In 1999, I survived a domestic violence incident that left me with lifelong pain issues, along with the shame and guilt that comes with being the target of such an attack. Years of verbal abuse and some showing and pushing led to a punch to the jaw that severely sprained my neck. And yet, I didn’t leave.
WHY DOESN’T SHE JUST LEAVE HIM? people say.
Because it’s not that easy.
I got lucky; my ex-husband left me. I didn’t have the strength after a decade of being told that I was worthless to leave on my own. Since then, and with help, I have managed to rebuild my life and thrive, with a second marriage and a beautiful son since then.
Women and men in abusive relationships don’t talk about it. It feels much too painful and shameful, and in some cases, if the perpetrator is charming to everyone else, it can be difficult to generate support. I tell my story over and over again to help tear down the walls of secrecy, and help other survivors see that there is a way out. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
SafePlace is helping light the way, with Illuminate Austin, a fundraiser walk to honor the memory of those who have been lost to domestic violence, and the survivors who are still here. I participated in last year’s walk, the first annual, with my husband and son on a friend’s Superhero team, and we thought it was a great event.
At the second annual event on February 21, Mueller Lake Park will be lined with luminarias for Illuminate Austin. Although the cause is serious and somber, the event is full of hope and light. Starting at 5 PM, families from all over the city will light the way again on the walk to end violence, benefiting SafePlace.
This is a family-friendly event, with children, dogs, and adults walking together around the park in the beautiful Mueller area. The event was created by Luci Baines Johnson to honor her friend Betty Beal, who was killed by her estranged husband in 1981, and Betty’s sister Bobbie, whose son was injured in the attack.
SafePlace estimated that as many as 60,000 Central Texans are living in homes where domestic violence is present, and that 4,000 rapes are committed in Austin each year — most of them unreported. “Your presence at the walk shows survivors who are working to reclaim their lives that we all stand with them, and helps SafePlace raise essential funds for direct service, prevention, and education programs,” reads the SafePlace site.
We are bringing domestic violence and sexual abuse to the light. We are walking in support; we are walking in remembrance; and we are walking to say ‘no more’. The more time we spend talking about the violence and abuse, the safer it gets to report. The shame and guilt that come along with assault in our culture makes it hard for survivors to speak out, but when we stand in solidarity, we show a united front against violence that survivors can count on.
Kids will find plenty to do at the site, with coloring stations for luminarias, games, balloons, and t-shirts for every registered participant.
Last year’s Illuminate goal was for 500 walkers, and they counted over 1000, and they are hoping for a bigger year in 2015. Teams or individuals can sign up to walk; it’s free to join, but donations are encouraged.
The walk raises essential funds for SafePlace programs, and also helps bring conversations about domestic violence and sexual assault to the light and out of the darkness of shame and fear.
SafePlace provides comprehensive services to survivors of sexual and domestic violence, as well as outreach and education to our community. Some of the activities supported by donations include:
- 24-hour hotline, in continuous operation since 1974
- 105-bed shelter designed to accommodate adults, mothers with children, and people with disabilities
- Hospital accompaniment and advocacy for survivors of sexual assault
- Individual and group counseling
- Legal advocacy
- Supportive housing for survivors and their children
- Comprehensive services for children, including an on-site child development center, K-12 charter school, counseling and support groups, and after school and summer programs
- Expect Respect, a nationally-recognized program that works in local middle and high schools with youth who have been exposed to domestic violence
- Specific programs and services for people with disabilities and the Deaf community
5:00 – 5:45 PM
Vendors, Art Activities,
Photo Booth, Kids’ Activities
Come. Walk. You are making a difference.
For more information, visit www.illuminateatx.org.
To register to walk as an individual or as a team: https://www.crowdrise.com/IlluminateAustin2015