As October approaches we take a deeper look into domestic violence awareness. Domestic abuse can come in many forms & can be verbal, physical, & emotional. This month, take the time to research domestic violence & the staggering numbers of those affected by this issue. If you or someone you love is being personally affected by domestic violence, please reach out to your local shelter or domestic violence organization. I hope my story can touch, encourage, & motivate one of you beautiful women going through this tough journey.

I never thought my high school sweetheart would be the one to completely shatter my world. I never thought that someone who was supposed to make life wonderful would forever mark my life in the worst way. But he did.

I spent four long years of my life thinking that the verbal, physical, & emotional abuse was a stage, that it was normal, & that it would eventually end. I believed, as a nurturer I could change the way he spoke, thought, & behaved towards me.

I lived in the littlest bubble I could. No one knew what was happening & everyone was jealous of the relationship they thought I had and that they craved so badly. He was a superstar athlete, most popular in school, tall, handsome, and drove a nice car. At 18 years old, I thought my life was perfect. At 21, I realized that my life had been destroyed and that something had to change.

So here’s my letter to you sweet woman. Here is my outpouring of love for you. Here is my letter of hope that things will change for you, that life will get better, and that by moving forward you will grow in strength, inner beauty, self worth, love, & faith.

1.  Words DO matter. Growing up we always sang that silly song, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” Boy was that song wrong. There is actually something very powerful in words. Words can have a lasting impact on the way we view ourselves & the lack of self-confidence that those words can bring. Often times, harsh words get overlooked or written off as an angry moment or slip up in someone’s vocabulary. But it’s not a mistake. Words are very powerful and are a form of abuse as well. If someone you love is hurting you with words, degrading your spirit, or using words to make you feel helpless; this is NOT okay.

2.  If it happens once, it will happen again. Abuse is a pattern, especially in the physical form. I remember the first time my ex-husband ever raised his hand to me and slapped me on the arm. Initially, I felt guilty for making him so angry that he would feel the need to hit me, and after a year of being hit in the arm, leg, back of the head, and face; I realized it was not my issue but his. It progressively got worse & the abuse became easier for him after every hit. Physical abuse is not ok. If it happens once, it WILL happen again. If they had the nerve to do it once, that confidence will stay for the next time.

3. When someone asks, ANSWER; and answer honestly. The biggest mistake I ever made was saying everything was OK when it wasn’t. I could have saved myself a couple of years of heartache by saying, “yes there’s a problem” to a girlfriend who asked about my bruises and constant headaches. Although it can be difficult and embarrassing to answer the questions honestly, you cannot be helped if no one knows what you are going through. You might think you are hiding the pain well, but someone that sees through the pain and is willing to reach out is a Godsend and you should count on that friend. If you are ready to end the cycle of abuse and no one even knows your struggle, there are hotlines and shelters that can help you.

4. There is hope past GOODBYE. Thank you Lord for this realization. Thank you Lord for deliverance. 7 years, a wonderful new husband and young boy later, my life is all I could ever dream it to be. When I finally had the strength to say goodbye and seek therapy & Christ for healing; I was in awe of His blessings, mercy, and forgiveness that came with it. The guilt and shame I initially felt all faded away at the foot of the cross. My heart healed, my scars faded, and my strength returned. I finished training for my career and even added a new profession, I re-kindled relationships with friends I had lost, and I let go of some toxic relationships that were hindering my progression. I wish I could have told my young self that it would all be okay. I wish I would have known how great life could be after the abuse. I so wish I knew the forgiveness and healing that would come from saying goodbye. If you are there, if you are ready to move forward…do it! No fear, no doubt, no worries. It WILL be okay, it DOES get better, and there IS life after abuse.

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