It’s December; a light snow is falling outside the front door of my home, the fireplace is warming the living room, and from the outside looking in, life is picturesque. I’m engaged to the man of my dreams. Recent photos of when he proposed light up my Facebook wall like the Christmas lights strung along the homes outside. I appear to dote on wedding planning, tour venues with my best vina, and draft up cute little heart shaped engagement announcements to send to friends and family around the state. To an outsider, I am happy; how could I not be?
It’s December; a light snow is falling outside the front door of my home, but I am too afraid to notice my favorite type of weather. The fireplace is warming the living room, and I am bent over the back of a couch with my fiancé screaming directly into my face while shaking me by the shoulders. I’m engaged to the man who has scolded me, berated me, and abused me for nearly two years now. The photos scattered about my social media have a different story to tell; dark circles ring my eyes, I’ve covered bruises on my collarbone expertly, and I’ve tried to mediate my distant eyes as best I can. When doting on wedding planning, I concern myself primarily with ensuring that everything is just right to prevent another fight gone bad. To an outsider, I am happy; but in truth, I am miserable.
Domestic abuse was not something I ever believed would happen to me.
Growing up, I had been taught that so long as I guarded my heart and was careful who I let in, I would only set myself up for success in relationships. As a society, we hold domestic aggression and battery at an arms length; it won’t happen to me, he isn’t that kind of man, it was only once. These are phrases commonly repeated by women all around the world; phrases I repeated to myself many times over that two year period.
But the truth is, domestic abuse is terrifyingly common: according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Almost half (47.5%) of American Indian/Alaska Native women, 45.1% of non-Hispanic Black women, 37.3% of non-Hispanic White women, 34.4% of Hispanic women, and 18.3% of Asian-Pacific Islander women experience contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the CDC.
Regardless of how it comes about, domestic abuse is a terrifying prospect to handle on your own. After finally leaving the toxic relationship, I was entirely unsure of where to turn. I felt completely alone, isolated from friends and family, and as though I had no resources available to me to help cope with the seemingly crushing weight of what I had just been through. However, I am here to assure you; there are so many hidden gems for those coming out of an abusive situation, whether it be a relationship, family home, or toxic friendship.
One of the most helpful resources I found in my attempts to fill the hole which my ex had created was putting myself back out there. No, I don’t mean in the sense of dating. I mean getting reconnected with the world around me, finding new vinas, new hobbies, and getting involved in my community.
Shortly after my breakup, I moved to a new city, which spelt trouble in the way of having friends to lean on. The Hey! VINA app was a complete life saver. Within days, I connected with amazing women in my area, went on a group hike, had a coffee date, and felt as though people around me truly cared about my experiences and opinions.
Outside of making new best friends, I rediscovered old hobbies that I hadn’t been able to engage in for quite a while. I began hiking again, picked writing back up, and set aside time each night to read something that interested me. I finally felt as though my actions were worth something. Having time to myself to engage in personal hobbies gave me a sense of peace and purpose in my life. Hiking in the serene Wasatch mountains surrounding Salt Lake City allowed me to ground myself within my surroundings. This gave me an invaluable opportunity; the opportunity to make peace with my past and finally leave it behind.
Vinas, if you’re coming out of an abusive situation, the most important thing I can tell you is that you aren’t alone. There are so many incredible people waiting to come out of the woodwork and make your life feel worth living again. It’s OK to cry, to scream, to vent for as long as you need to. But once you’re ready to begin healing, the journey is magical. I can say wholeheartedly that I wouldn’t change a thing about my past, because the healing path that it set me on has made me the strong, courageous, and talented woman I am today. There is hope; all you have to do is chase it.
If you’re going through a tough time, start looking for new vinas today by clicking here. And if you or someone you know in the U.S. is in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.