|Initiative:||Council on Domestic Violence|
|Organization:||Abused Women's Aid in Crisis|
|Program Area:||Human Services \ Domestic violence|
"We gathered in together to tell our stories, haltingly at first...."
Abused Women's Aid in Crisis
Abused Women's Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) has the vision of a community with no domestic violence. Everyone has a right to live in a fear-free environment. AWAIC is committed to eliminating domestic violence by helping people to live and love without violence.
Every morning we women made breakfast, attended support groups and participated in activities. By late afternoon, time stretched out bleak and colorless until it was easy to slump down in front of
the TV and let our minds go blank. We preferred sitcoms, laugh-tracks in the back giving us a false
sense of security, a muted knowledge that somewhere lived families that argued without fear,
fell asleep at night without worrying they might be jerked down the hallway by their hair because
they forgot to turn off the kitchen light.
In the shelter, in those rooms filled with women and children, where everything was slower than normal, we learned to relax, soften our shoulders, carry our bodies as if they belonged to us again. We gathered in together to tell our stories, haltingly at first, shame clogging our throats, but after a while, it became easier. Soon we were telling our stories over and over, telling them to get them out, let them go. This wasn't easy. Abuse had filled many of our lives for so long that we didn't know how to function without it. We didn't know who we were, what we wanted from life. We were like children, fumbling and afraid, reaching out and tentatively leaning on each other as we took our first awkward steps.
It was hard learning to give up our pasts and move toward a future so foreign and unfamiliar we had no idea where it might lead. It hurt more than the slaps and broken bones, the burns and bruises. Some weren't ready, and they left to go back to their abusers. The rest of us huddled together and tried, for the second, third or fourth time, to put our foot down and claim, in a wavering and scared voice, that we deserved more. That, damn it, we really and truly deserved more.
Ten years later, I watch my son run through the yard, his long, beautiful legs moving with a grace that brings me to tears. He is smart, this son of mine, and funny and gifted. He lives in a house free of fear and shame, where anger is annoying but not punishing. Sometimes when I drive by the shelter, I say a small prayer of thanks. I remember those evenings spent in the kitchen surrounded by other woman, and how comforting it was to be in that safe and awful place together, all of us so damaged yet so wonderfully, gloriously intact.