By Susan Sparks, Survivor Of Domestic Abuse (SODA™)
I had the pleasure of seeing Cher perform live this past weekend. As a special surprise, my best friend got us seats in the third row. I was captivated and star-struck as I watched her come out and perform hit after hit, from decade after decade. She is, after all of these years, still amazing. I wasn’t surprised at how many songs I recognized, how many words I knew, and how I found myself singing along with her and having a great time.
She sings words that resonate with so many of us, and her career has spanned generations. I remember her songs from when I was in my twenties. I remember her songs from when I was in my thirties. I remember her songs from when I was in my forties. All these years she had hit songs, all these years I was suffering as a victim of domestic abuse.
Then, she came to this one song, and this one line, and my world stood still: “…words are like weapons, they wound sometimes.” I froze in my seat and heard that line over and over in my head while she continued to dance and sing on stage with her crew, and shine in the beautiful colored lights in her gorgeous sparkly outfit. Words are like weapons…they wound sometimes. Yes. Yes, I thought to myself. Of course, she just threw it out there so easily, but to so many of us, 1 in 4 to be exact, she threw our truth out on the stage for everyone else to hear.
I looked around at that moment. What were others doing? Were they reacting? Were they hearing this line over and over? What an incredible statement. I’ve contemplated this so many times in my life, just how badly words can wound us, can torture us, can threaten us, can torment us, can scare us to the point of total and complete incapacitation. Words are like weapons…they wound sometimes. Yes. She was singing my truth. And yours. And theirs. And ours. It was right there on the stage in front of me. If 1 in 4 of us will suffer from domestic abuse or violence in our lifetimes, how many other victims and survivors were there with me this night? How many others were struck at the same time, with the same thought? And how many were sitting there, hearing that and thinking about how scared they were to go home that night? How they may have done something wrong right before they left that would bring them home to a night of terror? Just how many? I looked around the arena at the thousands of cheering fans and realized how many 1 in 4 would add up to. Chills went down my spine. Just how many.
Nonviolent domestic abuse is so different because we are not physically pinned down, we are not thrown against walls. Instead, we are manipulated, abused and tortured with words, and the scars left are deep and emotional and they change us. They weaken us and sap our strength until the day comes that it is an effort just to get out of bed. And so now, from the other side, as a SODA™, a Survivor of Domestic Abuse, I work each and every day to ensure that you get the message that I missed the first time. The one that Cher was singing about as the music was swirling all around us: words are like weapons, they wound sometimes. Watch out for words. Watch out for threats. Watch out for things that are said that make you feel uncomfortable, or unsafe, or take away your access to your freedoms. Because in the world of domestic abuse, words are their weapons, and they use them so well. Because words are intangible, our abusers can use them at any time, in almost any way they desire, and we can’t stop them. We can’t make them go away as they linger in the air and we can’t “unhear” what has been said to us – and they know it.
It’s no coincidence in my mind that Cher was singing “If I Could Turn Back Time” when those words caught my ear. I thought about my 20 years as a victim of domestic abuse and what I would do if I could turn back time. What would you do if you could turn back time? More importantly, what do we want to do with all of our tomorrows? The choice can be ours to make.
So please, remember this: STRENGTH + SUPPORT + PLAN = FREEDOM. You can do this.
Many of us have made it to the other side. We are here cheering you on because we know what you have been through. Use our strength to carry you through until you find your own again. You will. I promise. Get help, leave safely, and know that you are not alone.
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