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The Goddess Speaks

By Melissa Howard

Tuesday, April 11, 2000

I survived
domestic violence

IT was six years ago today that I was violently raped, not by a stranger but by my husband, the father of my child, the man I was supposed to trust and the man who loved me.

As I look back on my experience with domestic violence, beginning at age 16, it all seems like a dream, but it wasn't. It was very real and for the first time I can actually say and believe that I am a survivor of domestic violence.

I left this man dozens of times, always returning to his charm and manipulations. Thus, the vicious cycle of domestic violence continued. I became worn down, tired and eventually believed that this was a way of life. I was too afraid to leave. I lost friends, family members and eventually had no self-worth, no voice, no dreams.

On a crisp Tuesday morning after my husband had left for work, I stood trapped in my house over a stove cooking breakfast. At that moment I heard a meek voice say, "Mommy, can we run away today?"

A lump the size of a grapefruit filled my throat. Holding back the tears I held my daughter close to my heart and answered, "Yes, we can."

SOMEHOW, on that morning, I reached deep down into my damaged soul to find any sort of courage I may have had left. As a mother, I try to teach my child the truth and I could not lie. We were leaving that day, but to where? I didn't know.

Trembling and shaking, I gathered a change of clothes for my daughter and made a few phone calls. My child then put my hand in hers and we walked out on lives we will never forget. I took nothing from my nine years of marriage but the shirt on my back, a torn spirit and my child. Thank God I had my child.

We were escorted to the YWCA of Kauai women's shelter. We were given love, support and a room to call home. For the first time in nine years I felt safe. I needed help and that is what I got. Slowly, I found the voice that was trampled and the spirit that at one time glowed. It was not an easy road to travel, I was not used to being treated with respect, but happily, I got used to it. Now I'm proud to say that I will take nothing less. I found out who I was all over again, and guess what? I even fell in love. I am now happily married to the son of my counselor at the center.

Sadly, each year there are dozens of deaths related to domestic violence and unfortunately, Miu Lan Esposo-Aguiar was one of them. On March 31, she died after being set on fire while sleeping. She was in the process of leaving her husband, who has been charged with second-degree attempted murder and reckless endangering.

I believe in hope and I believe in change. If each survivor of domestic violence could somehow speak up to educate our children about the devastating cycle of domestic violence and sexual assault, together we can make a change.

It is OK to admit that one is a victim or that one is an abuser, because only when the facts are known is there room for change. I believe everyone can turn their lives around for themselves and the environment around them. I know I got help and so did my abuser.

Melissa Howard will be among those participating in a "March for Peace" in memory of Miu Lan Esposo-Aguiar and victims and survivors of family violence from 5:30 p.m. today in front of Kauai's County Building. A similar event will take place simultaneously in front of Honolulu Hale. Since May 1996, 24 men and women in Hawaii have died as a result of domestic violence.

The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
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send it to: The Goddess Speaks, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O.
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