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1:4 #6, The Paramedic

anonymous lady at coffee shop

Please share what happened to you:

I’ve had several experiences with domestic violence.  I was molested between ages 4-6, so I grew up confused and mistrustful of people.  I never felt safe in my world.  My father was abusive physically and emotionally, so this environment was “normal” to me.  I didn’t know there was any other way to live.
Sadly, I gave a boy a ride home from school when I was 17, and he directed me to an automotive garage, where he told me his car was waiting to be picked up.  After driving around the back, fear began to creep up my spine…the place was abandoned.  He directed me to park, and shut off my engine.  He proceded to push me down, tear off my shorts, and rape me.  No amount of pleading, crying or fighting could stop him.  I told him I was a virgin, but he just wouldn’t stop.  I just remember being hit and choked, and there being blood on my clothes.  I was in shock afterwards, and felt like the world was in slow motion.  He had me drive him to his house, and I could barely drive, I was shaking so badly.  I blamed myself for being so stupid and naive.  I was dirty and ruined now, I thought.  So I got into the shower, and scrubbed myself raw, while I cried like my heart was broken.  I threw away my bloody clothes, and tried to push the incident out of my mind, like I always had before.  Growing up in an abusive environment, you learn to survive by moving forward.  It wasn’t gone, however, it was just repressed.

A few years later, I was waiting to meet a girlfriend at a club, and met a friendly guy.  I ordered one drink, and after a few minutes, I remember asking him if we were in the same place?  Or did we leave and go somewhere else, as I was not recognizing my surroundings.  That’s the last memory I have until I woke up naked in his bed, with him raping my unconscious body.  I know now that he drugged my drink.  I grabbed my clothes and ran out without shoes on, and walked for hours back to my car in a fog.  How could this happen again?  How could I be so careless?  Self-blame is the first response many times.  I’ve had to learn over the years that it wasn’t my fault.  I went thru a cycle of abusive relationships, both mentally and physically.  They reinforced how I felt about myself.  We accept the love we think we deserve, and that’s all I thought I deserved.  I’ve had to learn a process of forgiveness, self-caring, and gaining self respect.  It’s an ongoing struggle, but I’m doing better at accepting and receiving love.  Real, healthy love.  From myself, first and foremost.

How are you doing now?

     Sadly, I’ve had more than my fair share of domestic violence…more than a lot of people, but sadly, I know there are many more women out there who have faired much worse than I, and have even paid with their lives.  I’m blessed to be able to share my experiences, in the hopes that it might help another woman avoid the pitfalls and mistakes I’ve made.  I’m a Paramedic, and have used my training and personal experiences to help women who are victims themselves of rapes, beatings at the hands of someone who claimed to love them, and those who are terrified to leave, and don’t know what options and resources are available out there for them.  And just a simple human gesture, like “I can’t image how you must be feeling…and I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through, but please know it’s NOT YOUR FAULT.  You’re a survivor, and I promise that each day, you’ll get a little bit stronger, and heal just a tiny bit more.  I know…because I’ve been there myself.  I’ve been raped.  I’ve been hit.  There’s no excuse and no sense to what has happened here today.  But let’s get you some help.  You are NOT ALONE, I promise you.  Take my hand….”.  Just having empathy with a woman who is hurting is a common connection.  It’s a language only victims of violence can speak and understand.  I hope in some small part, I can not only do my job, but start the journey of  healing emotionally in some small way.  It’s the only way I can make sense of what’s happened to me…I was meant to turn something terrible into a tool for helping and healing.  And that’s how I make sense of the world, when nothing seems to make any sense at all.

Paramedic at coffee shop

Is there anything  about domestic violence you’d like to tell the world?

     First of all, it’s not your fault.  It doesn’t matter how you’re dressed, if you’re having a drink with the girls, if you went on a date with a guy and changed your mind about how far things should go.  It’s your body, and your choice.  No always means no.  Every single time, no exceptions.  Also, a woman gets raped every 6 seconds…and that’s ONLY what is statistically reported, so the numbers are much higher.  Women need to be proactive, not reactive, with those odds against them.  Educate yourselves.  Park in lighted areas at night.  Have keys in hand, and observe your surroundings.  Don’t let yourself be drinking and left alone…have a buddy system in place.  Girls who come together leave together, with one sober driver to keep everyone in check.  Self defense classes are INDISPENSABLE!!!!  Protect yourself BEFORE AN INCIDENT!!!  And it’s not your fault if you’re hit or hurt in any way….REPORT THE CRIME.  Don’t let fear or shame stop you from standing up for yourselves.  Don’t let them get away with it.  Silence won’t stop the violence.  You just might be saving your life, or the life of another woman.  There IS HELP OUT THERE!  Have a plan, a code word for help, a bag packed at a friend’s house if you need to escape, and copies of all important documents in your emergency bag.  Always have a plan A,B, and C.  And talking about it gets the word out.  It’s time to take domestic violence out of the shame of darkness, and into the light of healing.

Guarded

1:4 #5, The College Student

Student with Coffee Please share what happened to you:

Well when i was in middle school, my best friend at the time had introduced me to a boy. He was only a little over a year older than me, but he was big. At least 6’4 and over 200lbs. Not fat, but muscular. I may have flirted with him a bit, but being a virgin, i was in no rush to go all the way. One sunny day, he invited me to the park. It was a beautiful park with a wooded area covered in trees. He asked me to follow him, and i did. I was young and naive and decided I could trust him. He led me into the woods. What happened next I did not expect. He started kissing me and taking my shirt off. Being in a public park I was not too thrilled with the idea. He continued and took my bra off and my skirt and underwear. Why wasn’t I stopping him? That same question ran through my head until i was completely naked and he was holding me down by the shoulders while i was laying on my back on the ground. Suddenly, I couldn’t think anymore. No matter what I did, there was just silence in my head. I was frozen, like some people are as they take a test. All of a sudden, I felt a horrifying pain, but I couldn’t move. The pain lasted for longer than I could count. I felt tears rolling down my cheeks and I was pretty sure I was bleeding, you know, down there. After what felt like forever, he finally got up and threw my clothes on my stomach and told me to get dressed. I didn’t want to move, but I did. I got up, got dressed, and went on with my day as if nothing had happened. I felt ashamed. My mom didn’t like that boy from the moment she met him, so I was too scared to tell her. I managed to hold onto that piece of information until I was in college before revealing it to my family. Im very lucky that I froze up instead of fought him, because I have a feeling it could have been a lot worse.Student thinking

How are you doing now?

Well, I think I am doing really well. I have lots of support behind me and I am in counseling. I have also considered helping out at a rape center. I don’t get flashbacks anymore, but I can’t say I am or will ever be 100% recovered from that event.

college student with coffee and phone

Is there anything  about domestic violence you’d like to tell the world?

Whether it is domestic violence, an abusive relationship of some sort, rape, or any of the negative things that can happen, seek help. You are not alone and can get through this. You don’t deserve it, no matter what you convince yourself or what the abusive person is trying to tell you. It is not your fault. Also, i want everyone to take abuse and violence more seriously. Using the term rape so loosely is hurtful. You don’t realize what the person you are saying it to has gone through. Your words could trigger a flashback. Please be careful and choose your words wisely. And to those that use rape as an excuse or a way to get attention, shame on you. Until you have experienced it, you will never understand what all of us survivors (even past victims) have had to encounter.

Student Portrait

1:4 #4, The Animal/Agriculture Worker

Domestic VIolence Volunteer #4

(editors note: This lady escaped her situation years ago. )

Please share what happened to you:

Honestly, I’m still processing things. I keep myself busy so I don’t have to. I put my faith and trust in all the wrong people- at this point- I’m numb. I’m not ready to face it. At times- I still feel it’s presence.

How are you doing now?

I just keep busy. I find happiness in the little things.

Is there anything  about domestic violence you’d like to tell the world?

Please, women and men (and children!) learn to depend on no one but yourself. Take care of YOU. You have to make yourself happy, NO one else will do it for you.

 

Domestic Violence Volunteer #4

Here is my initial call for volunteers from my blog

This post is the post I did on my personal blog site, with a few small edits. I’m currently working with my first volunteers and hope to publish those photos soon!

When I heard that about 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their life time, I was shocked and saddened. I’ve known several women in my lifetime that have told me of their experience so, I knew it happened, but not at that level. I’d like to see what I can do to change that, even a little. Some of my life experiences have shown me what it’s like to be part of a statistic. It can be quite an attack on the core.

I’m not sure exactly how this will play out in the end, but here’s what I want to try. I want to put faces on this. I think too many people think “oh, that only happens to other people, not people like me”. I want to use kind of a Humans of New York approach. If you’ve experienced domestic violence (male or female!) and are brave enough to share and, maybe, make a difference, please contact me. You can use that email link, the contact form for my page, or private message me on Face Book. We’ll meet someplace and take a few simple portraits of you in nice natural light. I’ll do it digitally, I think in black and white. You’ll be in your normal clothes, whatever hair and make up you usually show the world. I hope the shoot itself doesn’t take more than 10 minutes out of your life. You’ll tell me whatever you care to share about the experience (I’ll use my phone to record your comment, or maybe you can email me before hand) and I’ll post the photo. I anticipate the format of the experience being something like First Name, Age, Job (maybe your city?) : and anything from one or two sentences to a paragraph or two about what happened. No names of the person who violated your trust.

I’m not sure how many folks will be strong enough to step forward, or how many I’ll be able to take, but, I’m willing to try if you are. You need to be reasonably sure the perpetrator won’t feel the need to exact a toll for your sharing of the violence with the world. Your safety comes first. Maybe we can get enough to do a gallery show, or a book. I don’t know where this will go. I do think they’ll be amongst the most important photos I’ve done.