The following blog entry was written by Hotline National Advisory Board Member Sil Lai Abrams.
It seems strange to say this now, but as a child I didn’t know that I was growing up in an abusive home, or that there was specific legal term for my father’s behavior: battering. The only thing I did know was that living with my parents was incredibly isolating and painful and I made it my mission to get as far away from them as much and as soon possible. I began running away from home during my sophomore (and final) year in high school. This went on for a couple of years until I became of legal age and the day after my 18th birthday, jumped on a one-way flight to New York City armed only with two suitcases, $200 and the dream of a better life.
Like many who grow up in dysfunctional environments, I swore that I would never have a relationship like the one my parents had with each other. And like many adult survivors of abusive homes, in spite of my most fervent wishes, I found myself in a relationship when I was in my early twenties that was eerily similar to my parents’. On the surface my boyfriend was nothing like my father. He was charming, didn’t drink or think housecleaning was women’s work and enjoyed being a hands on dad to my son from a previous relationship and the daughter we had together. He was also, as I discovered soon into our relationship, very controlling and jealous. The emotional and verbal abuse which dominated the first year of our relationship escalated to physical violence while I was pregnant with his child and only ended after he was arrested several times and ordered to stay away from me by a judge.
I stayed with him for all the wrong reasons and told myself that he would change. In fact, he did change but it wasn’t for the better. For five long years I weathered his abuse until I received counseling and support from a local organization that worked with victims of crime and violence called Safe Horizon. Their support empowered me to permanently leave our relationship and begin the process of healing and rebuilding my life. I am happy to say that in the years since, I have created a life for myself and children that is beyond my wildest dreams, a life that includes intimate relationships that are loving, supportive and free from violence.
When I left my batterer I told myself that if I ever was in a position where I could be of support to other women who have experienced intimate partner violence that I would try in some way to help. When my book No More Drama: Nine Simple Steps to Transforming a Breakdown into a Breakthrough was published in 2007 I was given the opportunity do so by sharing the nine-step self-help method outlined in my book and my personal testimony of overcoming violence as tools to motivate women living in domestic violence shelters. Additionally, my role as relationship expert for Men’s Fitness provides me with a national media platform to discuss various relationship issues, including domestic violence, which has led to various speaking and media appearances. It was at a taping for Good Morning America last fall that I met former Hotline CEO Sheryl Cates. We were both on a panel discussing the Chris Brown/Rihanna incident which generated a huge amount of media attention for the issue of teen dating violence. Sheryl and I had an instant connection and when she asked me to join the National Advisory Board a few months later I didn’t hesitate to accept.
It is truly an honor to be a part of the National Advisory Board for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, an organization that has done a tremendous amount of work over the past 15 years to help victims of domestic violence. Although it has been 13 years since I left my abuser, I will never forget what it was like to live with the constant threat of violence over my head. I am humbled to be able to serve those whose lives have been affected by domestic violence and it is my hope that the efforts of those of us in the anti-domestic violence movement will in time stamp out one of the greatest threats to the health and well being of our families and communities.Sil Lai Abrams Writer, Inspirational Speaker, Empowerment Specialist Men’s Fitness magazine relationship expert