“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain
This time, only 5 short years ago, I still lived with my abuser. I had been living in the same house with him for nearly 14 years and we fought more often than not. Many nights, after having to defend myself against a constant barrage of criticism and abuse, I would sit alone in my bedroom, completely emotionally exhausted as I tried to understand what was happening to me. I questioned my faith at times back then because I couldn’t understand why God was allowing me to experience such pain. I felt so lost, afraid, beaten down. No matter what I did, I couldn’t make my abuser stop what he was doing to me. The question I asked over and over: “Why is this happening to me?!” It didn’t make sense to me at the time.
After reconnecting with Martha (one of my dearest friends from high school) on Facebook, we discovered many similarities in our lives, including that we’d both been in abusive relationships. She’d already escaped her situation and, therefore, was able to provide me with understanding and support during my escape. Our commonalities led to an ongoing dialogue about abuse and what we wanted to change about “the system”. Being in different countries, at the time, made it difficult coordinate anything, but we did what we could to lay the foundation for a “future” business once I returned to the U.S.
Everything changed when Martha received news that a colleague/friend of hers, Mara*, had been murdered by her abusive boyfriend, despite doing what was advised to protect herself (restraining order, keeping the police informed). Although I didn’t know Mara personally, her tragic end impacted me in ways I never imagined or expected. From then on, it became more than just a vague possibility of having a business “one day”; the circumstances of Mara’s death gave us a renewed determination to get the business going because she had taken measures to protect herself. Unfortunately, those measures weren’t enough to save her life.
As Martha and I discussed plans for the business, outlined our mission and thought about the services we wanted to provide, my sense of purpose began to emerge. I realized why the abuse happened to me: because my experiences, pain, understanding, compassion, my journey would enable me to help others. As time passed, I felt more and more convinced that this was what I was meant to do ~ turn my negative experiences into something positive. God had always been with me, seeing me through the adversity, showing me that I had the strength to be a survivor, despite the gaps in the system. I came to understand why so many women stay in their situations; very few people showed any compassion or understanding and I had to do everything alone, without a clue of how it all worked. I want to help clients by providing understanding, validation and hope while articulating their specific needs to relevant agencies and putting them in contact with the right people. Additionally, I want to enhance the support provided by existing agencies, [hopefully] easing their caseload.
So when I realized why I experienced the abuse, it finally made sense.
*Name changed to protect identity.
(Visit Café Sanctuary’s Outreach Service for more information. We are currently asking everyone to spread the word about us by sharing the link to our website, our Facebook page, our About.me Page. We are currently planning to publish a book, do some video conferences on Google Hangouts and, eventually, live radio shows. Café Sanctuary is making progress and we’re helping people!)