community, health

The Presence of Greatness

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  -Eleanor Roosevelt

There are times in my life when it seems absolutely impossible to avoid “my purpose”. This is definitely one of those times. I don’t know how I came across it but earlier this week I discovered that there was to be a statewide symposium for women, made possible by the Department of Children and Families. Today was the first of three in a series called “Women on Wednesday” and today’s subject was the Chronic Health Impacts of Violence Against Women. It was timed perfectly to give me the motivation to get through next week’s event and to keep that momentum going, wherever it may go.

Two years ago I attended a three day conference in Albany with the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault. It was there that I connected the dots and found the strength to admit that I was the victim of domestic violence. I largely owe this conference for saving my life and getting me out of my abusive marriage. This “aha” moment propelled me, a lifelong consumer of self-help, into DV overload. A lover of TED talks, one of the first places I went searching was TED. When I searched “domestic violence” I was surprised to find only one talk. (There are a couple more now.)

Leslie Morgan Steiner doesn’t look like a victim of domestic violence. Her resume doesn’t read that of “battered woman”. Perhaps it is because this well-educated blonde beauty doesn’t fit the bill of what we’ve been taught a battered wife looks like that makes her such a powerful speaker. Maybe it is her brutal honesty about her first marriage or her connection of text book symptoms and actions into her life that makes it so easy to relate to her. Or maybe it is because, despite having remarried and had three children, written three books, and conquered the corporate world, all these years later she still presents emotion when opening up her wounds to help others understand the domestic violence victim.

I’ve watched Ms. Steiner’s TED Talk several times and was honored to hear her speak today. In person she has a fragile strength that is undeniable. She graciously spoke with me after her speech and encouraged me to continue on this path. She is a wonderful speaker but she can’t do it alone. We all have to share our stories. Those without personal experience have to talk to each other and their children about domestic violence, about sexual violence. We cannot change the societal standards that enable violence against women if we aren’t allowed to talk about it. In our house, these subjects will be dinner talk and my son will know that when his father tells him “its okay to hit someone if you don’t love them” that his father is wrong.

I was in good company today and am inspired to continue on this journey. My story is important and my voice needs to be heard. You are important, too. Don’t ever forget that. Ms. Steiner, if your are actually reading this, thank you.

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