"I Will Survive": Domestic Violence Awareness Month Writing Prompt
Contributor
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Deborah Siegel asks for your inspiring slightly-longer-than-twitter-length stories of women who’ve survived.

Most of us know a woman who has been a victim of domestic violence. We may know her from afar. We may know her up close. The thing is, we know. And over the next two weeks, by participating in the DVAM Writing Prompt here at She Writes, we can serve as a witness and celebrate her strength and survival through our words.

Because writing, we know, can heal and transform. Good writing reaches across the void and holds another’s soul. “Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine,” writes poet Mary Oliver in one of my all-time favorite poems (“Wild Geese”). As writers, as lovers of language, not all of us are lovers of Twitter. But writing short—with the aim of writing well—can be a fertile exercise. Trim the fat and your reader imbibes what’s core. So if you’re still with me, let’s try it together. Follow the rules below and write—it’s She Writes, after all! The editors over here will choose a range to feature over the next two weeks here on the blog.

Here are rules of the road:

1. In 300 characters or less, narrate a nugget about a woman who survived. She may be your sister, your friend, the woman next door. She may be a character in your novel or a figment of your mind. She may be a woman in an existing work of literature or a song. She may be…you.

2. End with a punch line, if possible. Or at least make certain it’s clear why this woman, her strength or her survival, inspires you.

3. Conclude with the letters IWS—for I Will Survive.

4.Post your entry in comments and/or on your SW blog with the tag IWS, so we can find it.

And please spread the word.

-If you tweet, tweet her name (if, and only if, it’s safe), or the first few words of your entry, the link to this post (http://bit.ly/96nHyn), and the hashtags #IWS, #VAW. Here's one ready to go: SW Domestic Violence Awareness Month Writing Prompt: "I Will Survive."Be witness. Honor survival. Pls share: http://bit.ly/96nHyn #IWS, #VAW

-If you FB, post the following: Do you know a survivor of domestic violence? Participate in the She Writes Domestic Violence Awareness Month Writing Prompt: I Will Survive. Be her witness. Honor her strength. And pass it on. http://bit.ly/96nHyn Ok now, some samples, to get us going: The first below is from me, true story; the second, from a writer you know. When I was fifteen I babysat for the family next door. He was abusive. One day, he pushed her down the stairs. She broke her arm. She left, her cast the only remnant of the hardness of his soul. IWS. Janie did what she had never done before, that is, thrust herself into the conversation…. “It’s so easy to make yo’self out God Almighty when you ain’t got nothin’ tuh strain against but women and chickens.” (Zora Neal Hurston) IWS. Your turn. Let’s hear you, She Writers. Send a roar of support, sisterhood, and good ole fashioned solidarity out into the world this month. Let her know you're aware, you honor her, you care. See also: The Survivor Chronicles group (The image above is a poster for sale from the National Coalition against Domestic Violence)

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Comments
  • Bonnie Joy Sludikoff

    Twelve is not always old enough to know how to cry out no- so I didn't.
    I lay quietly and wait to wake up from a nightmare, but I didn't.
    I expected support when I finally came forward- I thought for sure someone would put an immediate stop to the abuse, but they didn't.
    In hindsight, I'd think someone would tell me it wasn't my fault before my mid-twenties, but they didn't.
    Learning the statistics, I'd think that the 60 percent of women who are abused and the other 40 percent who all know someone who has been abused would could forward, but they haven't.
    Still, I work daily to build an organization to be the change in the world. It's difficult, and I constantly want to stop and give this fight up forever, but I haven't.
    I.W.S.

    Please support That's What She Didn't Say on youtube and facebook.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQQ6jF_WF8g

  • Kate Gould

    She never knew why her mum did it, crept into his room to smash his hands his head. Blood bone mush. She knew from school every bad thing that could happen between men and women. No bruises. No shouting. No fear. Like a checklist. Mum used the suffering of women who were beaten, knowing if she said self-defence the jury'd believe her. She walked. He never would. IWS

  • Melinda Freeman

    As the barrel pressed against my temple, my two year old son screaming at his father to stop, I felt something shift inside my soul. I looked him dead in the eye and said, “Either shoot me, or get that gun the fuck out of my face. But if you shoot me, you’d better make sure I’m dead.” In that moment, his reign of terror ended. It was then that our lives began. IWS

  • Natalie Collins

    Every inch of my being ripped apart by the love of my life. Every part of my soul torn to shreds by him. He tried to kill me, but I would not die. He tried to destroy me, but I would not be lost. I am no longer a victim, no longer a survivor, but I am a conqueror of domestic abuse IWS

  • Nichole Payton

    Broken heart, Broken nose and broke financially, every day she went through hell and back. Numbness filled her emotions. She cried no more although physically seen was her face painted black and blue by her abusive boyfriend. Faith warmed her soul, no one but her heavenly father could give her the strength to press forward. Seven years later, she owns her own business and volunteers at her local woman’s shelter. (Author, Nichole Payton) IWS

  • Charlie Tyler

    It was the perfect story of boy meets girl.
    He was a wonderful artist, a talented sportsman.
    I fell madly in love.
    I forgave the beatings and rapes.
    Then he nearly killed me.
    I woke up; I walked out.
    I decided: never again. IWS

  • Charlie Tyler

    The woman you left bruised and bleeding is gone. In her place I stand. A testament to the power of survival, healing, acceptance and love. IWS

  • Laurel Mills

    Her husband's fists and verbal put-downs have reduced Michelle to a shadow of the woman she used to be. She's lost all self-confidence and self-esteem. Then she meets Sydney at a bird club meeting, and her life veers sharply in a new direction.

    In my new novel TAKING FLIGHT (Intaglio Publications), a woman caught in an abusive marriage risks everything by falling in love with another woman. The book is available at amazon.com

    IWS

  • Karen Bain

    I turned the corner into the bread aisle and nearly collided with her. She grunted, each time her fist struck flesh. The sound. The blood. A child cowered, whimpered, pinned in the grocery cart. Rage exploding in my head, I gripped the woman’s arm with such strength I could have snapped it in two. The cruel blows stopped. Her head swung my way, and her eyes bored into mine.

    They were the hateful eyes of my mother who terrified me until I was big enough to duck and run like hell. Years later, I saw those eyes one last time, one… last… time… when I caught my mother beating my 12 month old daughter senseless. My grip on her arm was so painful she cried out and dropped to her knees. “You ever touch my daughter again, and I will kill you. Kill you.” The child abuser in the grocery store was silent. She stared at me. I growled, “Do you understand me? You ever strike that child again, and I … will… kill… you.” Silence. She was rigid. I shook her arm. “It is wrong. Do you know what you are doing? It is all wrong?” Tears rushed down her face. “I know. “She said, “I know.”

    Security arrived, I released the woman and she was led away. The adrenalin, the fury, the talk of killing ~ engulfed my 65 year old body, bled out and left me dizzy.

    “Good God, I despise them ~ bullies ~ abusers.”

    And then I asked myself, “Where the hell did that come from? Years of therapy? Decades of leading a successful and normal life? Scars of childhood domestic violence lurk. Forever. ” In any case, I survived. Quite well. Thank you very much. IWS

  • Marie Cooper

    In the beginning, she did not feel brave or deserving enough to get out.

    Then she tried asking her parents for help. She sat in their living room weeping, with a black eye, and her mother said “You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.” They sent her back to be beaten and threatened with knives and choked and dragged through the house by her clothes and endlessly berated.

    She went for a restraining order. Maintaining composure, for some sense of dignity, she was subsequently doubted. “This isn’t a joke, you know” the woman in charge snapped. She couldn’t reply. In the courtroom, the judge never even looked at her. “How many children?” “Four.” “All his?” Big swallow, “Yes.” Inside, “OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod…”

    And then he violated it anyway. Three times. Went to jail, got out, cycled over again. Defeated, she finally gave up and let him back.

    She had no money for a divorce, so she went back to school. The first day the class was asked to write on a piece of paper why they wanted to go into nursing. Sixty people wrote they wanted to help people. Only she truthfully wrote “I need a good job.”

    She got her good job. She was saving her money. He looked at her one day and said “I will never love anyone as much as I love you.” Her heart sank. And he added “And I will never forgive you for trying to throw me out.” She knew then she was doomed. Except two weeks later he collapsed with a fatal coronary.

    She survived because he died first. He was absolutely going to kill her one day, it was just a matter of time. Sadly, his death was the beginning of her life. She has survived. IWS.

  • Joanna Johnson

    He didn't beat her with his fists, although she knew he wanted to. She knew to duck, just in case that fist came slamming towards her head... but it didn't. And he didn't need to. Instead, he beat her with words. He beat her with body language. He beat her spirit to a pulp each time he laughed and rolled her eyes at her - "I didn't say you were stupid." He'd smile then, clearly enjoying the effect of his cruelty.
    But he didn't have to say that word: Stupid. His whole body said it for him. She was just eight years old, and starting to wonder if her father loved her.
    By age 18, she knew. He didn't. She tried harder and harder to win his respect. But always, she was stupid. And ugly. And sick - all the time.
    By 25, her respect for him died. Died one day when he rudely brushed off a total stranger because that man didn't speak English. She cringed when she saw the hurt in the stranger's eyes and how her father didn't care.
    By 35, she could barely stand to be around him. She was beginning to understand that actually, she was a little smart after all - and wondered how he hadn't noticed.
    And by 40, she realized that he had never wanted to notice. He wanted to beat her with words and gestures because it was...entertaining, thrilling, empowering. And she knew that indeed, he'd never loved her as a parent should - and that she would be....okay.
    IWS

  • debra kay hannula

    Pride and envy seem to be two sides of the same coin.

    Pride is actually weakness covered by a thin, coppery patina of acceptability. As is envy.

    The two manifest typically in power struggles that are not really about power, but weakness.

    The truly empowered person feels joy in the accomplishments of others, not envy. Pride is threatened by another’s success; envy is ignited by it.

    Two of the seven deadly sins, PRIDE and ENVY, rear their ugly heads in the arena of domestic violence, where I have spent time as an activist, lawyer and advocate.

    Pride is the man with the lovely wife who, as long as she obeys his every demand, feels all is well in the world. He knows he is the envy of others, because she is so pure and ideal and adoring of him. But is she? As soon as other men gaze at her admiringly, her accomplishments pose a threat; they no longer reflect his image. Pride commands he hold onto her tighter; monitor her every move. Pride dictates that she adore only him. Where is the original, innocent girl he fell in love with? She is a woman, a mother, a person, herself. He is envious of her, and Pride demands he grip her ever tighter. Money, odometers, outsiders - all must be kept in check. Envy tells him others want her; she must want them. Psychological games, grabbing, pushing, pulling, hitting, beating become weapons. Envy and Pride collude. They dictate all the useful tools.

    Maybe she will escape; damaged and wounded, but wise. The woman sees Pride and Envy, stripped of their camouflage, for what they are: weakness and cowardice.
    (Debra Kay Hannula) IWS

  • Joyce Evans-Campbell

    He stuck the butcher knife to my throat and forced me to undress then proceeded to rape me. My younger brothers and sisters told my parents, and Mom beat me because the tall, black, menace blamed me. He was 18 and I was 11. After years and therapy and writing about it, I passed the story on. IWS

  • Rosey Goodman

    I cannot begin to boil down the last two years into 300 characters (may give it a shot later) as I am verbose, always will be. When I meet folks who tell me to get on with it (tell a story faster) I clam right up which is not like me at all but to me, telling me that I cannot be me in terms of telling a story? Well, you may as well be smacking this bitch down but good....that is how it feels when one is silenced into submission by someone else's selfishness and impatience.

    Silence, when undertaken willingly can be good but it becomes abuse when one is told to shut up or worse yet that their words, their feelings are relegated to the heap of irrelevance by the one who wishes to silence you or just as bad, walks away while you are in mid-sentence.

    How utterly rude. Selfish. Demeaning. Uncaring. I will not be silent. No more. Never again.

    IWS
    WWS

  • Maria I. Kuroshchepova

    No one in my family has ever been divorced, except for one wayward uncle. So, telling my parents that I - a straight-A student, the family inspiration and forever goody-two-shoes - was leaving my husband was not easy. It didn't help matters that I was in America and my parents were on the other end of the phone line in Ukraine.

    "But you were such a great couple!"

    "Yes, dad, we were... for some time."

    I fell head over heels for him. Many were surprised - he was paraplegic and a wheelchair is generally not considered something associated with romance. He had an incredibly compelling voice. At the time I thought his commanding manner alluring and imperious. And the fact that he overcame tremendous odds to get an education and re-build his life and career drew me to him even stronger.

    "So, how is it that you are splitting?"

    "Well, we have been having.... issues for a while, dad."

    He wanted everything just so. Forgetting to use a coaster under a glass of water wasn't just followed by a reminder - it was followed by a lecture on how water rings ruined the look of furniture. Dropping keys on the table was followed by a stern reprimand for not caring for nice things and scratching up the wood. Setting plastic sunglasses onto a wood surface was strictly forbidden because he believed that plastic would contaminate wood and leave permanent marks.

    When asked for advice or direction, he would answer, "Figure it out! You are an adult! I can't be responsible for telling you EVERYTHING!"

    When not asked for direction, he would say, "Well, you could have at LEAST run it by me."

    We had completely different notions about sex, and I was soon dubbed cold and rejecting, while I was simply sore and raw and trying to recover from his rough manner.

    We fought... No matter how it started, it always ended the same way, with me cowering before him, weeping and begging for forgiveness. He forgave - or at least he said he did - but he never forgot. And whatever was the perceived wrong in a prior argument would come back to haunt me in the next one, and the next, and the next...

    Eventually, I realized I was avoiding speaking unless spoken to and answering questions with anything definitive until I had a clear idea of what he wanted the answer to be. I paused each time before placing an object onto a surface and when I was handling anything important or fragile, my hands frequently shook, causing me to drop, spill and break things and bring further scorn upon my head.

    "So, what will you do now?"

    "Well, I got my own place and moved out. Just... getting used to being on my own I guess. I did start therapy."

    I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder with severe depression and anxiety as my primary symptoms. To my therapists question as to why it took me seven years to realize that I was trapped in a cycle of abuse, I answered "Well... At least he didn't beat me." My therapist just looked at me, letting the statement well and truly sink in. And when it did, I covered my face with my hand and said, "Oh... my... god". To which my therapist replied, "Yeah, I know. Astonishing, isn't it?"

    IWS

  • Kelly Fitzpatrick Writing

    WWS. IWS

    The Day of the Fall - © Kelly Fitzpatrick

    Once i made my mind up
    there was no turning back.
    oh, i could if i wanted to continue to die
    inside
    until HE did it to me
    robbing our children
    who were invisible to the outside world
    i remember looking into the bathroom mirror
    on my birthday a few years before
    feeling sorry for myself
    a target turned victim
    i was the only one
    seeing the woman who only i saw
    i cried, “i am going to continue to be invisible,
    and no one will see my beauty grow old.”
    and i cried, “no one will rescue the children but me.”
    everywhere i looked
    HE blocked our leaving
    threatening Death
    promising nothing
    silently silently planning
    enslaved
    while squeezing my tiny world
    smaller and smaller
    as my breath became shallow
    in my buried spirit
    as i decided
    to try
    to save the children.

    The day i left
    i called for help
    after a year of secret planning
    but the world broke into pieces
    of police yelling orders
    children screaming
    running
    back and forth
    back and forth
    by police command
    from Willys jeep wagon
    to junked stationwagon
    and back again
    guns pulled
    orders shouted
    papers showed
    and other papers served
    on my windshield

    me silent amid the noise
    except my ‘yes sirs’s to uniforms
    spirit of confusion ruled
    taking us all up to the edge of
    Death
    and there was HIM bellowing tall over all
    running like a furied demon
    with the wild crazy raging eyes
    from insanity beyond
    as evil tried to win
    I
    Escaped
    Forever.

    But the cop with the gun held at my head helped send my children back into hell
    as he told me;
    “I don’t believe you.”

    WWS
    IWS

  • Suzanna Burke

    "So big man, with your big fist clenched, hear me as I say I'll no longer be your whore. Watch me big man, I'm walking out that door!" IWS.

  • Tamara Bastone

    Unknowingly, she married her father, determined as she was to make up for her sense of unworthiness. Maybe this time she could get it right, maybe this time she would be loved. Unknowingly, she chose her husband well He drank heavily , just like her father. He verbally and physically abused her, just like her father. One day ,at a red light, she glimpsed a little girl riding a bike. She wore pink cowboy boots and her blonde pigtails did a crazy dance in the breeze. Behind the steering wheel her blue eyes met the laughing blue eyes of the child. The warmth of the girl's smile melted her heart. Although it took time and therapy in the preceding years , she knew suddenly on that day , that she had worth. She mattered. The little girl inside of her knew this all along. IWS

  • Jennifer Shryock

    Years of planning. Trying to get it just right, not hurt him, not lose everything, not get hurt. But every day I stayed, I lost something. I finally left. Lost everything. Now I know I survived I'd leave sooner. I'd still have had to start over, but there would have been more of me to start it. IWS

  • Rebecca Anne Salem

    It's another day rising over the same old hills that never seem to move and the sun is blaring into her window, breaking through the stubborn strong shade. His body is heavy, so heavy, next to her with bad breath filling the room and the stench of him filling her head and her lungs. "Get out. Get out. Just get the fuck out." She is thinking this every day now. Her teeth are clenched so tight and her jaw is almost always sore. She doesn't know why; it's just another part of the same old pain. Pushing up out of the bed she can see the place they live now and remember that feeling of love first born, of warmth, of safety. Her reflection is suddenly standing in the cracked mirror hanging from the wall and so she has to look. It has been so long since she has felt this brave. It is hard to see through the uncut hair, the bruised lips, the worn down self to the person she remembers herself as but the voices are louder now, " Let's go, come on, get up. I'm done, please, just leave. We can't do this anymore. I can't do this anymore." Okay, she says out loud. Yes, I am ready. Yes, I am ready to go. IWS

  • E. Joyce Moore

    Domestic Violence Awareness month. For those who are unsure of what constitutes abuse, please visit
    http://www.examiner.com/abusive-relationships-in-baltimore/e-joyce-moore

  • E. Joyce Moore

    QUIET WHISPERS
    In homage to Yvette Cade*

    And here I stand.
    Quiet whispers silenced
    by the desire
    to see you as my truth.
    messages went unheeded
    while I danced to your music.
    Problems, warning signs ignored
    because the you that I adored
    remained my fantasy.
    Staying because of what I wanted it to be
    not because of what it is.
    Embarrassed to admit I might be wrong
    Stubbornly believing I could make wrong right
    I chose to stay and fight.
    the internal whispers begged me for flight.
    whispered slivers of scorn
    cut like a knife
    when made to feel less than,
    smaller than life.
    The bond between us
    made, when promises were spoken
    now permanently broken
    forsaking all -- family concerns, my child's cries
    I took all your controlling lies
    and made them a part of me.
    I forgot what my daddy told me:
    Love is as love does. Love doesn't hurt.
    Crisis now a true disaster
    Help me God, make me run faster!
    Now I see that
    He'd been offering me a ride all along.
    But like Phoenix from the fire
    Again I shall rise, much the wiser.
    Purposed now to
    change your mind
    when you think that you will find
    love, when all the warning signs
    Whisper.

    *Yvette Cade, a beautiful African American woman, who heeded the warning signs too late. Her husband came to her workplace, doused her with gasoline and set her on fire. She survived, incredibly burned, to share her story as a cautionary tale about love and ignoring the warning signs.
    IWS

  • Carrie

    He beat me black and blue with his words. Hundreds of texts. The endless threats, the extreme mood swings and drinking, hacking into my e-mail and contacting my family and friends. Such sad attempts to exert control. I almost pity him. Promising he loved me and he'd never do it, again. I went to Alanon and worked on myself. I learned the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. When he threatened to have me gang raped, I left for good. Obtained an order of protection. Although, he is still trying to make my life hell I know IWS.

  • Dawn Nickel

    Looking back, I think that it was that last punch to my head that finally knocked me to my senses. It must have finally just slammed open the thought that I didn’t deserve to live that way any longer. I don’t know what he saw in my eyes as he stepped back, but I do remember the feeling that came over me as the ringing in my ears stopped. I thought to myself, I will get out of this. I will not be here in this place, with this person, one year from now. IWS.

    Postscript: I did.

  • Kelley Harrell

    I survived what you did. I survived your family's blame and the years of healing, mostly. What left is me? Regardless, now I know if someone dislikes me, it’s not because of what you did, but because I've become what I had to. You are purged. Now to survive me. IWS.

    ~Kelley ~ Soul Intent Arts ~ Intentional Insights ~The Saferoom Project