Eight years ago this month, I left my abuser. The day I left was sudden and traumatic, but when I left my life started to change. I had anxiety, panic attacks, and a fear of what was to come, but I left bearing it all anyways, because the alternative was ultimately death. That may sound severe, but for some death may be a paradigm for the eventual emptiness you will have inside when your abuser takes the last bit of self-worth you have left. To me, I didn’t know the strength I had then, but looking back at what I went through, it takes a warrior to overcome a battle of that severity; I became the warrior who was going to decide my future!
I spent years in counseling (which greatly helped me process the complex PTSD and emotions from the abuse), I braved the unknown, and with my God by my side I walked from the shadows into greener pastures. It certainly did not happen overnight and it took almost six years of hard work to finish, but with the help of many, including this amazing scholarship program WISP Inc. and the selfless financial aid from Doris Buffet, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2016.I am now self-sufficient, confident, helping others recover with my story, and have a beautiful six-year-old boy who is kind, sensitive, and sees the same beauty in the world as I do. Sometimes I forget how far I have come and forget to give myself credit, but it takes hard work and a lot of just holding on (not giving up) to get to where you want to be. I plan on going back to school to become a Doctor of Dental Medicine, and no longer allow myself to believe that there are goals I can’t accomplish.
Even though my abuser will be released from prison this month after a decade behind bars, I will no longer hide in fear or allow him to keep me from achieving MY dreams! I can look back finally and wish him restoration and forgive him for the pain, but know that I will be strong and thrive regardless of his choices. He is in my past, and I lived and learned and FOUGHT to get where I am now; I will not let anyone take away my choices ever again!
The following is a note I write to those of you contemplating leaving, to those of you in the middle of the overwhelming aftermath, and to those of you that made it to the other side and have forgotten how much you did to get there. This is also the same thing I would say to myself eight years ago, after finding out that life doesn’t have to end after you escape abuse.
“Hey beautiful! You may not hear that a lot and I guarantee you don’t tell yourself that enough, but you are BEYOUTEEFUL! I have something important I need to tell you and I know you’re filled with doubt but please just trust me; I’ve been right where you are and I’ve felt what you’re feeling now. You may not like what I’m about to tell you, but it couldn’t be truer.
The road ahead will not be easy; there will be nights spent in fear, rehashing the could-of’s and if-only’s, crying until you don’t think your body can physically handle any more, and there may even be times when you have the urge to go back to your abuser. This isn’t because you want to, but in some twisted way they have made you feel so worthless that it is comfortable to be in the abuse, and quite honestly, the unknown and life without them can seem extremely intimidating and scary. DO NOT DO IT, and hear me out!
There is a tiny glimmer of hope that is inside you, and if you can just find it and hold on to it for dear life, then let me tell you right now YOU ARE WORTH IT. YOU ARE WORTHWHILE and deserve a life where you are free to strive for your goals and achieve, not one where someone tears you down and leads you to believe you are nothing. That ray of hope that is growing inside you every day will someday give you the strength to leave, and when you do, the world slowly becomes so much more beautiful. I know it may be hard, but girl I promise you the days will get easier if you just have faith. And someday, you may have a little one who will watch you and every decision you make, that will decide their worth based on how you value yourself. Show them that they’re worth it too!
So I’m asking you, not today and maybe not tomorrow, but soon…reach out! I promise there is help and people that will love you and want to help you for no other reason than they genuinely CARE. They can show you what life can be like for you, but you must first make the choice to reach out. You can do this! Until then, hold on to that ray of hope and let this note be your reminder every day that you are going to make it, because you deserve a beautiful life…YOU ARE WORTH IT!”
Your biggest cheerleader and fellow survivor,
On MLK Day of 2004, I was a newly single mother. I had a job that I enjoyed, but because of a combination of life circumstances and choices, I also had a limited education which ended with a GED. I joined some of my coworkers for a joyful march from the Capitol building in downtown Austin to Huston-Tillotson University (HT). There were marching bands, cheerleaders, and singing as I pushed my infant son in his stroller along the route on that beautiful, brisk Texas morning. When we arrived at HT, I looked up and saw a banner that hung above the entrance which said “Call Now. Start College Next Semester.” with the phone number.
I will never forget looking at that banner feeling a rush of emotions and optimism. I pulled out my phone and called in that very moment. Of course it was a holiday so no one answered, but I had the number in my phone and I was determined to follow up and finally get the education I needed to move forward in life. I applied and was accepted to HT to begin the next semester. With the expenses of childcare and mounting bills, there is no way I could have even enrolled in my first class without the generous support of Doris Buffet and the Sunshine Lady Foundation WISP.
Their financial support in the beginning of my college education put me on the path to graduating with a BA in Sociology at the top of my class with a 3.9 in 2008. After that, I obtained a Masters of Global Policy Studies from a highly ranked policy school at the University of Texas and I am now in the final stages on completing my PhD in Environmental Geography at Texas State University.
In addition to the financial support, WISP helped change how I see myself and my life. Each semester I was asked to reflect on who was supporting my educational goals and who was not supporting my goals. I was asked to make a budget and identify challenges before they became disasters. I felt that WISP was not just investing in my education, but really investing in me.
For the past 6 years I have begun paying it forward by providing small scholarships for over 200 girls in West Africa. With each scholarship, not only do I explicitly send a message to each girl that I believe in her potential, but I give her the gift of asking the type of reflective questions WISP used to change my own life more than a decade ago.
Today I am in a place in my life that I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams on that MLK Day in 2004. I have a rewarding job that allows me to use my education, creativity, and intellect. I get to teach students walking a path similar to mine in the Adult Degree Program at HT. I am just a dissertation away from completing my journey from GED to PhD.
And I can’t wait for what is still to come.