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Survivors: A story of hope

“Survivor” is a term of transition in the domestic violence world.

The term is used to describe victims who have transitioned from being battered and abused, to a person of hope and healing — surviving the trauma. They’ve survived. They’ve overcome.

There are survivors with us every day. Some are very secretive, never showing an ounce of their past, while others are very vocal and open in their path of healing. Either is a choice solely up to the survivor, neither choice wrong or right. Some have much work left before feeling whole again; others have spent a great majority of their life overcoming the fear and anger. “Survivor” is a loose term that encompasses many victims, at many levels of healing.

One thing remains consistent with each one: each has to re-brainwash themselves to overcome feelings of fault, self-blame and worthlessness. The damage of the psychological abuse runs deep and wide, and for some may never truly go away. There may always be a hint of doubt.

When you are repeatedly and relentlessly sent the message that you are not deserving of love, that you are not deserving of respect, that you are not deserving of happiness, you actually come to believe it.

Lily (name changed) came to believe the whole world was evil. From her first breath, she experienced neglect and abuse, and later married into the same scenario. She assumed it was just the way it was. When she was finally told by a victim advocate that not all relationships are abusive, Lily was truly shocked. In fact, when she was told the great majority are not, Lily was awestruck. And for the first time in her entire life experience, she was hopeful.

Lily describes her healing as a “reconstruction.” She purposefully did everything opposite of what her life was like before. She changed her hair, changed her clothes, and even changed her furniture.

“He took all the antique furniture, so I’m gonna like contemporary,” she said. She also began to jog every night for an hour, and during her “healing hour” she consistently fed positive statements to herself: “I’m intelligent, I’m beautiful, I am loving, I am loved, I am wonderful, I am happy and successful.”

And Lily became all of those things again.

Though you may never know a survivor’s story, the energy and purposeful rebuilding of their lives is truly inspiring. Though, in our eyes, they never lost their competency and their worthiness, they work hard every day to assure themselves they are competent and worthy.

You can’t assume they look like the walking wounded, oblivious to their pain, like a wounded animal. Instead, they learn to walk proudly; they learn to look you in the eye with confidence and, most importantly, they learn to accept their past and form a bright new future.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month — a month to make a strong statement that abuse in relationships is never OK. A month to honor those who continue to struggle. A month to pay tribute to those who have survived — to those that have overcome.

Submitted by the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program, a group dedicated to ending domestic violence in our community. For free and confidential support, call 264-9075.