We are typical survivors of domestic violence, the women who escape the clutches of their abuser and move forward with our lives. We live to tell our tales. We hear a lot about women murdered by lovers or ex-husbands in the media because that story sells. But considering 1 in 4 women will experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner in her lifetime there are a tremendous number of us walking the streets, sharing hallways, and shopping the grocery store aisles every day.

Getting from the point of victim to survivor is not an easy road. There are bumps and bruises, twists and turns, detours and often road blocks. For some it may take years. Others may find the strength and courage to leave after the first violent incident occurs. It took me two years to leave my ex-husband and another year to recognize that what I experienced was domestic abuse and to finally give up the hope that he was ever going to change.

In the year that followed my recognition, I pushed through the continued exertion of control that came at me in the form of unwanted visits to my home, family court motions, and emails laden with attacks on my character. There are times when I wonder how I did, but I survived it all. Then it occurred to me that surviving was not the end. Surviving is not my goal and I am sure it is not yours either. I want to thrive. I CHOOSE TO THRIVE.

I choose to aim high. I choose to love again, to take risks in my career and in my personal life. I choose to reconnect with myself. I chose to pick up the broken pieces that were left in the aftermath of my first marriage, to take the pieces that still fit and to abandon the ones that were no longer a part of my identity. I choose to honor and respect my past but to create a vision for my future. I choose to raise my voice in solidarity with other survivors and in protest of the societal norms and systems that failed to protect us.

My voice is powerful and can inspire. My voice speaks my own truth and will be used to empower others to do the same. My vision is to leave this world having made it a safer, more beautiful place than it was when I arrived. My vision includes a society in which my son is not asked to disrespect others because of race, sexual orientation, or gender in order to be deserving of his place among men. I choose to share my voice and my vision because surviving is not the end of my story. Surviving is only the beginning.