Monday, March 8, 2010

New Blog

This blog was created while I was involved with a Foundation that I am no longer associated with. You will read posts prior to July of 2010. Since that date, this Foundation has changed my life to a degree I never thought possible.

I have decided to leave certain postings on this blog up for a particular reason. No matter what occured, those circumstances still impacted my life greatly.



Please start following me at my new blog at www.dianndiaz.wordpress.com

Thank you!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Daughters & Fathers


It amazes me when adult survivors of abuse are surprised when their fathers (or mothers) tell them, 'I love you', 'You are such a wonderful daughter' (or son) or, 'I am so proud of you', etc. Shouldn't they have been hearing that all their lives? Why should this be a surprise? I, too, know this all too well.

It saddens me to think it may be years for some survivors to wait to hear these words (or for some they may never hear these words from their parents).

It's only been approximately a month since my father and I have been reuinted. Since that time, we have been communicating via phone and e-mail. It's been wonderful. We have a lot of lost time to catch up on. Most survivors have a hard time with trust, a known fact. I am just learning from my stepmother many things about my father from years past, that I believe had I known years ago, may have changed how I viewed my father, as well as myself. *NOTE - My father was not my abuser

As a mature adult, I realize we can not go back in time. Knowing that, I must take newly learned information and do what is best, and use it to it's fullest potential.

I think if I can learn from the past, maybe we can open the doors for the future generations.

Thirty years have past since my rape, tears, pain, not to mention bruises and horrific relationships on my part. But you see, it's not just about the rape. It's a lot more than that. It's what was not done afterward. It was the lack of effort on my parents end. It was the lack of emotions showed to me. That is where a lot my pain came from. Then entered many unhealthy relationships! I also want to learn about why he did not do the things he "should have done" (I feel he should have done). Why he didn't communicate his feelings with me.

Why do some men communicate things with their daughters and some do not?

Daughters need to hear what their daddies are thinking and feeling Fathers!

Survivors want to hear from You!

Awareness is awareness. It is time that PARENTS own up to their end of the bargain. The insight I may learn from my father may be well worth digging into. I realize going in that it will be painful, but I feel that what I may end up finding is some valuable information that can be shared to prevent unhealthy relationships from happening in other families.

Something went very wrong a long time ago. We can't fix what happened 30 years ago, but we may be able to find out what could have been done differently, and share with others so they can change their lives now.

Of course, this is on the assumption that my father is willing. I am hoping that he will (positive assumption on my part), but through all the conversations we have had up to this point, and he has expressed his joy and proudness of my journey in life thus far; if he understands the depth his knowledge (and pain) would bring to myself and others, I welcome it with open arms (and wings).

I continue to inspire and empower survivors of abuse. That is my goal. Thank you Angela Shelton. I love you.

My story is forever ongoing, and I would have it no other way.

*NOTE - Not all survivors are able to have a positive relationship with their parents. This is an individual situation.

My Roadtrip to Charleston, SC


My trip to Charleston was very exciting! It was a spur of the moment roadtrip. An organization called, “Darkness to Light”, which is an organization that raises awareness of child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to help prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse, was having a fundraising “Gala” on Thursday evening.

Angela Shelton was presenting the “Voice of Courage” award to Mackenzie Phillips on Thursday evening.

On Friday, since I was disappointed that I was not able to attend the Gala event, Angela and I were texting back and forth while I was at work about the possibiliy of me at least coming to Charleston so I could spend some time with Mackenzie, because she (Mackenzie) was going to be working with us on the Angela Shelton Foundation. The founder of “Darkness to Light” (Anne Lee) was having a dinner that evening (Friday) and had invited me to attend, as well. My heart stopped! My head was spinning. All I could think of was that I was at work, my responsibilities, etc. I told her it was a 5hr drive and "Are you crazy"! (Ha) She said, “Come on!” So, I told her I would see what I could do. I checked with my office and they said, “No problem”. So I called Joe and told him of the communications and he said, “No problem”…Wow! Needless to say, I was in heaven! So, by 1:30pm on Friday I was out of the office and headed to Charleston! Just like that!

I met individuals from CNN, and a designer from Los Angeles (Cory Savage). But the information I gained, the insight I now value, the warmth of individuals and the connections I felt, especially with Mackenzie was unbelievable. She has such a beautiful, giving soul. She wants to give back. This is what I find with most survivors. When they become a part of the chosen family of survivorhood, this is what many want to do with their lives. It is beautiful. As I was sitting with her thinking of (her story) we are all "one". She (and Angela) and I, each have different stories, come from different backgrounds, grew up in different parts of the country; but in the end we are all feeling the same. We are all wanting to make a difference in this world for other survivors of abuse. And when I say, "we are all feeling the same", I don't necessarily mean just about wanting to make a difference, that goes without saying, but also on the inside. We are all survivors. We have all SURVIVED. The three of us sitting together with such a varied background and have been brought together - it all happens for a reason! Angela Shelton does it again folks! She made it possible for me to be there for that experience. Ahhhh. Squish!

Angela, Mackenzie, Cory and I spent hours talking, sharing stories, laughing...that information will remain with me. What I can tell you is that this trip is one that I will never forget!

The trip wasn't all personal, we did conduct quite a bit of business in a short amount of time! We have wonderful news headed in everyones direction soon, so keep posted!

Thank you Darkness to Light. Thank you Angela Shelton Foundation. Thank you Cory Savage. Thank you Mackenzie Phillips. Thank you Angela Shelton for ALL you have done in my life! Oh, it’s great to be alive! God is good!

Update 10/9/10: Please visit www.jdiaz998.blogspot.com A posting dated 10/8/10 will state the update. Also, as mentioned at the beginning of this blog, please read my new blog at www.dianndiaz.wordpress.com . Thank you!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Domestic & Sexual Violence Awareness Month

I've made 600 Teal & Purple ribbons for our community for the awareness of Domestic & Sexual Violence! (and am making more because the orders keep on-a-coming!!) One of our awesome forensic nurses posted this information on the hospital website and a radio station got a hold of it!! This nurse, our director and two others are being interviewed this week on the radio for awareness! Rock on! Keep TALKING everyone!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mackenzie Phillips Speaks Out

I am very proud of Mackenzie for speaking out. Of course I am...For any survivor to Speak Out about their abuse - it is for others to hear and to find help.

What has come to the forefront of my mind during this past week is, "What is going on in the mind of some of my relatives" ~ ~ Mackenzie's story is all too familiar...

Oh, how I would love to communicate with certain individuals about the past 30 years during this media opportunity! But, not every survivor wants to talk. I understand this.

I have often wondered how "they" are through all these years.

Are "they" healing? Have they raised children to have healthy relationships? Did they break the cycle of abuse? I do not know the answers to any of these questions.

But I do pray that God, and the power and determination of other Survivors have helped them along the way!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pure Determination

That's what it is...Pure determination...self-examination...wanting to be happy...that is how I found my inner strength to help establish who I actually am!

No one else could do it for me. No one else wanted to! I had no support growing up...So, for those of you that feel alone, just know this.. you are NOT alone. I used to think so..There are many survivors out here that you can lean on. But you have to want to be happy for YOU - no one else.

I am a SURVIVOR who has taken my personal story to thousands. I have helped those I know who are suffering and are afraid to ask for help. I hope to avoid what happened to me from happening to others.

My life took an unexpected turn at the age of fourteen; my uncle raped me. For the next 11 years, my life became a living hell. My parents did nothing about the rape, they divorced, I was sent to a boarding school, I later married an alcoholic who physically and emotionally abused me, then after divorcing him, I later was engaged to a man who almost murdered my son after abusing me for two years.

I took these experiences worked through them to reach the level of a true survivor. I am active in my community speaking at colleges, high schools, middle schools and church groups. I provide workshops at conferences and to several groups of "at risk" children throughout the area.

I am also dedicated to numerous organizations to the prevention of Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse and Child Advocacy. Some of these include, but are not limited to, RAINN - where I am on the Speakers Bureau, Women's Resource Center of the New River Valley, where I am the Sexual Assault Services Coordinator. My son and I were also named the "Speakers of the Year", 2003-2004, by Women in Distress in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

...Pure Determination...30 years and going strong!

Married to Law Enforcement - Healthy Relationships?

Recently a wife has been reported missing. Her husband was a police sergeant for 29 years. He is under suspicion for her disappearance. His prior wife was found dead in a bathtub. There were 18 domestic violence calls made to the house within a two-year period with the prior wife. Is this a typical marriage for those in law enforcement?

It is well known that the stress of police work takes its toll on family life. The stress this job produces can certainly disrupt the normal flow of any marriage. However, it would be a mistake to write that police officers have more problems than people in other professions. Because of the nature of police work, the amount of unresolved stress from wherever it came from is a critical matter. Unrelenting, excessive stress has a deteriorating effect upon judgment, emotional control, logical thinking ability, and accuracy of perception. In most jobs, the deterioration of these faculties in a worker will have no great consequences. For a police officer, such a situation could become a matter of life and death.

A police officers marriage, like any other marriage, needs a strong foundation, trust, commitment, honesty, and a lot of patience for the spouse. A typical marriage is work in itself to keep strong and healthy. Add in strange hours, working on holidays and birthdays, court time, and being called-in at all hours, increases the stress level exponentially. The spouse needs to understand they will be working with prostitutes, drug addicts, murderers, etc., and don’t forget the possibility of those drive-by shootings. Oh yes, and of course, the domestic disputes are well known to be the most dangerous calls for the police to respond to. If you feel you can handle this and much more, and be the supportive spouse, you have a chance at having a healthy marriage with a law enforcement individual.

There can be numerous effects from being married to law enforcement. Often time’s partners will argue about the long hours one is working. Because of those long hours, the spouse needs to be caught up on their sleep, so in turn doesn’t have much time with the family. This adds a lot of pressure to the other spouse and can cause resentment and could also lead into depression. Resentment could also be caused from not spending quality time with one another. They married the law enforcement spouse because they wanted to be with that person, not be continually waiting at home. Being in charge of everything for that person instead of being with that person is not what they had planned on when they said, “I do.”

If you have children, these effects can trickle down to them, if not handled appropriately. I have seen this happen all too frequently. It is up to the adults to handle these situations properly. The children of these marriages did not ask to be brought into that environment. It is up to the parents to provide safe, nurturing homes.

Your spouse choose law enforcement for their life’s work. Law enforcement will be the family mistress until retirement. The spouse who is in law enforcement, however, should also recognize the fact that since they have chosen this profession, it places large demands on the family. The family sacrifices a lot of their time and activities with that parent. Additionally, the demands that are placed on the other spouse also grow. They must take over additional household chores, be ready to change plans immediately, etc.

Chances are the police sergeant mentioned at the beginning of this essay would have had the same kind of relationship with his spouse no matter what type of profession he choose. It seems to this author that he is a controlling, manipulative, and over confident individual. When the stresses of the job are thrown into the relationship, it probably didn’t help any situation in their marriages.

We (the spouses) are the ones the men and women talk to every night after a long shift. We are the ones they tell of their fears, feats, and frustrations. We work hard to create a strong foundation at home for our families. Moreover, we must keep it all together with a smile, when all we want to do is smother them in a protective hug, just as we do to our children when they get hurt.

Prior to any marriage, communication is key. Know what you are getting into if you are going to get married into law enforcement. My years as a law enforcement wife have been the best years of my life. Not because my husband was a detective. But because my husband is who he is inside, not for what he did for a living. If two individuals do not love one another, do not have faith, commitment, and the desires for the relationship, it will not be healthy. Just like any other relationship in any other profession. My husband gave to the community every day wearing his badge as he walked out the door. There isn’t anyone more proud of my husband than his wife. But ask me if I am happy that he retired after 30 years! (this last paragraph - updated - my husband recently retired from LE!!)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

Know Respect
Do you respect each other’s opinions, decisions, and boundaries?
Respect means that each person values who the other is and understands the other person’s boundaries. Respect means that one partner doesn’t push the other in to doing things that he or she is not comfortable with, such as drinking, using drugs, and sexual contact. Respect also means that a partner appreciates who the other person is as an individual and does not try to change his or her partner or control the way he or she acts, dresses, or does. Mutual respect is an essential component every healthy relationship.

Know Equality
Do both of you have equal say in the choices made about the relationship?
As an equal partner in a relationship, both of you need to have equal say on everything – from the types of activities you do together, the people you hang out with together, the sexual contact you engage in, to the amount of time you spend together. If one partner makes all the decisions in your relationship it is not a healthy relationship.

Know Individuality
Do you encourage your friends to have other friends and activities?
In a healthy relationship friends encourage each other to be themselves; after all, being an individual is what makes you you. Individuality is what attracted your friends to you in the first place. As a good friend you should encourage your friends to maintain their individuality. Support your friends in doing the things that they love – sports, music, academics, etc. – maintaining friendships with people other than yourself, and having their own sense of style. Remember, it’s the differences in people that make them interesting.

Know Safety
Are your relationships the places where you feel safest of all?
In healthy relationships partners feel safe both emotionally and physically. Emotional safety means that you feel comfortable being you – expressing your opinions, having feelings, and enjoying activities and people that you like – without fear of being made fun of or put down. Physical safety means that you are not being hit, slapped, punched, restrained, or being forced to engage in unwanted sexual activity, or threatened with any of the above. If you do not feel physically or emotionally safe in your relationship, you are not in a healthy relationship.

Know Support
Is your boyfriend or girlfriend concerned for you and want what is best for you?
In healthy relationships both partners care for and support each other. Your partner should want you to succeed in school and other activities you may participate in. For example, your partner should understand if you need to miss his or her basketball game to study for a big test; at the same time, you should encourage your partner and support him or her to continue having fun and playing basketball. If you don’t feel like you are being supported in your relationship, it may not be the best relationship for you.

Know Acceptance
Do you pretend to be someone you aren’t to keep a relationship going?
In healthy relationships both partners accept each other for who they really are – including religious background, friends, activities they enjoy (both together and apart), and each individual’s sense of style. You shouldn’t have to change who you are, or compromise your beliefs to make someone like you

Know Trust
Are your relationships built on honesty?
Honesty and trust are the cornerstones of any healthy relationship. If you have ever caught your friend or dating partner in a huge lie, you know that it takes time to rebuild your trust in him or her. You should always be honest in a relationship because it strengthens the relationship and builds trust and there is no way to have a healthy relationship with out trust. Partners in healthy relationships choose to trust in each other – for example, a partner believes the other when he or she says they are at the mall with friends and the partner doesn’t demand proof. If your partner doesn’t trust you and give you the benefit of the doubt, you may not be in a healthy relationship.

It's SO Worth It!

I stayed late at work last night to wait for one of my volunteers (she's awesome - she is helping me out with one of my upcoming DV/SA projects for the October awareness!!)...Anyway...she thanked me again for the work that I do, and my presentation that I give to volunteers during my training...she mentioned that it meant so much to hear "my story". She wishes she had known of a Women's Center when she was going through turmoil in her life years ago...We talked for a few moments...Imagine THAT - she thanked ME - She's a volunteer helping ME with a project!!! lol However, I did see what she was saying, but, folks, I am so in the weeds this time of year, you can't imagine how much I appreciate volunteers help!!

After all these years working with volunteers and survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, it still amazes me how much I love my work!

I was SO meant to be on this earth doing what I do!

One Voice

Just One Voice
Singing in the darkness
All it takes is ONE VOICE
Singing so they hear what's on your mind

And when you look around you'll find
There's more than One Voice
Each and every note another octave
Hands are joined and fears unlocked
If only One Voice would start on its own
We need just One Voice facing the unknown
And that One Voice would never be alone

It takes that One Voice
....Barry Manilow

Saturday, July 4, 2009

30 Years of Independence Days

30 years ago this weekend a family member sexually assaulted me. I know for some of you, this may be hard for you to read.

As most of you know, I work at a Rape Crisis Center; working with victims of Sexual Assault (meeting them at hospitals, supporting them during their exam, training volunteers, and cooridinating the program).

I have always believed that what has happened throughout my life, happened for a reason. I still do. Each day I live for that day and live it for it's fullest. I help whomever is in my path to the best extent that I possibly can.

Each 4th of July holiday, I obviously can't help but recall the events that took place when I was 14 years of age, and brought me to where I am today. This weekend being the 30th anniversary, I am recalling many things, and now, and with the experience I have had, am realizing many things about myself (some good, some not so good!).

For those people in my life that I may have hurt along the way - I am truly sorry - I never meant to ever hurt anyone. I know that many times throughout my life I was hurting inside and did not know how to express myself (that is no excuse - but an understanding hopefully some of you can accept). I am continually learning about myself and am hoping to be a better person - day by day - and can only pray for forgiveness from those of you that I may have hurt along my path of life.

Because of the Lord and support of my wonderful husband and son, may I follow on the path where I need to be.

Yes, this "Indepedance Day" has made me "Independant" for many years, there is no denying that - I had no other choice for a long time.

But I can tell you I truly miss the love of my family and friends each and every day. And it is very deep.

*Please don't let the little things in life (and you know what they are) create more problems for you or others in your life than need be. Put things into perspective!

*People will only accept your help if they want help.

*Always offer a victim help. Let it be their choice.

*It is never the victims fault.

*Always believe a child that discloses sexual abuse.

*Be supportive of anyone that wants to talk to you about abuse. Offer them a hotline number from a local rape crisis center OR offer them the RAINN Hotline; 1-800-656-HOPE - or offer them to visit: www.rainn.org

*RAINN will transfer you to your local rape crisis center

*Remember, if someone that wants to talk to you about abuse, does not want you to solve their problems - let them talk!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Passion

Passion...If it weren't for passion, my zest for speaking on behalf of victims would be nil. Some would consider the fact that I have gone through turmoil in my life; I do also at times. However, as I have said many times, if I had not gone through what I have lived, I would not be able to have the voice I have for thousands of individuals. I feel blessed, yes blessed, to be here today in order to stand tall and proud to say I am a "SURVIVOR".

In working day to day at a Rape Crisis Center helping victims of crime, I sit holding the hands of rape victims (from the youngest age of 18 months to the age of 80 to date), as well as helping the families of the victims. I have also trained volunteers to do the same. I feel this is not enough.

I have spoken to thousands of individuals at conferences, trainings, schools, etc. There such a need to reach out to many more about sexual assault and domestic violence. There are many of wonderful speakers out there nationwide, and I am going to reach out even further.

Won't you please help me reach those that have not been sought? If you belong to a school, law enforcement, church, civic organization, etc., please contact to schedule a booking.

A Sample of Topics Include:

*Healthy Relationships
*Domestic Violence – Why Do
Women Stay?
*Sexual Assault
*Sexual Harassment
*Domestic/Dating Violence 101
*Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault
*Sexual Assault on your College Campus

Saturday, May 16, 2009

University of Mary Washington

The Virginia Coalition Against Campus Sexual Assault is sponsoring a statewide conferences focusing on emerging gender-based violence issues on college campuses. The target audience for this conference includes campus based advocates, counselors, educators, student affairs professionals, and administrators, as well as community based advocates, counselors, educators, and anyone else interested in working with college students on gender-based violence issues.

The Virginia Coalition Against Campus Sexual Assault is a network of campus and community professional throughout Virginia who work on gender based violence issues. With support from the Virginia Department of Health, the Coalition offers networking and educational opportunities through such avenues as statewide conferences and webinars.

Angela Rose, Keynote Speaker
At the age of seventeen, Angela was abducted at knifepoint while leaving her job at a shopping mall in the suburbs of Chicago. She was taken and then assaulted by a repeat sex offender on parole for murder. Angela was eventually let go by the offender; a bruised and disoriented Rose was then shocked at the treatment of her case by the authorities. All of the anguish that existed during the abduction was immediately replaced by anger and a strong sense of vigilance. Angela worked with the perpetrator's previous victims as well as the community to help enact Illinois Sexually Dangerous Persons Commitment Act in 1998. Upon attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Angela became frustrated by the lack of activism on this crucial issue. Angela then founded the organization PAVE to create education and action surrounding the issues of sexual violence, which was inclusiveness to all individuals and their experiences. As the Executive Director, Angela has cultivated PAVE into a national organization and continues to inspire others to join the movement to end sexual assault by traveling the country and abroad.

Campus and Community Collaboration
I will be speaking on behalf of my local agency, along with Lee Carter Smith from Radford University and Jenn Underwood from Virginia Tech about collaboration between colleges and university campuses and the larger communities in which they exist and how vitally important in addressing gender based violence. Whether it is providing services to survivors of violence or working on prevention and education initiatives, neither group can be as effective on their own as they can be together. This session will explore avenues of campus and community collaboration, including both challenges and promising practices. Examples from Virginia communities will be used and ample time will be given for group discussion.

The afternoon will be filled with breakout sessions for the attendees to choose from various topics from engaging men in violence prevention, to bystander behavior, trauma response, to programming roundtable discussions.

It's wonderful to be a part of dedicated individuals that care about the communities, and the future of the generations to come!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Army of Angels Conference!!

WOW! It's finally taking place!! In VEGAS! March 13 & 14th! Order your tickets now for an uplifting, joyfilled, healing event!

http://www.eventbrite.com/event/223331992

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Think about it...

If we want violence to stop, we need to start with helping those that want to make a difference....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008

WHY I do what I do...

Survival. It’s damn hard work. I’m not going to make you think getting there has anything warm and fuzzy about it. Oh, it’s worth it. Once you conquer the demons that had taken over your life, and have controlled those thoughts that kept you victim of your abuser(s) – That’s Surviving. It’s one thing to gain the strength you need to be strong enough to move on, but it’s another to be strong enough to not end up in another abusive relationship. How awesome you will feel about yourself and life in general once you reach where you know you belong. Reach for survival if you haven’t gotten there yet.

Never give up. You can become a part of this warm, open-armed family of survivors. Always remember, no abuse is ever the fault of the victim. EVER. I am writing to share my stories, to be a voice. Know that surviving abusive situations is handled differently for everyone. If someone experiences abuse on more than one occasion, it will most likely be handled differently for each situation. I know first hand. I am going to outline briefly each abuse I encountered and how I survived each situation to point out the differences in how they were handled.
I have survived incest, verbal and physical abuse from my parents, domestic violence and verbal and physical abuse from my first husband, physical abuse from my ex-fiancé, as well as my son almost being killed at the hands of my ex-fiancé. It took me years to recognize all the signs of abuse. I finally reached that point of recognition approximately eight years ago.

My abuse started decades before my quest for survivorship. My first known physical abuse that I can remember is when my mother pushed me down a flight of stairs that led to a concrete basement. That was during my third year of life. My first seizure, which led to a three-day coma, was only a few weeks after that push; however, I was informed my seizure was due to a “high fever” because my mother placed too many blankets on me. She took the truth with her to the grave. I’ll never really know the whole truth. However, I do have an indent on my forehead from the fall, and have had a variety of seizures since – without fever. Throughout my forty-one years with my mother in my life, I encountered many physical and verbal abuse situations with her.

Children learn what they live. I’ve heard that a million times while growing up. Each time I heard my mother say that to individuals, made me want to throw up. I learned how to survive. Because of the various forms of abuse from my parents, it didn’t take away the fact that I yearned to be loved by my parents. I never felt unconditional love. When my mother uttered the words, “I love you”, it was done with the same tone as “pass the salt”. If my recollection serves me correctly, my father rarely used those words. He is a man whom can not show emotion. I survived by receiving the attention elsewhere. I basically lived two lives.

As I was growing up in a small New England town with two older brothers, I was known to be the “spoiled brat” of the family. My second oldest brother had “all the brains, and I could do no wrong”…so my mother would always say sarcastically. She was stating this “as fact” because she was informing me that I wasn’t as intelligent as my brother, and that my father never punished me for things she felt he should. There was always an evil tone in her voice when she was degrading one of us. My mother was, as I found out years later, quite jealous of how my father treated me when I was young. Could it have been because he knew his wife pushed his three-year-old daughter down the stairs and sent her into a three-day coma and caused her to have seizures for years?

My mother never made a negative statement about my oldest brother when I was young. That came later. He was her first born, and not the son of my father. My mother also had another daughter from another man (also not my father nor my oldest brothers father), whom she lost in the courts when that child was only five. This sister of mine is 364 days younger than my oldest brother. My mother had many issues of her own, and tried to make other people own them instead of taking on her own responsibilities. In time, she would try to have me own them for her. I grew up thinking that was what I was supposed to do. Thankfully, one day I woke up from a terrible nightmare. But that wasn’t until my mid-thirties. How did I awaken? That comes later.

Thank God growing up I was able to have many pets. This, I believe helped save me in my early years. Each spare minute was savored with my pets. Whether it was time with my german shepherd, cats, rabbits, or horses. Of course the horses were the best. This is where I learned unconditional love. It took my animals to teach me. We lived on a 15-acre parcel of land, which contained endless fields for me to gallop my dark brown quarter-horse, “Mama”.

A gorgeous creek flowed at the end of our property. This was often my escape location. I would often find myself packing a lunch and riding “Mama” for the afternoon to get away from the ruckus created by my mother. Those are my favorite memories as a child. When I took my horse to the river and it was just the two of us. Alone in the woods. Nature. My horse and I had many conversations. No one argued. Not a voice was raised. The smell of the fresh air and blooming flowers in the spring helped lighten my load.

But there was always that time I had to return home. That was the worst part of the day. I used to dream that I could just ride my horse and gallop until the ends of the earth. But even when I first started riding at the age of 9, I realized that was going to be impossible. As fate would have it, the opposite edge of our property laid our home. And inside were my parents and one of my brothers. I had to return. Why couldn’t I join the Army and be able to get away like my oldest brother? That didn’t seem fair. Why was he the lucky one and escaped?
When I was fourteen, my favorite uncle raped me. I informed my parents about the assault. Nothing was done to help me or to punish my uncle. My mother actually wasn’t even surprised. She already knew that my uncle had assaulted his daughters. My uncle had already been in a mental institution years earlier for numerous things. At this point I’m the only one in shock! Why did my mother allow me to travel half way across the country and stay at a sex-offenders home? I felt worthless. One day I’m an “A” student. A few weeks later after my vacation and being raped, I became a teen who starts drinking heavily and is verbally abusive toward her parents. Next thing I know, I am being sent to a boarding school because my parents didn’t want to deal with my issues. This confirmed to me I was worthless in their eyes.

My parents soon divorced. My father moved out of the country. He felt Costa Rica was a better location to live. I can’t say as I blame him. Who would want to live where his ex-wife drinks too much, his daughter had been sexually assaulted and was acting out, and his son didn’t want to talk to anyone? I really felt he deserted me and was selfish. Instead of providing comfort to his children, he’d rather live in a foreign country where no one knew his business. Was he was embarrassed of all of us?

When I returned from boarding school, my mother then thought life would be different. She partied constantly. She had always been a heavy drinker, but now that she and dad were divorced, she really let loose, and especially with men. She never wanted to go to any clubs alone, so she would take me with her most times. That’s right. She would take her 15-year old daughter with her to bars and pour whiskey in my coke glass to “loosen me up”. It didn’t take long to make me think this was pretty cool. I would then become her “guinea pig” for finding her dates. I would dance and attract men in the clubs. Since she was the “mother” she had the upper hand with these “men”. Many of them would come home with us once the bars closed.

One evening after a “night out with mom” I remember a self-defense tactic I used. My mother got furious with me. I was not only embarrassed, but once again reminded just how worthless I was to her. I had kept a golf club next to my bed, just in case I ever needed it. One night after going to bed after a few “of the guys” followed mom and I home, one of the men had entered my bedroom. He sat down on my bed to “talk”. As he began talking I became frightened. Without him even realizing it, I reached behind the backboard of my bed and grabbed the golf club, swung it around and clobbered him. Boy was he in shock! When he left my room and informed my mother, guess who caught holy hell? But I kept the golf club anyway. To hell with her, I thought, as I cried myself to sleep.

What kept me going for each day to arrive was my first boyfriend and his family. They were a Godsend. Forever they will be in my heart and I will be grateful to each and every one of them. Danny was gentle and loving. His parents were accepting of me, and treated me as if I was one of their family. His parents were kind to me; spoke lovingly, something I craved. However, the relationship did not start off this positive. Danny was a senior while I was a freshman in high school. His parents did not feel the age difference was appropriate. . . in the beginning. It did not take long before I was spending more time at their house than my own. I honestly don’t know where I would have ended up if it weren’t for this family. They saved a life and I don’t think they even realize it to this day. Thank you Danny, Jim, Mom and Pops. I love you all.

A few years later I was accepted into college a year early, during my senior year of high school. I was able to leave my home again and live on campus. I was more than ready at this point. I was seventeen years old, but well beyond my years. During the summer between my freshman year and sophomore year of college, I went to a river-cruise party with the insurance company I worked for. There was a lot of drinking that night. I made a huge mistake. I drove home. There were blue lights that were following me at one point. The police pulled me over. I lost my license for six months. I used this experience and spoke to the students at my college about drinking and driving. Little did I know at the time, years later I would use my voice to even a larger venue. This was just the beginning.

The following year I met the man who became my first husband. He was 31 and I was 18.He was so handsome. He made me feel so important and that I was mesmerized by every word that was spoken from his lips. He totally won me over. We only dated a few months before he proposed. I was 19 by then. We got married just two days before I graduated from college. My family knew nothing about the wedding. His father was his best man. My girl friend was my matron of honor. The cuckoo clock went off at 2:00…now I realize that was definitely an alert!

This man I had just married became very abusive, very quickly. He was an alcoholic. I was so young and in such a rush to be “rescued” from the bullshit in my life, I didn’t take the time to know the person I was getting involved with. All that mattered to me at the time was that a man was giving me attention and loving me. I was missing that in my life. He was giving it to me and I latched on him like the teeth on a shark. A week after I graduated from college we moved to Florida. We had little money. We survived on peanut butter sandwiches for over a month.

We eventually found a job together. We managed a hotel near the strip. We lived there and managed the hotel together. Together 24/7. This became stressful, as we could not go anywhere together. One of us always had to be at the hotel at all times. My husband drank alcohol daily. As the stress became worse, so did his drinking. With the stress and the heavy drinking came his heavy hand. His words were even worse. He would use my previous sexual assault from my uncle to make me feel guilty or ashamed if I would not happily comply to having sex with him. My husband was a very physical man and wanted to be having sexual relations at least two or three times a day. When the comforting kind words were a thing of the past, so did my feelings of wanting to be close to him.

At that time of my life, I knew no differently than to give in to him. Each and every time. I relentlessly gave him my mind, body and soul. I would lie there; eyes wide open and pretend to be somewhere else. I continued to feel worthless. I was taught as a young child to give in. I was taught that I was worthless, so this situation to me was normal. There was a part of me, however, that was fighting my decisions. I could constantly feel the pull. I survived this two-year relationship because I felt I had an angel watching over me. That angel was the pull I was always feeling.

My husband would instruct me as to how the towels would be folded, how the dishes would be put away, etc. He would yell if my chores were not done correctly, and if I was ever late in the day with any chore, when he had had too much to drink, a fist would meet my face. Whenever I would go grocery shopping, he would question me as to why I was gone for as long as I was, who was there, etc. He had me so programmed to my timing, my moves, that I literally became a robot. We eventually changed hotel management jobs after about a year, which allowed us more freedom in our personal lives. I don’t think my husband wanted to manage the hotel through another spring break. There were a few of the individuals that thought he was my father, and I was at the age of these college kids, and this made him feel very uncomfortable.

The second management job we were fortunate enough to conduct did allow much more freedom. We again did live on the premises. Individuals owned these apartments, we didn’t have to worry about people coming and going. However, do to the fact that there was more freedom, did end up being what saved my life in the long run. My husband and I partied more and more outside the home. With his partying came his loss of control. One night we were fighting and it started like any other fight. Something stupid. But ended worse. The Sheriffs were called. The domestic violence laws were different back in the ‘80’s, so even with my bruises and informing them my husband had thrown me up against the dresser, wall, punched me in the face, that I threw his gun into the ocean, because we were wrestling over it, my husband was not arrested. Long story short, I left my husband the next day.
The next morning when my husband stated he was going out for a while, I picked up the phone. I wanted to call my mother. I hesitated. I knew if I called my mother and informed her of what had happened I had to leave my husband. How could I stay with him after telling her what he had done to me? I had never told anyone that Richard had ever been abusive. That would have been too embarrassing to me. I put down the receiver. Without hesitation, I picked it up again, and called my mother. I told her everything. I just needed to tell someone, and for some reason I felt that if I told my mother, that would make me leave. I knew she would make me feel guilty enough if I didn’t!

My next step was to call my youngest of two brothers who lived in the next city. He came by and we just threw items into his car. We drove for a while then stopped his car to pack my suitcase. My brother purchased an airline ticket so I could return to my mother’s house in New England for a while. In retrospect, my mothers’ house was not the best place to have gone, but the only place at the time that my brother and I thought was best. You do what you can, at the time to survive. Sometimes you have to think quickly on your feet to save your life. To save your future. You have to do whatever seems the best option at that time. Once you are safe, you can always catch your breath and then re-think your steps as to what to do next.
Throughout the almost two years of the abuse with my ex-husband, I kept hoping that the man I fell in love with would return. He didn’t. I would live my life day in and day out yearning for that man to walk back into my life. In the meantime, I would be walking on eggshells daily. Taking each hour as it came. Watching each movement my husband made and reacting appropriately so as to not upset him. Of course that didn’t always happen. That is how I survived that marriage.

Living with my mother once again at the age of 20 was a sort of survival in itself. It seemed that a part of her was happy to have someone there to party with once again. She never really mentioned anything about my abuse that I endured, except that my husband was a jerk. That was about it. For me, nothing had changed since I was younger. Six years had gone by since my sexual assault with my uncle. Now my husband had abused me and she treated this almost in the same way. At least she acknowledged this abuse and said my husband was a jerk!

She took me out drinking as soon as I returned to New England, even with the black eye. I was more or less in a state of shock at the time; I went along with most anything. And that is what led me to more abuse. Two or three nights a week my mother and I would go out with some of her friends. She would still use me as her “magnet for men”. I never realized it then. The way to survive this life with my mother was to go along with it at the time. I knew no other way of life. I honestly did not know anything was wrong with it, except that it didn’t always feel good inside. Once again friends would come back to the house with us. If I didn’t go to bed with them, my mother did. This even happened with one of my school friends. He wanted to sleep with me; I refused. The next morning I found him and my mother in her bed.

Once the divorce was final, I decided to move back to Florida. Not to my husband. He had since left Florida and moved on. Where he lived, I have no idea. I just knew that he was no longer at the condominiums that we once managed. I had to leave my mothers’ home. I felt I did not want to be in that atmosphere with my child. The only other place that I knew of was Ft. Lauderdale. So off I went. I found an apartment. I found a job.

My father actually helped me financially with a car. He informed me that I should place the baby up for adoption once the baby was born. He did not feel that being a single mother would be an option at all for me. He did not think I was capable of raising a child on my own. That I would be able to financially make it work, nor would it be the best thing for the child. I actually believed him. . . for a short time.

My beautiful son came into this world on June 5, 1986. The love of my life! My angel. And boy, do I believe that. And now, twenty-two years later, he is still proving that to me.

My son and I managed quite well together for the first three years alone. My mother had moved down to Florida, I had a wonderful boyfriend who was in law enforcement. Life couldn’t be better. But unfortunately, not everything lasts forever. I dated this boyfriend for only two years, then I decided it was best if we went out separate ways. If it was meant to be, we’ll get back together. I started seeing someone else about a year later.

My quest for survivorship started the night my then five-year-old blonde hair; blue-eyed son was almost killed, which was seventeen years ago. My “very well known in the community for his vice-president of a real estate company and leadership in the Chamber of Commerce ” ex-fiancé had been abusing me. But once he abused my son that was my breaking point. No one was going to hurt my son! The cycle ends here. He abused my son in ways that I never thought possible.

My son and I moved out. First we moved just to the next city. That did not stop this monster from harassing us. I was continuously looking over my shoulder and subsequently in high anxiety mode. I made a phone call. The boyfriend in law enforcement that I had previously dated rushed over. He came to visit us and was a total comfort. Although he had informed me that he had recently re-married, I was happy for him. Funny what true love will bring to one’s emotions at any time.
I couldn’t take the harassing, being watched, followed, etc. anymore. It was time to leave once again. So we then moved out of state (not that that kept my ex away from us) to begin our journey of healing. My son and I began counseling. This helped both of us tremendously.

It took many years of counseling, and medications, for my son to reach his level of survivorship. However, it did not help with my guilt.

Each man that I subsequently met I yearned for attention, yet did not trust them. It has been a long journey of healing. If you been a victim of any type of abuse, you need to work on your issues before becoming involved in an intimate relationship. This was a hard thing to do as a victim, because I wanted to be close with someone. I always did. Each time I started getting intimate, or they showed any type of affection, I pushed them away. My “wall” went up so fast they didn’t stand a chance. Many times I would take out my aggressions of all the abuse I endured onto the men that wanted to be close to me. I never realized what I was doing to these guys. I never understood why.

Learning where my actions stemmed from was the beginning of the healing process. It took the love, care and patience from my current husband to actually point out the fact that I was acting out my aggressions. And it took my willingness to accept my actions. It takes time to accept the fact that you could actually be hurting someone you love.

This was how the physical abuse started. It has now finally ended. There were a lot of years in between the first day and the last, and a lot of work, sweat, and many tears. I hurt a lot of people along the way to my survivorship. For that I am deeply sorry and hopefully in time, they will or have already forgiven me. I am still learning to forgive myself. The abuse I endured wasn’t my fault. The pain I inflicted on others because of what I went through was my own doing. I never understood why, until I decided I wanted to know.

Time and patience is one of the biggest factors of survivorship. I feel I am the worst when it comes to patience! Others tell me differently. You really have to look long and hard at yourself, and recognize issues from your past. Who likes to do that! Please acknowledge all the positive influences in your life - that counts. But until you recognize not only the signs of abuse in your current relationship(s), or in your past relationships you will never gain access to the road to recovery. Take your time with each issue and work them through. It may take years.

Confronting your abuser (if this is a safe situation) also helps the healing process. I was fortunate enough, and strong enough at one point to confront my uncle. My confrontation was conducted over the telephone. My words were said. His words were said. My uncles statements only confirmed just how sick an individual he is.

Writing how you feel, keeping a journal helps with surviving also. Years ago I wrote a letter to all family members informing them of the incest (some of them already knew by my mothers whispers) and the abuse of my ex-husband and ex-fiancé all at the same time. Boom! One letter photocopied to everyone. I wanted to make sure the record was set straight, from me. Not that those family members had started rumors or anything! Ha! Our family was never all together in one room, so this was the only way for me to get my voice heard. This action was at the recommendation of my counselor. What an awesome feeling as I placed those envelopes in the mailbox! I felt a hundred feet tall.

I also confronted my mother on numerous occasions as to how she made me feel as a child growing up and not comforting me after I was raped. I do not recommend confronting a verbally abusive alcoholic of your “feelings”. They may continue to try and knock you down each and every chance they get. I feel it bothered my mother that I was on my road of recovery. Or maybe she was jealous deep down inside and she was lashing out. Unfortunately she could never reach the same road as her daughter before her death. If the individual you are confronting isn’t willing to work with you on certain issues, make your statement and enough said. You can’t discuss anything to anyone that is in denial.

Denial has no room in surviving. It places roadblocks. Be open and honest with yourself and others. Receive counseling like I did. If you’ve received counseling in the past, go again if you feel the need. If you didn’t like your counselor, get another one. If you can’t afford counseling, call your local women’s center and they can refer you to free counseling in your area.

Call a helpline to speak to someone whenever you feel the need. During recovery and possibly throughout the rest of your life, you may experience a variety of “triggers”. Please don’t be ashamed. This is perfectly normal. How the triggers affect you is what’s important to deal with. Talk to someone you trust about these triggers. In time, these too will diminish. There may be days, months or even years you may not experience a trigger. Then all of a sudden one day something may happen or you’ll smell a certain scent, hear a sound, etc. Breathe. Relax. The assault is not happening again. Just realize that these reactions are normal. Please do not re-live these situations alone. Talk to someone you trust.
Read as much information that is available about abuse. Understanding the “why’s” and all definitions helped me tremendously. There are great books available and the web is a fantastic resource. Become familiar with all the signs of abuse. I still read for hours! Take your time absorbing the information. Be aware it can actually become frightening to realize all the behaviors you have been accepting in your life from the people you love.

Surviving abuse has been one of the hardest things I have endured in my life. However, I would not change one thing about my past. It has been one of my greatest purposes in life. I believe God paved my way to become a VOICE for children. I now educate middle and high school students about violence prevention; dating violence, sexual assault, child abuse, bullying, sexual harassment, etc. I also speak at colleges, universities, as well as professional conferences about my own personal domestic violence situations. This is my passion.

When my son was in high school, he and I started volunteering at the Women in Distress of Broward County. We spoke at high schools and churches. Our first year together, we received the award entitled, “Speakers of the Year”. It is amazing to put turn something so awful and into something so grand. We felt a power from above to drive us to volunteer. If we were going to go through such abuse, we wanted to share our stories to help others.

When I moved to another state, I located the closest rape crisis center and continued with my volunteer work. I started with the next available crisis training. I answered the crisis calls. Soon I was asked to be on the Board of Directors. It wasn’t long thereafter when I was asked to be a part of the staff.

I am the Peaceline Coordinator for The Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley. I educate middle and high school students on violence prevention; which includes, sexual assault, dating violence, healthy relationships, etc. I speak to over 4000 students a year. I also speak within the community and share my personal story, and conduct my own workshops. I am on the Speakers Bureau for RAINN (Rape Abuse Incest National Network), as well as being a Team Manager for Angela Shelton’s Army of Angels. I am an Emergency Advocate for sexual assault victims and meets them at the hospitals or police stations. I am not going to stop the awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence for people because the epidemic is so great. I have come to realize that if maybe someone was willing to help me when I was younger, that may have helped prevented me from having many unhealthy relationships in my life and possibly prevented my son from being abused. I am also in the process of writing my first book. I would like other survivors of sexual assault and/or domestic violence to have the power to come forward and lend their voice to help others.

Not only does my voice help educate others about violence and abuse, but each time I speak, is a healing process for myself. I learn more and more about the children of today and try to better their world, as well as mine. Children disclose abuse situations and I bring them to safety. Students will enlighten me as to situations that are happening in their schools, and I will inform school officials.
I am honored to inform those I meet that it is okay to speak up about abuse; there are people who care about them and there to help them. I am here when they are ready to speak up!

When I was a child, I wasn’t allowed to have a voice. I now have a VOICE and I will never shut up! Join me with your voice!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Can you Help Send an Angel to join me?

Some of you are aware of the AWESOME non-profit called PAVE - Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment...

Well, on July 10th, Co-sponsored by the IL Attorney General's office and ICASA, PAVE presents: And Justice For Some: When the law fails victims, what YOU can do about it featuring Law Professor, Author and Victims’ Rights Attorney Wendy Murphy. Murphy has been seen on Fox News, CNN, O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, and many others. (Thursday, July 10, 2008, 6-8pm Auditorium of East-West University ,816 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL)

I am attending this AWESOME presentation, and would really like to have our Army of Angels CAPTAIN Jenn from Texas attend with me. If anyone would be so kind to use my DONATE BUTTON to the right, and be able to help send her out to Chicago with me, that would be much appreciated.

We are in the process now of setting up our ARMY OF ANGELS Conference in March, and are gathering up all kinds of wonderful information for all our survivors out there! Stay tuned!

We can't do this without your help!

PLEASE HELP YOUR ANGELS!!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

You never know when someone will talk...

Yesterday, while filling up the gas tank (ouch - the prices!) an older man that was doing the same in the lane next to me piped up...."I like your sticker"...

On one side of my car I have a sticker that reads, "Prevent Child Abuse". I informed him that this is something that I do for work, or at least I try. He replied, "We need more people like you."

I thanked him. He looked at me and hesitated. I could sense he wanted to talk to me. I waited, sensing God wanted me to be there that very moment. He informed me that he was 71 years old. Taking care of a 5 year old and a 4 year old because of that very "thing".

I told him, "We need more people like YOU."

I hope more people tell him that....

We spoke for a few moments about the epidemic of child abuse in our area...he was very sad about the situation - we didn't get very personal - that wasn't the purpose of God putting the two of us together at the gas station yesterday - It was two human beings trying to help victims of child abuse coming together recognizing the devastation in the lives of children - our hearts were drawn to one another -

We both felt we didn't need a lot of words between us - it was in our eyes...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Freedom is Beautiful!

I've been trying to come up with the word that best describes how I felt yesterday...

Nothing seems to be quite the right adjective...

For the past 29 years I have been triggered by many things of my past sexual abuse in my childhood...smells, sounds, peoples faces, mustaches, dark hair, fireworks, rifles, a specific look on someone's face, certain songs....Yes, even certain songs..

Yesterday I was driving to one of the area high schools for a presentation and a song came on the radio (which in the past I would typically just turn the radio OFF)...but I left it on...the song, "Knock on Wood"...can't remember the name of the Artist, but was quite popular in the early '80s...

Anyhooo...I was getting RIGHT into the music! I was boogying in my T-bird all the way through the song! IT FELT SOOO GOOD! Finally! What a break-through in music. I've always loved my music and dancing and used to love that song BEFORE....before it was on the radio in the family room when my uncle decided to drag me upstairs, when I was 14...I used to always associate that song with HIM! Not anymore!!

Many other triggers have worked their way through my healing past, but certain songs have still stayed inside the scared child within...That scared child has broken through and has soared and is dancin' away!!

I think I gave my BEST presentation yesterday...Funny how things give you STRENGTH!

The more you LET GO, the more you have to GIVE to OTHERS!!!