I have been choked unconscious multiple times in my life, by the hands of someone I thought loved me. Yes, read that again: choked until I lost consciousness. It is one of the absolutely scariest feelings in the world to be so helpless. But I am one of the lucky ones because I survived. Many people die by strangulation at the hands of a ‘loved one’.
Abuse does not begin with physically putting your hands around someone’s neck and squeezing. No, abuse begins long before that. Abuse begins with belittling someone’s thoughts and feelings. Abuse begins with isolating someone from their circle of friends and family. If said friends and family are toxic, this can be quite easy to do. Abuse is a process of whittling down someone’s self esteem and confidence. Abuse is a process of isolating someone and making them dependent financially and emotionally long before hands are raised.
Watching the Gabby Petito case on the news the last few months has been so painful and difficult for me. I remember far too well how easy it was to make excuses for bad behavior. I also remember how easy it was for family, friends and even police to question me because he was a repeat offender. When I watched the live cam footage of the police officers questioning Gabby and her boyfriend I saw so many signs of domestic violence. But I kept silent until the autopsy was released because I didn’t want to rush to conclusions without facts. So I stayed silent, and cried my tears for Gabby in private.
I have met so many people over the years who are survivors of domestic violence. And almost all of them didn’t leave after the first time they were hit. Whether it is for financial reasons, logistics, emotionally clouded judgement or other serious complications, the solutions are rarely easy. And these are the happy stories. I also know so many stories of victims of domestic violence who didn’t survive.
When I lived in Israel, there was a local woman who was lit on fire and killed by her husband in the front yard, in front of her children. We all know of men and women who did not survive domestic violence. The statistics are staggering. An estimated 10 million people are affected by domestic violence in the United States every year; and as many as one in four heterosexual women and one in nine heterosexual men are victims of domestic violence at least once in their lifetime. One in four gay men, one in 3 bisexual men, one in three lesbian women, and one in two bisexual women will experience domestic violence at least once in their lifetime. Globally, 38% of murders of women are attributed to intimate partners (domestic violence).
Statistics source: https://www.socialsolutions.com/blog/domestic-violence-statistics/
Most cases of domestic violence are not reported to the police at all. And once you have a ‘history’ of calling the police for domestic violence, you run the risk of being judged by others and having less support when you do report it.
I have been choked, beaten, raped, and received hundreds of death threats, all by someone who “loved” me. And I have survived each and every one of these abusive relationships. I have also been accused of being “too sensitive” when speaking out about abusive situations by people who were aware of my past. So being a survivor marks me as damaged and not able to tell the difference between right and wrong?!? While not worse or more evil, these experiences are so incredibly damaging, too. Once I was sexually assaulted in a booth at a trade show and was mocked and belittled by the head of the convention because I “sounded like someone who experienced sexual abuse before”. I was mocked, laughed at, and not supported whatsoever by the company or even some of my industry colleagues.
If domestic violence is a process, then it makes sense that healing from it is also be a process. I went to abuse counseling; I spent many hours and years journaling my feelings; I discovered what red flags are; I developed healthy boundaries; and I found ways to give back and help others who are surviving domestic violence. Part of my healing has come from helping others survive and thrive after domestic violence.
So what is my point in sharing all of this? I feel like every time I can share part of my story I have the opportunity to let someone else know that they are not alone. I have SURVIVED domestic violence and I am THRIVING in my life now. No matter how difficult the road may seem, or how confusing the solution may be, my message is YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Call a trusted friend. Call a hotline – they are available 24 hours a day. Leave as soon as you can. I promise you there is life after abuse. You are worthy of love, and it starts with loving yourself. Love yourself enough to know you deserve better. But most important of all, remember it is not your dirty secret to burden alone. You are not alone. Others have survived before you and you can survive, too.
Project Kristin Cares is the charity I developed as a way to help give back and support survivors of domestic violence.
I am committed to helping fellow survivors of domestic violence and shedding light on this frightening and often hidden crime in our society. In an attempt to achieve these goals and help eradicate domestic violence, I donate through the fund I established: Project Kristin Cares. A portion of every sale of products on my website is donated to Project Kristin Cares.
Together we can help survivors of domestic violence.
The newest Project Kristin Cares initiative is the Be So Helpful Bags. These thoughtful, unisex go-bags include many comforting items for anyone who is in a difficult or challenging situation. 100% of the proceeds of the Be So Caring Books help to send Be So Helpful Bags to shelters across the USA every month.
You may purchase Be So Helpful Bags to donate or gift at any time. There’s even enough room to add your own handmade item for that extra-special touch.
You are NOT ALONE. If you, or someone you know needs help, PLEASE reach out! If you are in immediate danger, please call 9 – 1 – 1.
For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
For more information, please visit Project Kristin Cares You can find resources by state to help someone in need.