By Tanya Warrington
Today I want to salute all those women, men, teenagers and children who have had the courage to tell about their abuse. Courage. It takes bravery to do what you thought you could never do.
The first time that I was told that I was courageous--I thought the other person was crazy. At that point, I felt fear in huge heaping doses. I had driven away from my home with my three children in a desperate effort to keep my children safe from my abusive spouse. I felt panicked. I was in the grips of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but no one would label until a couple of months later my intense fear that haunted me both in my waking and sleeping hours.
I didn’t feel brave at all.
I had thought that I was brave when I endured abuse and didn’t cry. That type of courage I had learned as a preschooler when my dad sexually assaulted me and told me “big girls don’t cry.” I thought I was brave when I kept horrible secrets deep down inside, because I didn’t want to be responsible for “killing” mother by telling her things she could not bear to hear. I thought I was brave when I kept my life somewhat together when a teenage boyfriend raped me when I was 17. I thought I was brave when I wouldn’t let my husband see my pain, because he fed off signs of pain or weakness. I put up a strong, feel nothing, say nothing front…until the day I understood that my children were in danger because of their father’s worsening “anger problem.”
Now, years later, I understand the courage the friend saw in me. I see it now in other courageous individuals. It takes tremendous courage to believe that there is a better way of living and to risk everything you have and that you know in order to seek that different, abuse-free life.
Bravery is necessary to leave all that is familiar and plunge into an unknown future.
Guts are essential to reveal the buried secrets.
Tenacity is needed, holding onto what feels like a tiny edge, while feeling waves of fear and pain in the aftershock of embarking on the road of truth.
Coping, ever coping, while feeling totally weak and exposed as you ask for help from strangers at shelters or counseling offices or in an emergency room.
The pain feels like more than you can survive. The reality that you told yourself could not be--is the ugly truth. And facing the truth of abuse can’t be done with anything less than courage.
So, to all of you who have faced the unbearable, I say well done. No matter where you are on the journey of healing, I see the courage in you. Bravo! Bravo! You are making it. You are taking steps toward a better future. You are learning new ways. You are doing things you didn’t think you could do.
You are like the shaking child at the top of the high dive who finally jumps off and raises to the top of the water to hear the sound of the pool patrons clapping. That kid was terrified, but did it anyway. Others saw the fear and then the courage. They saw and they clapped. If you and I were in the same room right now, you’d see a big smile on my face and my hands clapping for you.