In the background of the “What a great project!” chatter is another running thought: “Don’t talk about it.”
Countless people have contacted me to talk about how they love the idea of The Tiara Project. When asked if they have a story to share or if they would like to wear a tiara, they often very quickly backed off. “Oh no, nothing I want to talk about. No, I wouldn’t want anyone to look at me differently. No, I don’t want people to think I have anything wrong with me.”
Another response has been, “This isn’t really something we should talk about, is it?”
I get it. Memories are hard. Looking back at a past you put into a grave isn’t something many want to do. Putting away the “I’m fine!” mask you’ve been wearing isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. I have had to wrestle with these things for years, but I choose to keep putting fear behind me because I believe we have to speak out and share. I believe we have to keep walking in the shoes we once walked in, to remember just a little so we can help others currently walking in their own shoes of abuse.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is often lost behind Breast Cancer Awareness. Pink cancels out purple. People would rather talk about saving the breasts than saving people they assume should save themselves with better decisions. Again, I get it. Breast talk is easier than talk of being raped or punched in the face or Grandpa putting his hands where they don’t belong. But at the heart of breast talk is saving lives. And in the same way, at the heart of domestic violence talk is saving lives. Judgments can be made all day long about people who stay in abusive relationships, but if you’ve never walked even a step in their shoes, you may never get it – the fear, the doubt, the pain.
I don’t know what it’s like to have breast cancer. I’ve never stared down the barrel of death, not knowing if I would be another lost or another survivor. But I have stared down death in the form of violence. And I can tell you this much: There isn’t the same support system in place for violence as there is for breast cancer; there isn’t the same rallying of love and camaraderie; and there certainly isn’t the same odds of survival. Violence can be lifelong or come on suddenly, ending a life just as suddenly. You don’t often see rape coming. You don’t always see that a button has been pushed before you find yourself cowering in a corner, protecting your face from fists. And you certainly don’t get regular checkups to be sure abuse isn’t about to happen to you.
We have to talk more about abuse, violence, rape, molestation, emotional pain, mental control, and all the things that come with. We have to take our stories out of the closet and share them. We have to open up and not allow shame to fill our hearts and minds — not as the victim, nor when looking at a victim.
I pray you never know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a victim, to know that pain, but if you do, I hope you’ll land in supportive arms, see faces that believe you and love you and will get you through. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is simply a month…but awareness should be every single day. Don’t look away from those who are hurting just because the subject isn’t comfortable. Don’t close your eyes because you’d rather not know. And please don’t keep silent if it’s happening to you.
If we can openly talk about breasts, we can openly talk about violence. Let’s do something!