No One Ever Told Me: A Domestic Violence Story

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No one ever told me that love would hurt. No one ever told me that my eye would be busted, my heart broken, my spirit bruised. No one ever told me that the women in my family would shield a secret capable of breaking a family’s spirit. No one ever told me… No one ever told me… No ONE… ever… told… me . . .

As a little girl, I was traumatized by stories of how my grandfather abused my grandmother and her eight children, beating them in the nude until they bled, even forcing his 3-year-old son to eat a dead rat. My mother was one of those children. When she turned 18, she met and married my father. Shortly after the nuptials, my father turned into my grandfather—continuing the cycle of abuse that almost killed my mother.

Then, I was just 16 years old the first time my eye was blackened, my lip split. My abuser even kicked me in my eight months pregnant belly, endangering my life and the life of our unborn child. I was the third generation of women in my family to become a victim of domestic violence; and 22 years later, my daughter became the fourth.

But sadly, the story does not end there. When I discovered that my daughter was trapped in an abusive relationship that also threatened the life of my granddaughter, Promise, now the fifth generation, I decided to turn my family’s legacy and pain into a promise for change. I founded Saving Promise—a national grassroots domestic violence prevention, education and awareness organization to bring about real change.

One question I am often asked is: How is it possible, even conceivable, that four generations of mothers and daughters in the same family could become a victim of domestic violence. It took me a long time to honestly answer this question, to distill it down into one word: silence. My grandmother didn’t talk to my mother; my mother didn’t talk to me; and I am no longer ashamed to admit that I  didn’t talk to my daughter, not until Promise screamed.

It is little Promise that gives me hope, the courage to break the silence. A silence  that affects 24 people per minute; 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men; and the majority are between the ages of 14 and 25. Imagine that! In the next 60 seconds as I share my story, that is not just one nor two, but 24, and mostly young people. That alone, should make us all shiver.

Well I’m tired of shivering. So I’ve committed my life and made a promise to do my part. But no matter how courageous I am, I know that I alone am not enough. This requires collective action. Therefore, Saving Promise recently launched iPromise, a national call to action to engage America in the promise for change.

On behalf of little Promise, the women in my family, and millions of women, men and children, will you join me in the promise for change? You can start by taking 3 easy steps:

(1)   Share your promise for change

(2)  Help us tell President Barack Obama Promise’s story

(3)  Like us on Facebook AND follow us on Twitter.

Maya Angelou once said: I come as one, but I stand as 10,000. Please stand with me for little Promise. Your voice will make all the difference!

L.Y. Marlow is the award-winning author of Color Me Butterfly (Three Rivers Press, August 3, 2010) and the founder of Saving Promise;