1:4 #22 , The Butterfly After the Storm

(Editor’s note: I’ve decided to open up the site to do just the stories without photos. I think it might allow more survivors to share their stories. And more readers to see themselves in the stories and know they’re not alone. In the next week or so, I plan to develop a form on the site for folks to submit their stories for publication without photos, with the option for me to do photos if that works for the survivors.  When I asked this survivor how folks might see her for the second part of the title, she said “People see me as a person who has beat the statistic. A child that’s survived the storm of a toxic household. People see me as a butterfly. Completely transformed.” )

Please share what happened to you:

I was not personally abused myself by anyone but, I lived in the toxic household of domestic violence. Over a period of eight years I watched my mother be involved in two domestic abusive relationships. I witnessed each time as they as both unraveled and the relationships went through the cycles. They would make her feel like she was the best thing in the world to have ever happened to them. Then it would be arguments late into the night. Followed by the first shove, spit, or slap. Then when she felt bold enough to fight back they would turn into punches. Some nights I’d be to busy trying to protect my baby brother and other nights I tried my best to protect her. During her second relationship she had completed the domestic violence cycle and had become the final outcome. My mother lost her life to the hands of her abuser on June 20, 2007 after she finally made the decision to leave.

How are you now?

I am healing as gracefully as I can. I am not a fifteen year old teen anymore but, now a twenty six year old mother of two. I am digging deep to heal the wounds that had yet to be resolved. Some days I’m in great spirits and feel better than others. An other days I cry for no reason. I carry the effects of my mother’s decision to stay, the wound from the decisions I’ve made to cope with the loss, and the pain of knowing I will never see her again. In my healing though I am growing. Learning that love is not pain and that what I saw is not everyone’s reality or every mans intention. To help with my pain I’ve advocated sites via social media to bring awareness to the cause. I’ve also begun journaling, seeking all levels of spirituality, and inner peace.

What would you like to tell the world about domestic violence?

I would like to say that domestic violence is a vicious cycle. That the victim tends to think that they are the only ones being hurt by physical pain. As a child without a mother I beg to differ. The child faces abuse on a completely different level and it will take them just as long to heal from the effects of it. I would also like to say domestic violence does not have a face, in meaning, no one type of woman OR man is excluded. It can happen to anyone, for any reason, at any time. Know the red flags, get educated, seek help if you think your in danger. Please for the sake of those who love you don’t wait.

Powerful Podcast About Abuse from a Survivor

I’ve been listening to a powerful podcast series by Jennifer Gulbrandsen that starts here Second Skate.

Jennifer is smart, funny and painfully honest about the trainwreck she somehow made it through. And is still trying to navigate, really.  People that are top performers in some arenas might be going through something you have no clue about. She talks about “blowback” and the fear of it at the end of the podcast and it really struck a chord with me. She goes into a lot of detail about who shouldn’t listen to the podcast at the beginning. Trigger warning: She went through some serious abuse of every kind. She doesn’t go into too much detail, but, it’s not for kids, or those still struggling with abuse and the aftereffects. The episodes are long, but, she has a lot to unpack…


Fighting Back Against Domestic Violence: An Academic Guide to Aid Victims of Abuse

I was recently contacted by a representative of the Frye Education Institute, an organization dedicated to the higher education community and information sector. She pointed out a great resource at Rutger’s University. She said :

I came across your website and resources that speak on domestic violence, abuse victims and violence prevention. Because of this, I wanted to bring this Rutgers University academic resource to your attention. This extensive guide highlights the prevalence and various types of domestic violence in America and how to understand the signs of an abusive relationship. Additionally, the resource provides victims with a list of groups, organizations and hotlines that can help them escape abusive situations, rebuild their lives and recover from the mental health impacts of abusive trauma. Our goal is to use education and awareness to promote social change and eliminate domestic violence while providing victims with the necessary resources to seek help and create a safer environment for themselves.

Rutgers University Domestic VIolence and Abusive Relationships Awareness

It’s a great resource with lots of valuable information with minimal fluff. It might save folks a lot of time on Google to just go the the Rutger’s link above.

I can see this information helping those in the abusive relationship and/or the folks trying to understand abusive relationships and help others they know in bad situations.

Thanks Frye Education Institute!


Guest Post: Fighting Back: Lessons from a Survivor

(ED Note: This article was submitted by Marie Miguel with some valuable insights)


Fighting Back: Lessons from a Survivor

Domestic violence can be a variety of different things such as verbal abuse, intimidation, sexual abuse, mental abuse, economic deprivation, threats of violence, and physical abuse. In the United States, a woman is beaten every 10 seconds. Over 1.3 million women in the United States are victims of domestic abuse every year. One thing that almost anyone who has experienced domestic violence or abuse will tell you is that it is devastating. Having someone you love, that is supposed to love you, hurt you is such a painful experience it is hard to explain in words. Another thing you may be shocked to learn is that the relationship was not always that way. You may think that an abuser is always an abuser from the beginning and that we stay with them because we are stupid or weak. False.


The first thing the abuser does is win you over with their super sweet personality. They shower you with love and never get mad at you for anything. You think you have found the perfect person. Once you are hooked, they usually start by isolating you from your friends and family. It starts out small, and you do not even realize it is happening. One day, you realize you do not have any friends, and you never talk to your family anymore.

Emotional Abuse

Your abuser will make sure you feel as low as you possibly can by drilling it into your head that you are worthless, stupid, powerless, ugly, and that nobody will ever want you. There will be nothing you can do to make your abuser stop once this has started and you will never be able to please him or do anything right according to him.

Physical Abuse

The physical abuse starts next in most cases. It is a constant cycle of your partner hurting you and then apologizing and saying it will never happen again. Then, there is a short period of calm when everything seems like it will be okay. These periods get shorter and shorter until the cycle starts over. You are constantly tense, walking on eggshells, trying to make sure everything is “perfect” so your partner will not get angry. But, it does not matter. You can do everything perfectly every single day, and he will still find a reason to hit you, kick you, strangle you, etc.

It is Not Your Fault

No matter what your partner or anyone else says, none of it is your fault. You may hear people say that you must like it since you stay with him. They think “Why doesn’t she just leave?” If it were only that simple. First of all, you are brainwashed into thinking nobody wants you, and you have no family or friends because he has pushed them all away. Then, he keeps the money, car keys, etc. so that you are unable to leave financially. Also, you may still be thinking that you can save the relationship if you keep trying. Do not listen to others who say that you should stay and work on things. If you are being abused, you need to find a way to get out. Call the police. Get a protection order to keep him away from you legally. Call a hotline, go to a shelter. If you want to fix the relationship, he has to get help first, and you need to be safe in the meantime. Get out. Get therapy. Every day in the United States, three women are killed by their abuser. Go before it is too late.

(Marie Miguel is an avid internet researcher. She is fueled by her determination to answer the many questions she hasn’t been able to find the answer to anywhere else. When she finds these answers she likes to spread the knowledge to others seeking help. She is always looking for outlets to share her information, therefore she occasionally has her content published on different websites and blogs. Even though she doesn’t run one for herself she loves contributing to others.)

1:4 #21, The Alternative Model

Survivor at Waters Edge

Please Share What Happened to You:

I was in a physically and mentally abusive relationship for the better half of 8 years. At first things were great and loving but over time I was worn down by his controlling behavior. Through his hand I was introduced to pain killers and we became addicted. This made it easier for him to control me. I shut out all my friends and family at its worst because I knew I wasn’t strong enough to walk away. It began with verbal threats and mockery and turned into me getting slapped, choked, dragged across the floor and stomped on. When I fought back he hit harder. I became suicidal and self harmed. He once put a knife in my hand and told me to kill myself. He had me convinced no one loved me. This continued until the day he left me.

Survivor showing her cutting scars


How are you now?

Survivor talking about her experience

These days I am doing much better! It took me a while to heal and move on but I am now in a very loving and supportive relationship. I will always have hurt in my heart but I also have much more room left for love.

I’m happy also to announce that I have been drug free since getting out of said toxic relationship. I am healthy and look forward to a more positive future. You can’t change the past but you can grow from it.

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

If you are in a domestic violence situation, speak up. You have to be heard to get help. I was cowardly and ignored the signs. Looking back, hindsight is 20/20, I know I should have left before it even began. You are not at fault, and you are not alone. You are loved! (Editor’s note: I told this survivor I didn’t think she was cowardly, rather she had been broken, which is part of the process many abusers use to get their way… )

Survivor with light in her hair

1:4 #20, The Golden Girl

(Editors Note: I’ve said many times that I get contacted after every post by other survivors who are thankful for the project, even if they can’t come forward.  This Survivor came to my first show, and found great healing from it. I have to tell you, I was more than a little proud and thankful for the healing power this site and these stories have…The Golden Girl is a reference to this survivor’s passion for Golden Retrievers, not the 80s sitcom! ) 

Please Share What Happened to You:

When visiting David’s opening of his work on Domestic Violence in Dover, I was flooded with memories, feelings and grief. I knew it was important for me to visit but I never realized the emotional impact it would have on me. I was emotionally and verbally abused by my parents from the moment I was born and probably in utero. I walked on eggshells never knowing when another shoe would drop or when I would be chastised for any number of offenses. To protect myself, I became a great reader of social cues and threatening behaviors. Although food was a great source of comfort for me, reading my parents’ mood was a gift and survival technique. Growing up was not about developing self- esteem, building self-confidence or finding my place in this world. It was about doing whatever necessary to please my parents and everyone I met from a total stranger to family member. It was about accommodating the needs of others. I lived in fear that my cover would be blown and people would find out that I was a horrible person. If my parents didn’t like me then who else could possibly like me? I lived a lifetime with parents who lacked their own self worth and the cycle continued

The sea has great healing power

How are you now?

The abuse did not stop even after I moved out on my own. I learned to handle it better. It was so important for me to grieve my dysfunctional childhood. I cried my heart out many times. My body and my psyche had internalized everything that was said and done to me for a lifetime. It is had become part of the brain neurons. Fortunately, I have learned to love myself and to value myself. I have learned that it is okay to have my own opinion and do what is best for me. I have learned to have self – compassion. I have learned that I can build new healthy, loving pathways in my brain so that I can feel joy. It is a journey. I have laspes. Anxiety, depression, food addiction and co-dependency are still part of my life. The difference is now they are not who I am but just a part of life. They no longer debilitate me. When they do appear, I can say,” Oh those again. That is an old story that I don’t need anymore.” I take one day at a time. My parents are deceased and I love them. I learned that I can believe my thoughts and old stories and suffer or I can check in with myself and find the joy and love that I deserve.

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

I want everyone to know that his or her journey and trauma is like no other journey or trauma. The skills and tools I have learned work for me. Each of us finds our way at our own pace and with our own strategies. The priority is to love oneself and know that no one has the right to demean or abuse of us in any way. We are precious and unique and are lovable and loved. We need to hug ourselves and spend time with positive and supportive people who will stand by us no matter what. We can make a positive, joyful life for ourselves and the kindness needs to start at home in our hearts. My hope is that we can have compassion for others and more importantly compassion for ourselves.

Videos about the Site and other related issues

I’ve been inspired by Brooke Shaden to start creating work, and posting it daily for 15 days. This is the third day and so far, so good. 3 Vlogs up on YouTube! I’ve created a page that you can see the link to just under the title bar of the site. It’s called ” Videos about the project”. Check them out! Subscribe to the channel on YouTube too!



1:4 # 19, “Yeya”

(ed note: This survivor’s first language is Spanish. “Yeya” is a loving term for “grandmother” in Spanish, a role this survivor enjoys more than any other!)

Please Share What Happened to You:

I grew up thinking that being beaten almost every day was a “normal acceptable thing”

I wasn’t a “daddy’s girl” like some of my school friends or these beautiful family movies I used to watch. I often ask myself “Why?”

The earliest beating I remember I was five years old. I can’t remember what was the reason why my father beat me up but I do remember is how he did it.
He came in from work drunk, he picked me up by the hair, started shaking me from side to side and threw me against the concrete wall. I also remember my mother’s face, she was terrified, pale, with her hands on her face standing in the corner .
Once my father finished beating me up, she picked me up, took me to my bedroom and put ice in a wash cloth and held it on the back on my head. it was so cold and I was so confused.
This kind of beatings, savage beatings,  were so often that I considered normal for years, if it wasn’t me, was my oldest brother or my middle brother, but more often was me.

One day I asked my mother why my father hated me so much.. she said “you are a female, the last name dies with you” – I didn’t understand at the moment if my mother also blamed me from not being a “boy.

My father used to hit me with his fists or kick me with steel toe boots,  or use belts or any other object he could find. Time out? Oh yeah he used those too, he made me kneel on tin lids that he specially customized for my time out sessions by poking holes and making me kneel on the side where you could honestly grate anything, and the minimum was an hour. I still have the scars.

He would often say ” Don’t ever think that I have any love for you” quite often.

After 15 years of his abuse, I decided to report him to social services, the employee was livid and terrified by the statement.
She did her part, I didn’t have a full understanding on what was supposed to happen, I was just hoping they will remove him from home.
Suddenly, 3 police cars arrived at my house, my father was reading the news paper on the porch as he often did, one of the officers got out of the car and explained the reason why they were there , then he said to my father “take care of that situation so we don’t have to go any further”. See my father was well known and had a lot of influence not only in our town but within the whole Island.

Knowing that I had 3 younger siblings, I confronted my father and I even threatened him with death if he ever laid a hand on any of my 3 younger siblings.

That was the last time my father beat me. He never touched my younger brother again  and the two younger siblings were never beaten.

I felt like I always had to protect not only my younger siblings, but also my mother.

When I reached 19 years old I met the father of my two sons. I never married him. I continued to be a victim, accepting not only beatings from him but also sexual abuse. When my first son was 9 months and I was pregnant with my second child, my mother’s sister sent me to Delaware … she was tired of seeing me with bruises.

How did I get out of it and went from a victim to a survivor? My father’s younger sister, aunt and godmother played a big role in my life. She was always very loving and supportive of me, she helped me to understand that my father and my mother were wrong and that it wasn’t my fault, but the strength, that one came on May 25th 1992 .. the day I had my first son.  I was born the same day he was born. He gave me a reason to fight, he gave me the strength, that day I decided to survive and not to take abuse from anyone ever again.

How are you now?

I also faced suicide, I lived for my sons, this will make sense to you as I tell you my story.
My sons gave me a reason to fight and to put all my fears, bad memories and pain on the back burner.
They are 18 months apart so it was like raising twins.
When they became teens, they needed me less and less, so I thought during that time. My mind found time to remember the awful things I went through an depression settled in. During the same time my work laid off everyone, the severance package wasn’t enough and finding a job in the financing industry was difficult because of the mortgage bubble.  Desperation and anxiety,  added to my depression,  drove me to over dose with anxiety medication. I felt my sons were better off without me. I wanted to stop the pain and I wanted my sons to have a better future. That’s the problem when you have been physically and emotionally abused by the man that is supposed to protect you. My oldest son found me and called 911, I was in the hospital for a while. It is still very difficult for me to talk about this.
I Regret what happened, I wasn’t in control at that time. That’s all I can say about that at this moment.

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

It is important to seek for professional help, but it’s also more important to have support from your love ones. Unfortunately, mental health and Domestic Violence are a big hush hush in this society and even more in the Hispanic or Latino culture.

The Education of Dave: A Talk I Gave Last Week

Some folks that heard my talk. I’m the 2nd from the left in jeans and blue and white shirt. Photo by a club member.

I gave a talk last week to the Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club in Millsboro, Delaware at their early morning meeting. I was invited to do so by an acquaintance that knows about my project and is a member of the Club. I was grateful for the opportunity and a little nervous about what to say about this project and so on. I decided to call it “The Education of Dave”. I talked about going from knowing of domestic violence from TV and one or two survivors, to finding out the national statistics are 1 woman in 4 will experience it here in the US. I talked about part of my education being that pretty much every woman in the US has already been or is going to be intimidated, groped, otherwise assaulted or killed by a guy (or more than once).  This was related to me by a few of the survivors and confirmed when I talked to (many!) other women about my project and none said “Oh, no Dave, it’s not every single woman” I talked a little about the Still Waters show and it’s affect on folks and some of the photographic choices we made for the project too.The Rotary members thanked me at the end of the talk. They were kind, gracious and sharing. Perhaps a little shaken too.

An interesting aside: In part of my talk, I talked about posting the very first survivor’s post, and how I spent about 20 minutes ready to hit the publish button, but wondering if it was going to help, had I done everything right, would there be harm to the survivor and so on. At the end of the meeting, it is the custom of  Rotary Clubs to stand and and recite  one of their Guiding Principles  called The Four Way Test:

“Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”

I was struck that the last two elements were closely tied to this project and my hesitations before publishing the first post. Slightly modified I wanted to be sure the project and posts would build up survivors and help others who needed it, and would it be safe and beneficial to all.
A couple of observations:

  • This isn’t a particularly fun subject at it’s core. I felt like i was leading some folks through the Holocaust Museum. Folks want to know, but facing evil straight on is hard…
  • I could tell a few folks were hurting from it. They thanked me at the end for giving the talk, but I need to figure out what to do with that when it happens. I suspect it’s going to happen any time I give a talk on the subject or the project. I tried to handle it with grace and empathy.
  • At the end of the talk, one of the ladies related that she had been groped at the Pumpkin Chunkin event just a few months ago. This stuff is a real battle Every.Damned.Day for the women in our country. I never knew til a few years ago.  The Social Justice Warriors call that “Male Privilege”. It used to irritate me to hear that term, but, if the shoe fits… I’m doing my best with this project to help others, but yeah…
  • Domestic Violence is ugly. It’s hidden for lots of reasons. I’ve been processing my reaction to giving the talk for the last week. The talk was hard to do, and the processing probably still isn’t over. Truth be told, I felt a little beat up afterwards. (Not by the Rotary club, they were awesome!) This is rough stuff. However…  I signed up for the job of talking about it to bring it into the light. If the survivors can share their stories, I can do my job by honoring that trust and sharing their stories and truths with others. We can make a difference. Maybe not for all the starfish, but certainly for the ones we can reach.

Thanks again to the Long Neck Sunrise Rotary Club for the invitation to share the project.

If you’d like me to talk about the project at your meeting or event,  please contact me!