The Importance of Prevention

RACClogoWritten by D.O.

Holidays can be a time of great joy. This past year, my holiday season was filled with gifts of generosity, the love of family and friends, and sounds of laughter that sang such a sweet ambient melody I couldn’t help but stop for a moment to bask in the peaceful joy of it all – even amid the hustle and bustle that can also accompany the latter months of the year. And as I sat in the stillness of those moments, I was filled with so much gratitude it’s nearly impossible to describe, which is an incredible gift because having had my own experiences with sexual assault and domestic violence, this year was quite different than many of my previous years.

This year, I didn’t have to think about checking in with anyone several times a day or worry about whether an unplanned trip – or one that took longer than expected – would become another excuse to verbally, emotionally, and psychologically better me. Instead, I could shop in leisure without fear.

This year, I didn’t have to live in fear of the next rage that was inevitably coming, or worry about whether I would be safe in my own home. Instead, I could enjoy every second of the slumber parties, movie nights, and bear hugs I enjoyed with my child, and I could laugh and play games with my family until the early hours of the morning.

This year, I didn’t have to justify the money I spent on donations, cards or gifts. I could give as my heart wanted to give. And every simple moment was filled with the gift of joy-filled wholeness and freedom.

I’ve recently begun sharing these glimpses of my past as part of my effort to focus on the prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence within our community because within the intensely profound process of my own healing, I was shocked by what I’d learned. Prior to getting help, I’d hear the statistics; I’d seen the commercials with images of victims; I’d heard stories; I thought I knew what domestic violence looked like – but I didn’t. And with each step of learning and healing I became more acutely aware of how the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence are not only very complex, but also how each and every case impacts the community greatly. Each and every “case” is a person that may also have a sister or a brother, a co-worker, a friend, a child. Each case is more than a statistic; it is a person with a story. Each instance is also most often deeply intertwined with many other issues that significantly impact our community such as physical health, mental health, depression, suicide, addiction, eating disorders, bullying, employment, and more. I personally believe that prevention is critical.

But even more shocking than all that I’d learned about the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence was how vastly different I was after I’d emerged from everything that I’d carried for so many years. And as I began to think about sharing my story, I began to realize that prevention is more than just critical – prevention is a gift of opportunity to a life of wholeness (something I believe everyone deserves), and I found myself more and more compelled to share the hope, the freedom, the love, the possibility, and the joy that I’d found in the process of healing.

To know the freedom of authentic being, to dine on the richness of a life well-lived, to feel my heart so filled with joy it sometimes seems as if it’s glowing, to experience real love – given freely, accepted freely – rather than as a commodity to be bought or sold, or even to feel my heart grieve for another in pain without having to close it in fear… this is a life in colors I’d never imagined… this is a life I didn’t know was possible when I made my first appointment at the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center… this is a life worth savoring… and this is my wish for all in the coming year.

The author is a client at the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center.

To learn more about RACC, click here.

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