I am not a victim, because I do not harbor hate. But I am a survivor.
The police made me take pictures of my bare body after he was dragged out of my apartment at 4am and arrested for assault, charged with a felony that will forever follow his name. The evidence of bruises in the photo was light as they were still fresh, but like film in a lab the darkness developed along with the damage done to my heart.
At first, I covered my face with concealer so I could interact with colleagues without anyone asking questions, but by the third day no amount of makeup could hide the dark circles so I just pretended they weren't there.
Almost as quickly and suddenly as they appeared, the purple finally faded and so did the look in people's eyes that screamed, "I wonder what happened to her." What they couldn't see were the wounds that seared my heart, deep cuts that would take much longer than a few days to heal.
I struggled to tell people what happened to me because I felt like it made me seem weak. Why would I put myself in that situation? How could someone as strong and independent as me allow myself to be treated that way? Was I worthless? Did I have no power?
These questions pressed on me for months like a heavy hot iron, reminding me that somehow it was mostly my fault. That it never would have happened "if only I..."
My head knows he alone is to blame for the violence, but the reality is my heart is still healing, trying to understand how someone who loved me so completely could commit such cruel crime.
I don't tell this story for sympathy. I tell it so that every woman who has been abandoned, abused, violated, held captive, harassed, or hurt by a man -- which is to say: EVERY WOMAN ON THE PLANET -- can know that she is not alone. She too can survive. She too can turn the sadness into success. She too can strengthen the sorrow into beauty until it becomes beams of light that fill her entire body with a radiant hope for the future. She too can find the forgiveness that frees her soul from the chains of catastrophe.
To my sisters who survived: We are the lucky ones. We are alive. Take back the life that he couldn't steal from you and live it.