We had it all. We had great jobs. We were involved in the community. We had the nice house. We lived in the good neighborhood. We had the perfect marriage, until the doors closed. Until the shades were drawn.

We lived a seemingly beautiful life in a small town in Georgia. I married my longtime love. I had dreamed of creating a life with this man I’d fallen in love with in college for so long. It was all I had ever pictured for my future.

In those dreams I never saw the bruises that were ahead of me.

Everyone around us saw us as an incredibly happy couple, and we started out that way. But slowly, behind closed doors, things began to change. It started small, but the little moments of verbal abuse turned into major explosive periods of physical abuse.

What was once a picturesque marriage quickly disintegrated into a toxic relationship.

On Super Bowl Sunday, 2014, I found myself “lucky to be alive.” The doctors said the blow to my head was just to the right of sending me into a coma, or worse. We had just said “I do” two years earlier, and there I was with one eye completely swollen shut and a battered torso – all at the hands of the man I had built this beautiful life with.

This wasn’t supposed to happen to me.

I was driven, intuitive, happy-go-lucky. I was a college graduate. I had a career that had scaled from working on Capitol Hill to working for Facebook, and working side-by- side with Sheryl Sandberg as she launched Lean In. I was with my college sweetheart, and I loved this man. More than that, I admired this man. However, none of that mattered. I realized that night, domestic violence doesn’t care what life you dreamed of, or planned. Domestic violence doesn’t care how much money you have, or don’t have. It can strike at any time, literally and figuratively.

On paper, I had it all. And I still found myself in the statistic that 1 in every 4 women will will have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. [1] I realized that night, this could happen to anyone. As those thoughts ran through my head, I knew I had to use my circumstances to make a difference in this epidemic. My first mission was to protect myself, then I would tell my story and help others do the same. I refused to be silenced by the bruises, and I was adamant that I’d help others find their voices again too.

In a horrific situation, I was one of the lucky ones. I had a built-in support system and the ability to change my circumstances. But what I quickly saw in the domestic violence shelters was that I was the unicorn. Too many women and men do not have the support system or ability to get out of the volatile relationships they are in. In my mind, that seemed unacceptable.

In October 2017, I launched Thread Talk. What started as the determination that these victims would not be silenced or alone, turned into my best idea yet.

What I learned through my experience is that domestic violence shelters provide much more than just a roof and a bed. These buildings are sources of safety and security for victims in their most vulnerable times. These shelters help survivors get back on their feet, rebuild their lives, and rediscover their confidence. These shelters not only change lives, they save lives. These shelters become the support systems that many survivors long for.

My brand exists to spread opportunity with comfort.

Through my own situation, I quickly realized domestic violence shelters needed more support. I could sit around and wallow in my broken dreams, or I could create new ones that change not only my life, but the lives of others.

When I looked back at the things that helped me find my confidence again, I thought of those that brought me comfort. Whether it was a call, visit from a friend, or the encouraging email or text message, the comfort I experienced during this time in my life has stayed with me ever since. I knew that was what I wanted to provide to others walking this same path. When I think of comfort, I think of being under a warm blanket on the couch, in the safety of my home – warm, secure, safe and comfortable. Those are words that victims of domestic violence long to feel again. I wanted to make my life’s work something that would impact the lives of other survivors, so I created a series of soft, beautiful throw blankets that emanates warmth and comfort. These blankets not only bring comfort to the recipients, but also support domestic violence shelters. A portion of the proceeds are donated to domesticshelters.org to fund critical wish list items for its more than 2600+ shelters nationwide. My brand is a means to help provide that much needed assistance.

I could have hidden in silence, waiting until the bruises faded and the wounds healed and moved on with my life. I could have stayed in my marriage, but the knowledge of so many others in my same situation led me to walk away, build this brand and dedicate my life to empowering domestic violence survivors. It is the confidence that I strive to instill in them that will change their lives, and I want to use my story to show how something meant to harm can birth something so good.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/index.html