SUSAN STILL on THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW
The Oprah Winfrey show featured a survivor of domestic violence yesterday, Susan Still, who shared her story of both abuse and reclaiming her life, getting safe from the cycle of violence, rebuilding her sense of self, and helping to get a 36-year conviction of her husband for the violence he inflicted upon her and her children.
It was a powerful show, on many levels. Most significant to me, however, was Oprah's willingeness to address this issue, to empower a survivor to be on the show and share her story in an effort to reach other women who may be living in the same dynamics of violence that Susan Still fled. Statistics tell us that 1 in 4 women experience partnership violence. That means 1 in 4 homes in your neighborhood have violence happening as a daily experience. As a survivor myself, I know the experience of that violence, and the effects that it has on its victims, witnesses, and bystanders. For years, I thought there was something wrong with me that brought the abuse upon me. I thought my experience wasn't necessarily rare, but not necessarily common, either. I was wrong on both counts: I am not to blame for someone else's violence and abusive beahvior, and I am most definitley not alone in having experienced it. It took me years to come to accept both of these truths, and to reclaim myself fully form the effects of the violence I sustained. I own myself in the world in a way I never could have before, and I feel blessed and honored to be able to do that work I do, suing poetry and speaking and performance to raise awareness around the issues of domestic and sexual violence, and working with victims, survivors and offenders for the goals of healing, and empowerment and healthy choices that build lives based on respect and joy, health and wholeness, and hope and possibility.
SO many victims and survivors live with a sense of shame and isolation that the violence itself, and the abusers, breed. Realizing how common domestic abuse actually is allows a survivor to begin to believe she (or he) may not be alone in their experience, or in the choices they make to free themselves from it. If so many people are experiencing violence in their homes, then that violence is not a personal, private matter. On the level that domestic and sexual violence occur in our cultures, it is a public, social and political issue that requires both a personal and a societal response.
On the personal level, you can rach out to help someone you think may be experiencing abuse, and telling them you are willing to help them in safe ways to get safe.
On a public, political level, you can work with your local domestic violence shelter, write to your Congress-people, or organize a benefit for programs in your community that support domestic and sexual violence services.
If you are a survivor, and comfortable with sharing your story, your story may help save the life of another person living in violence because your story tells other victims that they are not alone, and you stand as example of one victim who became a survivor, who became a surpassor.
And if you are a victim, you can choose to reclaim yourself and your life and get suppor tto develop a safety plan to maximize your (an your children's) safety as you leave the abuse. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the safety plan. Call your local resource center or the check out the safety plan offered on the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website at
www.ncadv.org/protectyourself/SafetyPlan_130.html and at
The safety plan is exactly that: a plan to help you leave the abuse and reclaim your life as safely as possible. You can do this, as terrifying as it may feel to you right now. You CAN do this, and there are so many people waiting to help you do it. I know this from experience, as my poems show. I lived in a cycle of violence, until the only option I had was to try to live differently. And I know form experience that, although a long path, healing is possible. Reclaiming your self and your life is possible. But you do not have to do it alone. The organizations and resources are there to help you, so please take advantage of them, and hold onto whatever bit of hope Oprah's show and Susan Still's story lit inside of you.
I am so grateful that the Oprah show addressed this epidemic of violence in our culture, and honored the experiences of so many people struggling with their own experiences of it in thier daily lives. I am also grateful to the survivor, Susan Still, for so courageoulsy sharing her story, and hopefully inspiring other victims to safely leave the abuse.
Although years removed from my own experiences of violence, both Oprah and Susan Still reaffirmed my dedication and motivation to helping others through the work I do as a poet, an activist, a speaker, and teacher. I have been blessed with the opportunity to live my life as I do, to offer my own experiences and abilities to others in an effort to effect change, to raise awareness and to offer some hope to those in need of it that healing and living free are possibile.
ALL PEACE. DORA
A quick post to let you know that Chris and I have been working on edits to my site, and are almost done with the endless project of updating.
This winter was a hard one for me, and yet spring has offered me an opportunity to regain a sense of possibility and hope. I am finally writing again, after sporadic writing brought on by the challenges of the winter in losing my father, my attempting to accept that loss, and with my mother's illnesses.
So, I begin again. One step of that is updating the site. So, check it out. And thank you to every single person who offered me and my family so much support, assistance, prayers and love through this time period. Gratitude does not cover the depth of my appreciation.
ALL PEACE. DORA