On Sunday I stood up in front of a room of 160 people to tell my story along with a bunch of other women from all walks of life with very varied experiences. I left the event feeling liberated, emotional, inspired and intent on continuing to spread goodness in the world in any way I can. I don't believe I am unique or special or anything out of the ordinary, I was pinching myself a little bit looking around the table at the other speakers and panelists, it felt like such an honor to be in their company. I can say one thing about myself and that is the pride I have in my determination to right the wrongs I see around me, to call out bullshit, to come down hard on what I see as unacceptable. This can be environmental, political, social, whatever it may be, I am passionate about standing up against things which I see as harmful, hurtful or destructive. I was able to do this on Sunday in a way that, I hope, touched the crowd and which I hope left an impression on someone who may be battling the same demons I once did.
Sharing my story of domestic abuse was difficult, not because I find it too painful to relive it, I actually find it somehow therapeutic, but because I know how common it is and that breaks my heart. It is a silent epidemic, at least it was, but I have seen a huge difference in the way this issue is perceived and understood in the last couple of years which gives me so much hope.
I spent years being shamed, by my ex partner, his family, our circle from the life I left behind. I was bullied into submission, bullied into facilitating visitation for my son, often at my own expense, and I am still being shamed. I have rebuilt my life entirely from scratch, no child support, no assistance, just the clothes on my back and my beautiful little boy. We have fought and we have fought hard for everything we have. It is wrong anyone should have to fight this way but I would do it all over again just to have the peace and normality we now live. The chaos is, for the most part, over and I am grateful for that everyday.
I have no doubt now, after succumbing to feelings of guilt or questioning myself, that I have done the right thing. That I am in no way in the wrong. I do not believe that I did the wrong thing walking away and protecting my son and myself from harms way. Believing that wholeheartedly and being immune to the words, the bullying, the shame thrown my way has been a difficult journey for me. The pressure to succumb and fall back into the abuse and manipulation with my son the pawn in the middle of it all has been the most difficult part of this for me, I have had to find a strength I didn't know I had to fight this off, to hold my head high, to ignore the injustice of my treatment, to say "no, I will not allow you to control me and keep me in a box, I will not allow you to bully me or cast shame my way when you are the one who should be ashamed" but I have arrived here finally. My walls are rock solid now, no one can break them down anymore.
Zebunissa Khan, Emma Madsen, Teyarna Matheson, Eve, Clare Sheehan, Myself, Najima Rasool, Camille Aniversario, Anthea cheng, Loren faingaa, Georgia, Samantha Jayne
I learned so much from being part of this event and I wanted to share with anyone who may have missed this event, or even with those who were there, what I took away from the day. The women who braved the mic were each incredible, honest, brave and beautiful. Their stories all moved me and looking back on the day, these are things I took away from it...
1. Walking through mud doesn't make you dirty or damaged - it makes your legs strong, your mind sharp and your heart fierce. Some paths are not paved, some paths feel impossible, sometimes we get stuck but the hard path builds a warrior.
2. Everyone has their battles. Not one person on earth arrives at adulthood without some trauma along the way. Sharing that is important. We cannot forget how hard life is at times, we have to remember the pain we each carry so we can look below the surface and remember to always be kind.
3. A child FROM a broken home is better off than a child IN a broken home. This was said by Zeb from Lifestyle Psychology and it really stuck with me. Leaving a terrible situation will always be better for a child and this applies to adults too - it is better to walk away from something bad and face the unknown than to stay for comfort, or perceived security.
4. Women are bad-ass, amazing, beautiful, loving, strong creatures. We birth life, we love deeply, we feel, we think, we create. Women are warriors and deserve love, respect and equality in every situation and every form that takes. We need to back one another, always.
5. Community is important. They say it takes a village to raise a child and yet these days there is no village, or if there is it feels hard to find. This applies not only to raising children but to grief, trauma, insecurity, bullying, violence, family challenges. Any way we look at it, we can see that the value placed on community has been somewhat lost with the way we live now. I felt the sense of community so deeply at this event that the room quite literally looked like one big, beating heart. The shared empathy in that space was beautiful, it was an embrace of every individual and every story. We need more of that. We have to find ways to have more of that. I can't thank Camille enough for creating this opportunity because that is exactly what she did with this event - she created a community which so many women are crying out for, which is so vital to our happiness, our means of coping and our way forward out of the pain.
I want to thank all of the speakers, the panelists, Camille from Invincible She and Pip & Lou, Georgie from The Womens Collective and each and every woman that was there in the audience. I have had many messages thanking me for sharing my story and I am blown away by the kindness flooding my world right now. I feel free, a little lighter, grateful and most importantly I feel proud of the goodness in people, the shared love of humanity and the power of the individual speaking out.
Myself and Zeb from Lifestyle Psychology
With the incredible and inspiring Teyana Matheson
With Clare Sheehan and Najima from Dusk Avenue and Teyarna Matheson
Myself, Najima, Clare, Eve, Teyarna, Zeb, Anthea, Loren, Camille & Em
I won't share my speech on here, it wasn't written down or scripted, I just stood up and told my story. I will keep that moment forever where it happened because walking up to the mic was was something I won't forget - I will remember all the faces in the audience looking at me, listening to me, understanding me, hearing me; that meant the world, it felt like healing and though I have been living back in Canberra for 4 year now, it felt like after all this time I'd finally come home.