Not too long ago, I escaped an abusive marriage. I fled over the miles to find peace, refuge, and security. It is by far the bravest thing I have done, besides not giving up on life in the midst of the turmoil and unrelenting darkness that surrounded me all those years. Growing up in an environment where abuse was seen as a norm, I had pushed away the warning signs that this relationship was no good for me. In fact, I blamed myself and thought I deserved to be treated badly—to be punished for my mistakes. Most often, I ignored the still, small voice in my heart that yearned to bring me comfort and remind me that I was not alone.
To deal with the pain of abuse and rejection, I developed an addiction to alcohol. It seemed like this was my only escape from reality. Having more than a few drinks was the only way to ease the pain of the emotional hurt, negligence, and crazy games within my relationship. For me, it seemed like the only way to survive and get through another night. Kept away from the counsel of my family and friends, I had no one I could freely open up to with the assurance of receiving help. I woke up each day with a sense of terror from the nightmares that stole my sleep at night. Sitting in fear all day of what would happen next, I could hardly ever eat. I withdrew from people even more, kept to myself, and was consumed by depression, accompanied often by fantasies of death.
A month after my second attempt to kill myself, I met two wonderful people who became life-changing friends. With their help, I was able to get away from the abuse and danger, and I soon found solace in a non-profit in New Delhi called Maitri India. Maitri is a humanitarian and developmental organization that is committed to facilitating citizenship rights, basic services, dignity, and respect for some of the most vulnerable populations. I was lucky to find them, as the support they have given me is beyond what they even promise to do. Today, not only do I have their help as a domestic violence survivor, but I am also given the opportunity to creatively be a part of the work they do in bringing care and support to those in need.
I still struggle with depression and pangs of anxiety each time I am in a new situation I wasn’t allowed to experience before. It was never easy being in the trauma of abuse, feeling like my heart weighed so much that I couldn’t even find the strength to get out of bed and put my feet on the floor. Even now, far from such pain, it still isn’t easy; my mind is so used to believing there is always something to be afraid or hyper vigilant about. However, with support from new friends, community, and God, I am able to overcome. Today, I choose to believe differently. With help and hard work, life is hopeful.
I urge you today to be that friend who believes in the stories of those who need to count on you. If you don’t know what to do, perhaps you can find someone who does. And if you are the one hiding behind the pain of fear and abuse, help is possible. Never give up.
It’s estimated that one in three women worldwide have been physically or sexually assaulted by a former or current intimate partner. “Violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization Director-General.
Recognizing the urgent need to create safe spaces for women in the public and private spheres, Maitri has taken a leadership role in launching a Million Signature Campaign called “Count On Me.” Maitri’s goal is to motivate and inspire people to become part of the movement and the solution to end violence against women. This is necessary to the well-being and mental health of women and girls, as well as their families and communities—but this cannot happen without changing the social mindsets that accept violence. If you’d like to support the Count On Me Campaign sign your name and take the pledge to never commit, allow, or encourage any form of abuse and to respect all women. Then, please take a moment to share this pledge with your friends and family. Spread the word and let those suffering know there is help and they are not alone.
October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this is a perfect time to get educated about this issue and find ways to get involved. For more info, check out:
Are you a victim of domestic violence or abuse and need help? You deserve hope and healing, and it is available to you. Contact your local authorities or one of these U.S. hotlines:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
*Author’s name has been changed to protect privacy.