Category: BF NEWS

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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Forget Me Not: Finding Balance

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Dancers moved in bare feet around the fire, pulling their energy from the hypnotic drumming of the circle. Like minded individuals who gain strength and centering, through nature, gathered to drum, dance, spin, and regroup in this quiet wooded spot on the west coast of Florida. This is where I am grounded. This is where I find peace and solace in a world that is oftentimes stressful and uncertain. Here, I can be the person I have always wanted to be without judgment or a need to impress anyone. I can absorb all that nature has to offer and refocus on my continuous healing. Here, I am free.

Earlier in this series, I shared that it took multiple steps to come from the woman in the “Just me” photo, to a woman who was determined to reinvent her outlook on life. It took therapy, strong friendships, and the physical outlet of biking to get me moving in the right direction. But something was missing. There was always a part of me that felt I didn’t belong. I was still trying very hard to be the person I believed I was supposed to be, and I was not complete. I was a free spirit and my soul was not getting the love it needed to thrive.

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Now, as I sit and write, the sun is peaking through the Florida pines as a cool breeze blows through the camp. Around me, tents dot this small wooded area that serves as my home this weekend. My boyfriend plays guitar while a long-time festival friend plays one of his hand-made flutes. I am at peace. This is something I didn’t used to have in my life. This connection with nature and “hippidome” were buried deep beneath a belief that this sort of life was frowned upon. It simply was not an acceptable way for me to live my life.

My husband found my free spirit childish and quickly put an end to it. There was no room for such irresponsible behavior. There was too much to do in the home, and in our life, to be wasting time listening to music, camping, or simply being carefree. My love of nature, camping, travel, and music were not something we had time for. My long skirts, dislike of makeup, and unkempt hair were more items to be corrected than something to be celebrated. As these things were suffocated, so was my true self. I was placed in a box that signified who I was supposed to be and not who I was.

As part of my healing—on my journey to coming back to me—I have learned to appreciate these aspects of myself that he discarded. It took some time for me to be comfortable in my own skin, as his voice was always in my head telling me that who I was, as a person, was not acceptable. It took several years of slowly integrating pieces of myself back into my life. As I allowed myself to move more towards who I am drawn to be, I met others whose beliefs and interests aligned with my own. This led to more growth, more comfort with myself, and much more happiness.

I have found this to be one of the most important aspects of my healing. When you are happy with who you are, you are free. Maybe you love music or nature, as I do, or perhaps you are into sports or travel. Maybe you simply want to read more, volunteer, teach, or be free to watch you favorite movie. Whatever it is that makes you tick, that provides you with that sense of belonging and peace, that is what you should be focused on. Finding your true self, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of experiencing your personal freedom. It may not come right away, but I believe it should be a goal for anyone healing from domestic violence.

It is a very important part of the journey to finding your “me.”


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

Forget Me Not: Healing is an Ongoing Process

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Just when I think I have a grip on my past, I learn something new. I came across two articles this week, both of which dealt with the mind games and brainwashing that occur in an emotionally abusive relationship. Now, it wasn’t that I didn’t know that he manipulated and slowly transformed me into giving up myself and my ideals on how life should be. There is a very clear transformation across the years I was with him. Each year, I gave up more and more, and strived to be the woman he wanted me to be. But, even as I have been working on my book, and reliving all of those moments, I could never understand why he would build me up at certain points.

He encouraged me to take the good job, he left the finances in my hands, he trusted me make large purchases such as our home and car, and he planted the seed and encouraged me to go to law school. When the man who continuously puts you down, slowly pulls you from your loved ones, and rarely has something nice to say, is also the one encouraging you to be your best, it can be very confusing. Each time he told me how successful I would be in an endeavor, or entrusted me with large financial decisions, it would make me question if he was really that mean to me.

In one of the articles, the author stated, “I wish this would come up on Google as often as the ‘If he checks your email and cuts you off from friends’ stuff does. Because it’s easy to tell yourself everything’s fine if you can’t find your exact situation. It’s easy to say you’re different.” 1

I have found, through my own experience, as well as conversations with other survivors, that many of us feel this way. In my situation, it started with emotional abuse and later escalated to physical abuse. No matter what happened though, I believed that my life wasn’t that of an abuse victim. After all, he never put me in the hospital or broke any bones. In my mind, other women had it much worse than me.

The second article really hit home. After reading this article, I was left wondering if there wasn’t a manual somewhere that teaches abusers exactly what to do in order to control their significant other. It was as if the author had taken words directly from my book and used them to write her blog post. As I was contemplating this, a message from my friend ensured I was not alone in my thought process. “What? Do they have a class in high school teaching guys how to be abusive without getting caught?” She was frustrated and floored, as was I.

What hit even closer to home was the cycle of abuse that was described in this article. For the first time, in the seven years that I have been scouring the internet without the fear of being caught, someone described my “exact situation” to perfection. Finally, I have a reference point that puts my final questions to rest. The article explains my relationship with my husband down to the letter. Why did he encourage me and build me up at certain points in our life? Well, this article lays it out down to the very words he used. It is worth the read as I can only address how it worked in my life.

My husband started by working to destroying my self-worth. Once I lacked the self-confidence that he once claimed to admire, he started blaming me for anything and everything. He blamed me for his behaviors and anything that happened that was not to his liking. Soon, I was apologizing for everything I did and, then, for everything that I was. Pretty soon I had no faith in myself, believing that I was innately a bad wife and person. When you doubt your own internal goodness, it is easy to start doubting your own mind. If he did something to hurt me, he acted as if nothing happened. If I believed something did happen, he told me I was the crazy one. Sooner or later, I was nervous all the time and constantly paranoid that I was not the person I needed to be; that he needed me to be. I believed I was going insane, living things in my mind that didn’t really happen.

But just when things seemed to be at their worst, he would build me back up in some small way. He would say the house looked nice, tell me my quesadillas could be served in a restaurant, or tell me that I was a good writer, and speaker, and would thrive in law school. The next paragraph is so on point, that only a quote will do it justice.

“The moment an abuser begins to feel the victim is “slipping from their control,” they will re-assault their identity. This will begin the process all over again. Victims continue to believe in the ideas of their abusers long after they have left the abusive environment. The new belief system has been so deeply rooted, it could take years to change.” 2

This idea hit close to home. It explained so much about what I didn’t understand. Even his perceived kindness was nothing more than another means of manipulation, and some of the ideas he planted even haunt me today. What is almost more difficult than hearing the truth, is accepting it fully. Even now, I want to believe that he was a misguided soul, someone who really didn’t intend to hurt me. But, as is the case in the healing process, some concepts have to be understood and developed as we are ready to deal with them.
It doesn’t matter if your story is the same as mine, or the same as someone else’s. You may not think that you are suffering to the same extent as another victim, or that you can check off the boxes on the “checklist of domestic abuse.” There is no checklist. Each story is different. There are guidelines and stories, meant to help steer you in the right direction. If you are concerned you are being abused, but you are not sure, reach out to someone who can direct you. Pick up the phone, write an email, or talk to someone you can trust. Silence keeps abuse in check. Start talking and you will find the truth and freedom.


1 I Was in an Abusive Relationship and Didn’t Even Know It
2 8 Steps that Explain “Why She Doesn’t Leave”

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

Forget Me Not: Bike Love

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“You’re going the wrong way! Come with us!” someone yelled out. I just sat there, giggling to myself at this huge display of bike riders. Who where they? Where were they going? I had never seen such a thing.

Just a few weeks before, I had gone out and purchased a bike. I had come a long way in my healing from domestic abuse, but I still had a long journey ahead of me. One thing that was missing was a support system. In my mind, my family was my support system. But, as wonderful as they are, they are worlds away. I needed friends that shared in my interests, but this was proving to be a difficult endeavor. The idea of getting out and meeting people was overwhelming and terribly scary. I lacked the self-confidence required to put myself out there.

But this group, rolling down Las Olas, inspired me to take action. There were hundreds of people, of all ages, taking over my town on bikes. I had to know more. With a little research, I found out that the group was called Critical Mass. And, in addition to this one, large ride; there were several smaller groups that met throughout the week.

I researched diligently until I found one I thought I might be able to manage. It didn’t take long, however, for fear to creep in and rear its ugly head. What if I went and couldn’t keep up? What if no one talked to me? What if I hated it? What if they didn’t like me? My mind raced with all the reasons I should not show up to a group where I didn’t know anyone. But, for the first time, I quieted my thoughts. After all, this is what I had been working towards: breaking free of my fears.

It took me two weeks to build up the courage to show up. I rode my bike there, half excited and half terrified. A huge part of me was so very ready to try something new and make new friends, but the self-doubt almost caused me to turn around and run home where I would be safe. But I didn’t, and going to that ride ended up being one of the best decisions I had made in a very long time. That ride changed my life as I knew it.

Within minutes of arriving, Craig introduced himself. Craig was bubbly and super welcoming. He made me feel at ease within seconds. He asked me if I had ever done the ride, and I shared my concerns about not being able to keep up.

“Oh! Don’t worry about that. You’ll be fine. I’ll make sure you don’t get dropped or lost,” he said with a smile.

As people began showing up to the park, Craig made a point of introducing me to each of his friends and telling them I was new. Between Craig, Matt, and Allen, I never feared I would get lost and I was motivated to see the ride through. They rode next to me, encouraged me, and chatted me up, making me feel as if I belonged to this group of people I had never met before. Before the ride was even over, I was encouraged to come again the next week. They even invited me to the local taco hangout for food and beer after the ride, where I met more people.

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It was in this group that I met some of my closest, dearest friends. It was in this group that I grew from a casual biker, to a competitor. It was in this group that I gained confidence and open-mindedness. I met individuals from all walks of life, and my inner circle grew exponentially. Our activities spanned from road biking to mountain biking, dinner to beach days, and movies out to house parties. We celebrated birthdays and holidays, we laughed together and cried together, and we still do.

It took pushing past my fear to see an entire world open in front of me. Making this one decision was the catalyst that brought me to an entirely new level of healing over the past couple of years. There are individuals from this group who have been my life raft on more than one occasion. I regained activities that brought me joy, many of which had long been suppressed or forgotten, such as singing, camping, snorkeling, and traveling.

And my return to myself, in large part, came from the many individuals of this group showing me that we are all beautiful and unique individuals. It didn’t matter what I thought of myself, how good I was at something, how I looked, or what I did for a job. They took the self-inflicted stress out of being me. I could be myself, learn to love myself, and be loved in return.


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

Forget Me Not: Loving me, loving you

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“If you can love the wrong person that much, imagine how much you can love the right one.”

Valentine’s Day is upon us. It’s a day when couples proclaim their love for one another, and hearts and chocolates seem to rain down from the sky. Yesterday, I saw a brief article on the origins of Valentine’s Day. It talked about everything from how St. Valentine was arrested for marrying young couples to the Pagan Festival of Lupercalia. A simple Google search will provide you with tons of details, if you are so inclined. For the purpose of this blog post, however, I want to focus on one key element; the celebration of love has been around for centuries.

Although I spent almost twenty years in some sort of relationship, last year was the first time I actually celebrated Valentine’s Day since I was in high school. And this year, I couldn’t care less that it is happening. During my entire marriage, I found the idea of this holiday annoying at best. It represented everything that was missing from my marriage. My husband blew it off as a Hallmark holiday, and I stopped believing in the love of fairy tales long before I was even married. It was hard for me to comprehend finding a man worthy of any of the cards I saw out there.

Let’s fast forward to my single years. When I first entered my singledom, Valentine’s Day would sneak up on me like a cruel joke. I carried a lot of sadness, and this day of love and happiness served as a cruel reminder of how alone I really was. It represented the cold reality that no one wanted me, a belief that I carried long after the divorce.

But, as I traveled down my path to recovery, I started to view this day from a different perspective. What if Valentine’s Day was a celebration of the love of those who are important to us? What if I took the romance part out of it? This view gave me a much brighter outlook. On Valentine’s Day, I would focus on all the love I had to give and all the love that I received in return.

That love, the love of my family and friends, was so much more important than the false love of the wrong man. My life had shown me, in more ways than one, that having a man standing next to you is not the same as having a man standing with you. True love is not being in a relationship or having someone buy you flowers. True love is having people around you that care for you, sometimes even, more than you care for yourself.
So, for the past several years, I focused on making Valentine’s Day a day to remember all those who love me unconditionally. Every time I saw a Valentine’s heart or post, I remembered those who loved and cared for me when I needed it most. I was thankful that some of my friends and relatives had found someone to share their romantic love with, and I was hopeful that those who were struggling would stay positive. I focused on loving those who were important to me and on loving myself.

When the right man did come into my life, I struggled with letting go for fear of getting hurt again. But he showed me what true love looks like. He didn’t try to win me over with fancy dinners or over-the-top compliments. He didn’t try to rush me past my own fears or hang-ups. Instead, he stood by me and built me up. He tore down my walls with support and kindness, and he showed me what true love looks like.

Last year, we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day doing something we both enjoy, going to a park. Every day since, we have celebrated love in our words, gestures, and support for one another. This year, as Valentine’s Day is upon us again, I feel no need to do anything different, because everyday, with him, is a celebration of love.

Instead, this year I will be thankful for him as I am the others who have shown me true love. It doesn’t matter what your status is. It doesn’t matter if you are married, divorced, single, or lost your loved one. What matters is that you find true love in those who are willing to share it with you. Celebrate the love you have in your life and you will find that your self-love will grow. That is the hardest love to come by. When you love yourself, you are a bright and shining light to everyone around you.

The celebration of love is what you make of it. Happy Valentine’s Day, my loves!


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

Forget Me Not: Just Me

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I slowly and methodically pushed the post button, uploading a raw photo of myself that I captioned “just me.” Afterwards, I sat there and started at the ocean as it slowly washed onto shore in the fading sunlight. I had done it. I had shown the world what my soul really looked like. I was done hiding behind the so-called appropriate photos of the smiling girl I was trying to be. There was so much more to me. That evening, as I sat on the lifeguard tower, depression had set in once again. I was so very weary of it. If you were looking in, from the outside, you would say my life was good. What I couldn’t understand was why I was still so messed up?

I reminded myself that rejection did not say anything about me. It was a basic clarification that the person rejecting me was not meant to be in my life. The self-talk was proving ineffective, though, and with each rejection came self-loathing that was unbearable. I tried to tell myself that my abuser’s words were not true and that the right people would come into my life and stay there. The right people would not walk away. But my husband’s words were always in the back of my mind.

“No guy will ever want you! Look at you!” “You can’t do anything right.” “When are you going to lose some weight?”

These words were poison. They cut to my inner being for years. Some of them still do. Obviously, he was right. Here it was, five years later, and I was still alone while he was married again in less than a year. Sometimes I was ok. Sometimes I would have fun with my friends, ride bikes, hang out, and carry on. Sometimes, however, I was not okay; but, I would pick myself up and put a smile on my face. I was good at ignoring the turmoil inside. I had years of practice doing that. Put on a happy face and take on the world. Although many of those around me thought I was a happy person, in truth I wasn’t. The moment I found myself alone, everything seemed to darken and I felt completely lost and fragile. I was tired of pretending to be someone I was not. I was tired of being strong.

As part of this blog, I’ve been taking a walk down memory lane. For all the memories that I prefer Facebook keep hidden, it is interesting to be able to see what I was posting. It is a small window into my life at that very moment in time. There are so many things that I have since forgotten, such as pictures that speak volumes and quotes that put my feelings to words better than I could. As I was traversing through 2014, I had no idea how much growth was actually going to occur. This year proved to be the year when I would truly let go of my past and strive for a better future. It was the year that everything turned around.

The summer before, I had hit rock bottom. Anxiety and depression had moved in and seemed to be unpacking for the long haul. It took this turn of events to persuade me to get some outside help in my quest for happiness. I had believed that I had it under control. For four years, I had been living on the emotional high of my freedom from him. It never occurred to me that there would be ongoing ramifications to the years of suffering I endured while living in an abusive relationship.

But even after months of therapy, which provided me the insight to understand why I thought and felt the way I did, I still struggled with learning how to actually deal with all of it. Rejection and the fear of being alone forever were my triggers. It is hard to explain this to someone who has never experienced it, but I can assure you that the fallout was very real. My mind was full of irrational thoughts and my reactions were, very often, borderline insane to outsiders. But, to me, they were the reality of the life I lived and, although I knew that they were “abnormal” reactions, I had no idea how to change them.

It was an ongoing battle; a battle that I won in the end! By August of 2014, I had posted the following:

A physical, emotional, and spiritual reboot are about to occur in this girl. Excited to see what transpires when old bad habits are broken, new healthy habits are formed, and roadblocks I’ve allowed in my life are faced head on and removed for good. I am ready!

In upcoming posts, I want to touch on how the year of 2014 brought me from the girl in the photo to the girl who wrote the above post. We all deal with different roadblocks that keep us from being the best we can be. It is my continuing hope that my story will help you overcome yours and that, together, we can grow into the individuals we are meant to be.


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

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