By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
At See the Triumph, we celebrate the triumphs of survivors of past abuse every day, but we’ve taken a special focus on these triumphs this October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Even though the month is ending today, we remain committed to celebrating survivors’ triumph--individually and collectively--long after the awareness month comes to an end.
Celebrating the triumphs of survivors is about way more than raising awareness about domestic violence, however. Of course, sharing survivors’ stories is important for helping people understand the dynamics of abuse, and especially more complicated questions like why people stay in abusive relationships. Awareness about domestic violence is crucial for ensuring that victims and survivors have access to the services and resources they need to stay safe, as well as for helping friends, family, church members, neighbors, and others be able to recognize, understand, and offer support when someone they know is experiencing abuse.
As important as it is to keep raising awareness, a deeper transformation will only be possible when we are able to achieve more in-depth changes to the systems that contribute to the perpetuation of abuse, make it more difficult for people to leave abusive relationships, and fail to hold offenders accountable for the abuse they perpetrate. This is why it is so important to support, recognize, and celebrate the triumphs of survivors. As survivors triumph individually, they break through barriers and open more doors for others. Survivors who triumph over systemic barriers--including public policies, organizational practices, and even societal stereotypes--are chipping away at longstanding obstacles to ending future abuse.
And so, we can triumph on our own, but we can also triumph together. And together, we are able to triumph in bigger and bolder ways! Not every survivor is able to--or is interested in--sharing their story publicly, but as we’ve discussed before, it’s important for every person to maintain their own freedom of choice for whether, when, how, and to whom they share their stories (For more on this topic, please see our Collection, Every Survivor Has a Story).
Whether your own triumphs include overcoming abuse or supporting someone else in doing so, and whether your triumphs are shared publicly, shared with just a few close supporters, or celebrated privately, we hope that you continue to celebrate your own triumphs and join in celebrating others’ triumphs, too. And let’s always remember that even things that may seem small at the time--making a phone call to reach out for help, taking a step toward becoming more economically independent, and even simply getting out of bed some days--is an act of triumph. These small steps grow into larger triumphs, just as individual triumphs grow into community and societal triumphs.
For those of us who care passionately about supporting survivors and, ultimately, ending abuse, we know that a lot of work still needs to be done. We owe deep gratitude to those who have gone before us in the movement to end intimate partner violence and other forms of abuse, and we have a commitment to mentor and encourage those who will continue the work into the future. As we move forward with this work, let us always remember that we can triumph on our own, but together we are able to triumph in bigger and bolder ways!
By Rachel Miller, See the Triumph Contributor
Hold the vision. Trust the process.
This has been my mantra for almost eight years. There were days when I first left my abusive marriage when I wasn’t even sure what the vision was, let alone felt able to trust any process, but I repeated these words to myself daily. Early in my recovery there were days where the only vision I was capable of holding was getting through the day. Every good day was a triumph. Over time little triumphs, the guidance of an amazing therapist, and support of people who loved me, provided me with the mental space for a bigger vision. As I healed, the vision became clearer, broader, and my ability to trust the process grew. As my self-worth increased, I began to believe that I was worthy of my vision, a key triumph, as my fellow survivors will attest.
When I was asked if I would be willing to contribute a piece around the theme of “My Triumphs,” I admit to being hesitant. It felt a bit like being asked to toot my own horn. This is a thing I have yet to triumph over. I am still not great at celebrating myself or my successes, much to the frustration of those who love me. As I thought about my reluctance, I also thought about how many triumphs I have experienced, both big and small. I thought about how inspired I have been by the triumphant stories of other survivors. I concluded that if I was truly okay with telling my story, I needed to be able to tell my whole story up to and including my triumphs.
Earlier this year, I entered a courtroom, without a lawyer, sat in an enclosed space with my abuser, and did not have a panic attack. A small triumph to some, but for me this was huge. I kept my power, used my voice, and remained fully present in the moment. Those survivors who struggle with PTSD, like me, will understand the magnitude of this. For those who are struggling to get here, hold the vision, trust the process. It is possible.
I got married this spring to an amazing man who not only supports me in my big vision, he does everything in his power to make sure I can and do stay the course. His steadfast faith in me, my vision, and my abilities, carries me through the days I struggle to have faith in myself. Having a healthy relationship, one that my kids can and want to emulate, is a triumph. Knowing my kids understand the difference between healthy and toxic relationships, that they know their worth, and know I know mine are also triumphs. There are plenty of statistics around how often women who leave abusive relationships tend to find themselves in another. There are even more around what happens to children who are exposed to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). My children and I triumph over those statics every day.
So what is this big vision of mine? Progress towards it is probably the triumph of which I am most proud. I began working towards this vision six years ago when trying to find a competent therapist for my children. I quickly realized how little training mental health practitioners receive around the topic of IPV. What is taught is around not treating actively violent couples, helping victims leave, and some trauma training around working with survivors. All of this takes place within other classes in a packed two-year curriculum. I had already decided to go back to school to earn my bachelor’s degree, but quickly realized that to impact therapists’ training, or to develop the training they needed, I was going to need more. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in 2015. In July, I graduated with my Master of Arts degree in Couple and Family Therapy. In September I began my PhD program where I plan to focus my dissertation on the unidentified therapeutic needs of IPV survivors and their children who are required by family courts to maintain contact with their abuser.
I downplayed these triumphs, I admit. I suspect in part because I have yet to reach the final goal. But I realize I need to take the advice I so often give my clients and celebrate my triumphs along the way. If we don’t take a few moments to celebrate how far we’ve come, it can be easy to get discouraged in how far it feels like we still have to go. Regardless of how big or small your triumph, stop where you are, look at where you started and acknowledge your successes. You are making it through the day? Go you! You are attending therapy sessions? That’s huge! You are avoiding taking the bait and jumping into the drama triangle? Yay! You are showering and feeding yourself or your kids today? Congratulations!
These triumphs may feel like precariously placed Jenga pieces on top of a base full of holes, but each one is brick in the foundation of your future. They are yours to keep, to build on, and to use to keep you moving forward. No triumph after abuse is too small to celebrate. Every goal achieved deserves to be acknowledged.
Wherever you are in your journey, I celebrate you. Whatever goals you’re working towards, I am cheering you on. Whenever you need inspiration and motivation seek out others who are doing what it is you want to do to remind yourself it can be done. Create your vision. Hold onto it. Trust the process. Celebrate your triumphs.
By Claire Capetta
I have found that as survivors of domestic-violence and abuse, we often start a journey of healing and understanding. We slowly start to reach out to others who are starting their journeys of recovery. Many of us became authors, advocates, and therapists to help others. We look on these accomplishments as our own triumphs. But for many, overcoming depression and trying to reverse the effects of the gaslighting we endured for many years can be our own triumphs, just getting out of bed and facing the day can be enormous feats of strength.
Over the years on my own path to recovery, I have asked myself, “What one thing would have made a world of difference?” It slowly pinpointed down to one week, a week where I was held hostage by my abuser. He tied me to a kitchen chair, threatening me over and over with death threats and knife. I was allowed to appear normal when the children were around, cooking, washing dishes, cleaning... all the tasks we do as mothers. He stuck to my side the whole week, I was terrified, the phone had been unplugged and I couldn't get a note into their bags as a cry for help. I think about how, if I'd had a panic alarm hidden on me, I could have called quietly for help and the Police would've have been there.
That's why we are creating the Clarified Lifeline. It's not only a panic alarm for physical safety but we want to concentrate on mental health too, with an app. It has Mindfulness, Meditation, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a Community, Journal and Picture Folder.
It gets a little technical of how it works, but I’ll try to simply break down how it works. Its connectivity is wireless with sensors using a RFID Chip and a pKO Cell, which “talk to each other.” As the RFID chip connects with pKO Cell, it creates a VPN number, similar to a computer. The pKO Cell is connected to a server, therefore a cloud where evidence is stored and also connected to the local Metropolitan Police Station through encryption. The encryption is changed every four seconds, this stops anyone trying to intercept or hack a signal to the Police. The signal or “Call for Help” is answered by the Police, giving the victim peace of mind knowing help is on its way.
The RFID chip notifies the Police exactly where the victim is via GPS, which connects only when the victim needs help. It is so advanced it will signal the location, not only outside but also if the victim is inside, which room they are in. A vibration motor is triggered notifying the wearer that the call for help has been answered, giving the wearer peace of mind that emergency services are on their way. It also records and time stamps the evidence for use in court. This is crucial to show that the evidence has not been tampered with, nor can it be.
How is an alert for help triggered? Simple, the coding within the RFID understands the bio-metrics of the wearer. It measures blood pressure and trajectory. When we feel we are placed in danger our “Fight or Flight” kicks in, therefore our blood pressure raises fast and dramatically, this is the first trigger sign. Secondly, it measures trajectory, which means it understands when we are sitting, walking, jogging exercising etc., however, the RFID knows when a sudden change happens for example a body blow, punch to the head, a fall down the stairs, a violent altercation. This records the trajectory of the body, down to how many punches, kicks etc. were received including how long it took for the victim to fall down the stairs and how many. This recording is sent to the Metropolitan local Police Station and is saved as evidence for court. It is time stamped and encrypted, again changing every four nanoseconds for total security.
What if you are not “in area” for a signal? This is what happens for most Panic Devices out there in the marketplace. They rely on phone signals, which makes it really difficult to put out a distress call for help. Not with Clarified Lifeline. The RFID Chip has a VPN, therefore is a microcomputer and talks to the server and the cloud, therefore you could be in a valley, the Nevada desert.... Your distress call will be answered. Even if you are on a boat, out at the sea, it will also call for help! This brings peace of mind to the wearer because many times when a violent altercation is happening the wearers' cell phone is often broken, stamped on and smashed. The offender believes all communication is lost for the victim when a phone is broken, believing he or she is safe.
Many Panic Devices are connected to the users' cell phones in order to work. If the signal to the cell phone is broken or the Panic Device is broken then no help is coming. Some Panic Devices connect to the cell phone and have a “Call a Friend” feature, the friend then has to listen in and decide whether to call the Emergency Services. Friends are wonderful, but do you really want your life in your friends' hands? With them wondering if you are being attacked or not? Or worse still, what if your friend doesn't hear their phone ring? Not good! Not safe and far too complicated!
The Clarified Lifeline App helps the wearer with Mindfulness, Meditation and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, all known to reduce stress and anxiety, therefore helping the wearer cope and understand Mental Health, lowering the risks of PTSD. There is a Community Forum for victims and survivors to connect and support each other. A Journal and Picture Folder.
I really believe we can save many lives, putting in a lot of hard work to make it very simple. We believe that being safe shouldn't be complicated for a victim. When we are being abused we already have too much to think about!
We are in the process of taking pre-orders on our website from people who would like to be the first to get theirs and from charities.
By Sara Forcella, See the Triumph Contributor
The concept of healing is something that our society seems to haphazardly toss around. Healing has been constructed as this thing that most of us want to do but, we have no clue how to get there. We can “heal” from breakups, from loss, or from disappointment but, no one ever hands us a road map explicitly saying how to do so. This is especially true for those who are healing from interpersonal violence (IPV) of any kind. How do we heal, or recover from violence? Let it be physical, emotional or sexual violence, it causes pain. For some survivors, probably many, healing is this obscure concept that pisses us off by constantly remaining at an arm's distance away. We wonder how we will ever get there and sometimes are left to grapple with just how far away we are from it. Is the idea of needing to heal, of longing for the normalization of our minds’ and bodies’ following a non-normative act of violence, even necessary?
For a long time, as I stepped my toes into the IPV advocacy world I found that healing wasn’t something that I wanted to do. In fact, my anger and hurt drove the feminist work that I was doing. Smashing the patriarchy, which I felt created the men who abuse, was one of my favorite past times. During this time I was angry at more than just the person who had hurt me. I was mad at the people around me who witnessed and ignored my abuser’s violent tongue thrashings which left me feeling worthless. I hated the sport that had once brought me so much joy, but now was clouded by feelings of rage and betrayal. I hated men, or at the very least was afraid to look at, and speak to them. I didn’t like myself, my mind, my voice, my body--I hid all of those things away for a long time because I felt that they were so unworthy of noticing. The person I just described wasn’t someone who was ready or wanted to heal, rather she was someone who wanted to learn, and grow and fight to make change happen.
After some time I without knowing it I began to soften. I wasn’t quite as angry at the universe, but I still felt something. I felt immense emotion walking past a softball field. I felt like I had spent so much time hating myself that I no longer knew how to love myself. I felt guilty and embarrassed that I had not yet gotten over a form of violence that is seemingly so tiny. I wondered, does my experience even count? Am I making a big deal out of nothing? During this time I wanted so badly to forgive the person who hurt me that I often tricked my mind into believing that I was healed. I pretended that my relationship with this person was fine, and that I had never experienced any kind of emotional abuse. I told my brain that he had never said such horrible things about me, things that my brain intrinsically was unable to forget. The person who I described was not yet healed. The truth was that I did not forgive my abuser, and that I did not have to.
Finally, was my most recent phase of healing, the “oh sh*t phase”. This phase contained all the hard stuff; it was made up of processing, and allowing myself to remember and hurt, to cry and then process some more. This was the phase where I decided that any form of abuse, even the most seemingly insignificant, counted as abuse. It was phase where I was able to see my abuser as a hurt person needing to maintain power and control but, who did not have the right to hurt others. During this phase I spent time picking at old scabs with my therapist and exploring different topics through reading and journaling. I pulled out photos from my childhood, apologized to the little girl who was hurting and told her she was worthy of love. I placed a photo of my happy childhood self by my bed and smiled at it every night knowing that I was, and always will be inherent of worth, just for being.
During this time I didn’t necessarily try to ‘heal’, I just lived my life. I found new hobbies like gardening and working out, and reconnected with old ones that had once reminded me of the ‘hurt me’, like baking and softball. I didn’t claim to be healed, though I didn’t claim to be broken either. I just existed. Then one day (as all magical stories begin) I was sitting on my bed staring off into space, and it hit me...the anger that I had once held so close to my heart like a cloak of darkness was gone. Sadness and hurt no longer engulfed my being. I was so much more than anything that I had ever experienced. I thought to myself, “oh my goodness, I’m healed”. This moment wasn’t followed by fireworks covering the sky, there was no confetti exploding all over, or even cries of happiness, it was just as simple as a passing thought, “I am healed”.
That all brings me to this—I think as a society we focus way too much on the idea of healing. There was nothing wrong with the Sara that wasn’t healed, she was just as strong, and brave and brilliant, she just didn’t know it yet. There’s nothing wrong with survivors who feel like they won't ever heal. There is no prize at the end of the race, in fact, there is no race. I don’t expect other’s paths towards healing to look like mine. In fact, they probably shouldn't. We all have vastly different intersections of experiences and identities and, there is no one-size-fits-all path to healing. I see healing like anything else in life...a journey. And while for now I feel like I’m ‘healed’, I have the right to become un-healed (if that’s even a thing). I have the right to be triggered, to break down, to be mad, to be sad and to question my journey because that’s just it—this is MY journey.
By Renette Booyens, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
There is an African proverb that says: “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.” There was not much that I understood in the first few months of separation from my abuser, but this I understood very quickly. During a very bewildering coffee date with a mutual family friend, I was harshly reprimanded for all I have done to cause the breakdown of my marriage and the trauma it was causing my children. Circumstances and events were thrown around as truth and this story had one villain: Me! It was like a punch to the stomach, realising that he was writing my story. In the early days, I had still hoped that he would take responsibility for his actions, but it became clear, very much so at this encounter with a friend, that not only had he no intention to do so and reconcile this family, but that he will continue to control my life in such insidious ways unless I learn how to take it back for myself.
It is not an easy thing to talk about. We all know the clichés and the stigmas surrounding domestic violence and abuse. Do I really want to be “that woman”? Yet, the one thing that gave me the courage to wake up every morning and continue picking up the pieces to rebuild a new life for me and my children, was reading the stories of the all the amazingly brave women who have done exactly that. Some stories were overwhelming, the pain and destruction leaving you gasping for air. Others were witty and filled with humor. I belonged somewhere. Somewhere in the middle of the tears, the desperation, the irony and yes, even the learning to laugh at yourself moments. A momentarily smile until the moment when that smile speaks of true happiness.
Today I tell my story without shame or hesitation because it is the token that my life belongs to me. That my truth is mine to hold and to cherish. I do not hide the truth because frankly, I do not have the energy to come up with creative alternatives for where I come from and where I am today. After all, would I have been who I am today if it was not for what I survived?
I remember a pastor telling me not to tell anyone what has happened to me as the “marriage pillow is sacred” and one should be careful to violate it. I thought to myself: The only thing sacred birthed from my marriage was my children, but my survival, now that is sacred. It took me almost two years of after care counseling to fully come to terms with the nature of my 14-year marriage and the impact it had on me and my children. It’s been five years and only now do I see even a glimpse of the woman I used to be before I got married. That journey is sacred.
Today I am raising four children by myself all while living in a foreign country with a foreign language, separated by miles from my own family and my closest friends. I am working through a Bachelors Degree in Community Development with a specialisation in Gender Violence. I am working part time and recently became a member of the board of directors of an organisation that provides long term support for survivors of relationship violence and offers educational programs in high schools and colleges regarding relationship violence. I also volunteer as a country representative for one of the political parties of my country of origin, as I hope to one day complete my victory by returning home.
This is not where I was five years ago. I know I am not the only one. The women who went before me laid the stepping stones for me to walk on. Their journeys of recovery inspired me and encouraged me. The steps I take, I take in their honor. So, to the ones who come behind me, I say: “Be patient as you lay down your own path. Even on those days when the best you can do is at least get out of bed and brush your teeth. It is only really as you look back that you are often able to acknowledge how far you have come, but celebrate it. Every small thing! And tell your story. It belongs to you. You are not alone. Our solidarity is our strength!”
About Renette Booyens: I am a native South African and over the last 18 years have lived in France, the US and now Canada. I am a single mother of four great kids. I am trained as an Early Childhood Educator, but currently work part time in tourism just north of Montréal. I speak three languages. In between trying to keep my kids and cats alive, I am also working towards a bachelor's degree in Community Development through the University of South Africa. I am on the board of directors of a non-profit organisation in Montréal called Women Aware. The organisation provides long term support for survivors of relationship violence and abuse and offers educational programs in high schools and colleges on relationship violence and abuse with a preventive approach. I am the co-chairperson for the Americas regional forum of the Democratic Alliance Abroad, a political party in South Africa and the Country Representative in Canada for the same party. When time allows, I often volunteer for the breakfast program at school, something else I am very passionate about. For fun and self-care I like to write poems and essays but mostly prefer spending time with my kids, be it a picnic in the park, dining out or just binge watching Netflix.