I Believe

“I believe in pink.

I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner.

I believe in kissing, kissing a lot.

believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.

I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.

I believe that tomorrow is another day, and I believe in miracles.” 

― Audrey Hepburn

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Anyone who has seen my wedding dress (or my Netflix instant queue) knows I love me some Audrey Hepburn.  I also love her quote above, which got me to thinking about what exactly I believe in.  After some careful deliberation, I am here to write it down.

I believe in a world where women are not viewed as the weaker sex.   I believe in a nation where equality for women is guaranteed in the constitution. I believe in an economy where women are awarded equal pay for equal work.  I believe in a culture where women are valued for their character rather than devalued as sex objects.

I believe in a world free of abuse.  I believe that women deserve to be cherished and not beaten by their husbands.  I believe that every woman, young and old, has the right to feel safe and beautiful.

I believe it’s time for society to stop blaming victims and start holding perpetrators accountable.  I believe it’s time to stop bombarding young men and women with media that says it’s ok to disrespect and objectify women.  I believe in empowering young women to fulfill their potential rather than shrink into gender roles; because I believe that every person, regardless of gender, has a right to chase her dreams.

 I believe it is not just mine, but every persons responsibility to make it happen.

I believe in women empowering women.  I believe it is about time we stand together as a community.  I believe that we, as women, have the power to make a change.

I believe in a world where anything is possible. I believe that every victim of violence has an opportunity to see her day in the sun.  I believe that every survivor of abuse has more strength and deep resolve than most people could ever understand, and I believe it’s time for each to stop viewing herself as damaged but rather as the resilient and lovely survivor she is.  I believe that hardship breeds compassion.  I believe that struggle builds resolve.  I believe that the most beautiful people are often the ones who have had the most difficult lives.  I believe that every survivor of abuse has the strength within her to live her dreams.  I believe each of these women has the power to touch the world and make a positive impact.  I believe that survivors of abuse are beautiful people with gifts to share with this world.

Where others see weakness, I can see the truth.  Low self esteem does not lead to abuse, abuse leads to low self esteem.  People who seek out victims to abuse are masterful manipulators who distort the truth in their own minds to justify their behavior.  They are incapable of taking responsibility for any of their actions and blame all their problems on other people. When they are in the midst of berating their victims, they do so with absolute conviction.  They believe what they are saying to their very core.  How many people in this world can tune out and ignore that kind of verbal assault?  Not any that I can think of.  How about if the person saying it is someone you love, someone you have invested years of a relationship with, someone you were convinced would do anything for you, someone who loved you?

If people who were abusive started the abuse on day 1, how many women do you think would stay?  None? That’s because it doesn’t.  In my case, it was years before the real assault on my self esteem started, and the physical violence didn’t happen until after we were married. By the time my abuser started needling my self worth, I had a good relationship with him for long enough that I had no reason not to believe him.  When he told me I was depressed and bringing him down, I thought he was right.  It never occurred to me that the place it was coming from was him resenting me for going to grad school.  Over time he took more and more ground until one day I realized that this man I thought we do anything for me, really didn’t care about my feelings at all.  Unfortunately for me, that day was my wedding day.

Yes he still loved me, but his love came with conditions: conditions and standards no person could live up to.  How do you please someone who is hell bent on making you a scape goat for every problem in his life?

No woman, man, or child deserves that.  No one deserves to be another person’s punching bag.  Victims of abuse don’t actively seek out the abuse, and they aren’t the problem.  The problem stems from individuals to weak to take responsibility for their own issues.  Society needs to understand that women don’t choose to be with abusers, and they don’t choose to stay.  Instead, they are systematically cut off from their families, friends, jobs, and finances.  They are blocked from any possible means of escape or ties to their identity.  So before any member of society picks up another finger to point at a victim of abuse and say she deserved it, I would challenge him or her to go ahead and spend years isolated from their loved ones with someone regularly telling them how worthless they and then see if they have the same strength and conviction to leave when things get violent.

Domestic Violence Awareness is something I am passionate about.  So passionate in fact, that I have run a half marathon, full marathon, the Spartan Ultra Beast, and now the Bimbler’s Bluff 50K all in an effort to raise money and awareness… not to mention inspire other survivors of abuse to go chase their dreams!  However I didn’t choose this cause.  Abuse is something that happened to me, and while it dramatically affected the person I am today, it does not define me.  It’s also something I refuse to be ashamed of.  If anyone should be ashamed it’s my abuser, and perhaps the officer who took it upon himself to attempt to publicly ridicule me for reporting the abuse… and all the people who pointed out to me that I must be at least partially responsible “because it takes two” after all.

If one in four women are abused in their lifetime, someone please explain to me how so many of us are getting it wrong?  Better yet, explain to me why we are all so ashamed of it?  Perhaps, because society thinks we should be.  However, I am here to point my finger back at society and say SHAME ON YOU!  Shame on you for telling my abuser and people like him that it’s ok to beat your wife.  Shame on you for turning a blind eye when so many people, including children, are dying at the hands of domestic violence.  One in five teenagers has been threatened or beaten by a boyfriend- TEENAGEERS!  Those are your daughters people!   While I’m sure it’s easier to blame people like me for what’s happened to us, it’s about time you start caring because the statistics show someone you love has already been affected.

So while you are being drowned in Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness this month, maybe you can take a minute or two to reflect on how you can help put an end to domestic violence.  After all, what does it say about us as a society really when we make a huge fuss about women dying from breast cancer, but are indifferent when they die at the hands of their husbands?  How can we care about one and not the other and still say we care about women?  Yes, breast cancer is awful, disfiguring, and life threatening, and raising awareness is important; but domestic violence is also awful, disfiguring, and life threatening, and it affects twice as many women.  Why are we not as focused on educating young women on the early signs of abuse as we are on mammograms?

I don’t expect the rest of the world to care as much about domestic violence as I do.  Nor do I expect them to understand where I’m coming from or what it’s like to be abused.  However it is my sincere hope that I can get some people to at least change the way the think about abuse and maybe, just maybe, open some dialogue.  Domestic Violence is no less preventable than late stage breast cancer.  What we need is to educate our society and children.  We need to value women as equal members of society, and we need to support victims of violence.  It’s time to end the stigma.

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