school to obtain a Master’s in Social Work to continue working with and for survivors. One of my longterm goals is to become a professor so that I can inspire other students to dedicate their lives to feminism and ending domestic violence. The more people we can reach, the more we can create social change.

I am very excited to start my career off on the right foot. I am interested in participating in the Becoming Your Own Heroine program as well as the Men of Code program. As our society socializes us from a very young age, I think it’s imperative to speak to youth in order to create social change.

The Monument Quilt Summary


This past weekend, I was honored to join a phenomenal group of artists and activists for The Monument Quilt Leadership Retreat. The Monument Quilt is a collection of quilted stories from survivors of rape and abuse that creates public healing spaces by and for survivors. By allowing survivors to tell their own stories on quilt squares, the project aims to resist a single narrative of how sexual and domestic violence occurs and how survivors should heal. These quilt squares then become the landscape of large public displays across the U.S. and in Mexico.

Creating healing spaces in the open air of football fields, public parks, and train stations, the Monument Quilt temporarily integrates healing from rape and abuse into everyday public life. In doing so, the quilt displays envision a different reality in which it is the public’s responsibility to make space for survivors rather than the survivor’s responsibility to re-assimilate into a “normal” public. As stated in the project’s guiding values, the quilt’s vision calls for a society where survivors are publicly supported rather than publicly shamed. The physical space of the quilt display and the structure of quilting workshops are intentionally designed to empower and support survivors in their on-going healing processes by providing ample options, giving permission for an array of emotional reactions, and validating the difficulty of interacting with the material. In addition, The Monument Quilt recognizes that survivors experience violence, access to resources, justice and recovery differently based on gender, sexual orientation, race, class, ability, citizenship and age and accordingly builds in intentional spaces to support the specific needs of survivors in different communities.

The Monument Quilt project will culminate with a display of over 6,000 quilt squares on the National Mall in 2018, spelling out “Not Alone.” To find out more about The Monument Quilt, support the project, or host a quilting workshop in your community, visit


My own quilt square, which will be one of 6,000 blanketing the National Mall in 2018
Ella Rogers-Fett

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Natasha


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

I am a rising third year at Boston University with a major in International Relations, minor in French and an intention of pursuing a career in law. I am currently a member of the Boston Model UN convention, Women’s Law Association, and Common Sense Action. I also volunteer weekly at the Susan Bailis assisted living rehabilitation for the elderly.

My interest for helping end domestic violence started when I attended a seminar in high school where an alumni spoke about her issues as a victim of violence and how she overcame this to soon become an advocate and lawyer for domestic violence victims. This inspired me to pursue a career in law to help people who do not have the resources to help themselves. The speaker also inspired me to start an organization at my school called Mentoring Alumni Partnering with Students (M.A.P.S.) where students attend seminars to learn more about how people in various industries became successful in their career.

For many years, I have always had a passion to help put an end to domestic violence but did not have the right direction or resources to do so. I came across Becky’s Fund and learned about how this organization helps people understand that there is a way to escape from violence and that it is possible for victims to overcome these obstacles. I intend to work closely with victims and help them achieve support legally, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I especially hope to work closely on the Becoming Your Own Heroin program to work with teenagers and younger girls on how to speak up and prevent violence at their age both physically and emotionally. I am very excited for what I will gain this summer and am excited to work with this organization in helping put an end to domestic violence.

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Maya


My name is Maya Menon and I am originally from Seattle, Washington. I am a rising junior at Wake Forest University majoring in Studio Art with minors in Human and Health Services, Education and Sociology. In the next year, I will begin looking at Master’s programs in Social Work.

After watching those close to me suffer from sexual violence and experiencing it myself, I needed to do something to educate and aid those who are exposed it every day. In North Carolina, I work with Family Services as a victim’s advocate for domestic violence and sexual assault. In addition, I am a campus advocate with a group called TrailBlaze aiming to dismantle rape culture on campus as well as lead a blog called End the Silence WFU to give survivors a space to share their stories.

Last summer, I researched the obstacles that victims of sexual assault face when seeking medical attention. I am very fortunate that Wake Forest has awarded me another grant allowing me to intern at Becky’s Fund while creating a research paper to present in the fall about the presence of domestic violence on college campuses. When I was creating my project, I became very interested in the variety of work that Becky’s Fund is involved in, especially their outreach programs for young adults. I believe that ending sexual violence starts with us but first we need to end the stigmas of silence and shame surrounding the issue. By helping with the Men of Code and Becoming Your Own Heroine initiatives, I want to teach the importance of healthy relationships, consent and bystander intervention.

Through my work here, I hope to continue learning how to be a better advocate through prevention education and direct assistance. I will understand what goes into a non-profit and apply that knowledge with individuals I work with in my community. By the end of the summer, I want to have done what I can to help end sexual violence for those who receive services from this organization.