WYSK has partnered with the dating violence advocacy group Day One to share stories from powerful young women survivors that speak to where they are today compared to where they have been. This is part 2 of our two part series.
By Tanya Antonio – When I am asked to speak about my experience with domestic violence I often hear “why did you stay?” or “why did you try to hide what was happening?” I am asked about the nuances of abuse and psychological manipulation. I am happy to answer, in fact I am proud. I am honored to do this work. It is important to bring the awareness of relationship violence to a larger stage. These questions represent the public’s need for knowledge about the facts of domestic violence.
However, when I work with survivors I find that there is a very different need. The limited portrayal of domestic violence in the media often ends with the termination of the relationship. This leaves survivors without any blue print for how to cope with the after effects of trauma. There is no model readily available that helps survivors sort through the complex array of feelings that naturally follow the disintegration of their abusive relationships, so I want to share mine. This is how I began to rebuild my life, and this is for the survivors.
What they don’t tell you about pain is that it can become your second skin when you have lived in it for so long.
I took more than my fair share of wrong turns learning how to heal. I tried on every band-aid and scarfed down every quick fix. I let my grief run me rampant and it cost me years of emotional unrest, and embarrassing outbursts of misappropriated anger. What I found was: if you haven’t sought peace with the damage that’s been done to you than you are never truly free, you’ll condemn yourself to carry the memory of your trauma forever. What’s worse are the ways I dressed up my scars to make it easier for me to live with, but harder for those around me. It wasn’t until I snatched the wheel back from my anguish that I was able to take responsibility for the way my survivor story was going to go, and this is where I started:
Come as you are. Throw all self-judgmental practices to the wind so you can take an unbiased look at yourself: are you angry? Who are you angry with? Are you self-sabotaging, violent, codependent, or desperately insecure? It would be ludicrous to think that the darkest experiences in our lives haven’t changed us. Everything we go through in life shapes our beliefs about people and the world. When we don’t identify what causes our most limiting beliefs, we will repeat the destructive behavior that caused our own pain. Let the judgment fall away and allow yourself to see some of the ways your experiences have shaped you.
Once you shed light and forgiveness on some of the darkest recesses of your human experience, the elusive power it once had over you and your actions will begin to melt away.
Try your absolute hardest not to hate the world for what has happened. Let the anger come and pass, but do not allow it to make its home on such valuable property. Don’t close yourself off. Don’t stop the healing now. Once you can look at the entire event, allow yourself to feel all of the emotions that may come along with it, and grant yourself the space to feel your way through the emotional fallout, however that may look for you. It’s here in this delicate balance between acknowledging the damage that’s been done to you and deciding to stay open anyway that you gain incomparable emotional strength.
I’m also going to ask you to do one more thing… choose forgiveness. Choose compassion. For yourself and for everyone else that was involved. Drench the horrible event that shaped so much of your past in forgiveness and love. Once you shed the light and forgiveness on some of the darkest recesses of your human experience, the elusive power it once had over you and your actions will begin to melt away.
What they don’t tell you about pain is that it can become your second skin when you have lived in it for so long. This is why letting go takes so much courage. When you choose to let go of what no longer serves you, you don’t always know what you’re getting in return. It’s scary, I know. But this is a blessing in disguise. Take advantage of this blank canvas to add new meaning to the events of your life, to create peace in your life where there once was discord.
About the contributor
Tanya Antonio is an artist and activist living in New York City. She is committed to the ideals of gender equality and youth empowerment. Having just completed her bachelors in psychology from Hunter College she is now setting her sights on further developing her personal brand of choreography. A stranger to a sedentary lifestyle, you’re most likely to find her bouncing around the city’s ever changing landscape, coffee in hand and a smile on her face. You can follow Tanya on Instagram or Twitter.
About Day One
Day One partners with New York City youth to end dating abuse and domestic violence through preventative education, supportive services, legal advocacy and leadership development. Day One focuses on young people because 1 in 3 teens experience abuse in a dating relationship according to the United States Department of Justice.
The non-profit organization engages young people in identifying methods of keeping themselves and their peers safe, and together envision a future without fear of abuse. For more information on teen dating violence, click here.