Where do you start when asking someone for help? I know starting with the truth is the only answer. I'm on a mission to face my guilt. See, I failed to help someone I admired and loved. I left her hanging because I didn't know what to say or how to help. In my deepest darkest thoughts I felt she could make a situation better and "chose" not to. I blamed her and my punishment is now I can't say I am sorry. I can't repair the damage. That's the raw truth.
I've been open about my blended family. My parents, nearly 20 years apart in age found love and joined their separate families to make one. Overnight I got a big sister who like me was an odd mix tomboy meets girlie girl. I also got a big brother stationed in Germany who was cool and funny. We were far from The Brady Brunch but this blended family provided me with a childhood and foundation that was just right. Like all families, mine had its ups and downs. We welcomed new lives and said goodbye to others who were beloved. It was the farewell to my sister none of us saw coming. It was a Sunday morning when my phone rang and my mother could barely get a word out as she cried. My sister was dead. That was the beginning.
A few years before my sister died. She was visiting my home in Chicago. I heard yelling and a commotion downstairs. When I rushed to see what was wrong. I found my home torn apart and my sister had facial injures and a huge knot on her forehead. She was embarrassed and afraid. The only person in the room attempted to explain how my sister fell. I demanded he leave and called my parents. I comforted my sister but I also said she needed to leave the person. I didn't sugar coat my opinion as I just couldn't understand why she didn't have the courage to leave. My sister was bold, smart, fearless, a true life of the party type of person. The next morning I went to check on her and there in my home was the very individual I had kicked out. I told both of them to get out. I didn't speak to my sister for several months until my dad said enough. A few years later my sister would die. I will end it there as I feel it is important for her sons, my nephews to speak when the time is right.
My work to shine a light on domestic violence is one my mother, my nephews, my brothers and other families have taken on as theirs too. It is of course it's about more than just my family. It is about the mothers, daughters, sisters, friends even coworkers we can help. The victims are getting younger. I have met girls as young as 12 who have been abused, some at school, by a boy they love. Middle school! It's stunning and scary. We discuss the plague of bullying on social media but there is an ever-growing problem of social media and technology being used as weapons for domestic abuse. I want to use technology and social media to heal and support those who feel hopeless and alone. My goal is to create a PSA that can air in schools and camps. One that speaks to the modern challenges teenagers face when dating turns into a dangerous situation. Love doesn't have to hurt but too often it does. I met a girl who told me how her boyfriend demanded control of her contacts on her phone because he needed her passwords on social media and would text her non-stop demanding to know her whereabouts. The smart energetic girl was verbally abused until she believed she was nothing. Eventually isolated the abuse when from verbal to physical.
The girls I've met are from all walks of life. Several have joined me on this journey to create this PSA that would give a modern fresh look at what teenagers are experiencing. I think it will be eye opening to adults and especially parents who are engaged but would still be surprised to hear. This is not city versus suburb. This is not black or white. It truly is a crisis that has no boundaries.
Since my sister's death I've learned so much about the steps we can take to avoid victim shaming. I have spoken to family members who also felt helpless or lacked the education needed to help a loved one suffering. Not long ago I spoke to group of counselors and aid workers who focus on domestic violence. Some admitted how hard it is for them to see someone return back into a house of horrors where there is domestic abuse. They don't give up and I won't either. I hope to have a director soon to put the wheels in motion. I have spoken to administrations and some schools that are ready to help. The women who will bethe face of this campaign are ready to meet the challenge and to save a life.
Growing up my parents stressed the idea of helping others instead of asking for help. The idea was to raise their children to focus on others more than ourselves. But my parents did say there are times when you will need a hand. Today I ask for your help to save a life. I can only hope my guilt lessens each day as I meet a survivor. I've learned so much about caring and supporting survivors and I am dedicated to sharing what I've learned. My mantra is Today not tomorrow. Thank you for reading this and please know I am grateful and I thank you.