Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – a United Nations-led initiative aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls around the world. It also marks the launch of 16 Days of Activism, which runs until International Human Rights Day on December 10.
To honour the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the start of 16 Days of Activism, YWCA Hamilton is proud to share excerpts from a newly released publication that shares the stories, voices, and healing journeys of women in Hamilton who have experienced gender-based violence.
“Riding the Waves: the Ebb and Flow of Women Experiencing Violence” shares poetry, first-person narratives, and artwork.
Produced by WAVES – or Women Against Violence Empowering Survivors, a subcommittee of the Woman Abuse Working Group – the book was two years in the making. The stories and the images are often difficult to absorb, as many share gut-wrenching details of trauma and abuse inflected on the authors and artists over the years.
“The content of this book is genuine and raw in all of its beauty,” said Bianca Mallon, a member of WAVES, who designed and edited the book.
However, the book also shares messages of hope, healing, and optimism for the future. The goal of the book is to raise awareness about the realities of violence, and to empower, educate, and encourage other women who have experienced violence.
Mostly, the book aims to name the realities of violence against women, in order to prevent it from happening ever again.
“We want to eliminate violence as much as we can,” said Bianca.
The following are excerpts from “Riding the Waves: the Ebb and Flow of Women Experiencing Violence.”
I am a survivor
I am a survivor because I fought back.
I am a survivor because I’ve survived pain.
I am a survivor because I told him no.
I am a survivor because I lived through this pain.
I am a survivor because I get out of bed every day and fight depression and PTSD.
I am a survivor because I have survived trauma.
I am a survivor when I suffer from regular panic attacks and anxiety.
I am a survivor when I have a nightmare.
I am a survivor when I can’t sleep.
I am a survivor in all of these ways and many more – but I am a survivor because I was abused.
Letter to Him
Invisible to all but me, I wear the scars of your abuse on my heart and soul. For so long, you told me I deserved the name calling and violence…I believed you so much, that I don’t know how to let someone treat me with kindness and respect anymore.
When I finally got the courage to get away, I was left with a shell of my former self. No sense of who I am or what I wanted; because for so long, I became what you wanted me to be. I have a wonderful journey ahead of me, rediscovering who I am and what it’s like to interact with others without fear. That is the gift you inadvertently gave me, the catalyst to my rediscovery and the joy of redefining my own life again. You really don’t appreciate what you have until you are without it.
Because of my years with you, I will treasure my years without you and I will move forward with a stronger sense of who I am, what I want for myself and my children. That is the positive aspect of a very negative experience!
Black out drunk.
Black out memories.
Your weight on me while I try not to move, barely breathe.
If you wake, it will start again.
And tomorrow you will remember nothing.
I will remember, relive and tell no one.
Not even you.
My body hurts, my emotions spin, but I am a master at being ok.
I protect you as I tell you just enough to implore you not to take that first drink.
When I see your defeated look as I share only a bit.
I shut down to protect you.
While no one protects me.
I sit in the dark, holding my breath, knowing another blackout will come.
If I change, maybe this will change too.
If I am more accepting, more understanding, less provoking.
I just want to be able to love you through this,
not seeing I need my own love.
I can’t speak this.
If I say it out loud I will lose you.
I want what brought me here to be here.
The friendship, the laughter, the romance.
I am hopeful by nature and want you to hold onto my hope.
If he just stops drinking this will change.
I filed away the memories and blacked them out.
There was joy. YET
There was no healing.
The toxic sludge continued to erode spirit.
I was lost and stuck and continuing to hide.
But my light is strong. Even when reduced to a flicker.
I deserve to be out of the dark.
Perhaps it’s time to open to colour and step out of the black.