n the world of domestic abuse, words mean everything. Words and intimidation are carefully crafted weapons that are used in the same way that fists and other objects are used in the world of domestic violence.
The way I use words in my blog has an impact for this very reason. Because the wrong use of words can change everything. So I start by sharing two things about how I use my words and why.
FIRST: What does SODA™ stand for?
SODA™ stands for Survivor Of Domestic Abuse. I explain this in my first blog and hope that you will start by reading it. It is there that we meet. It is there that you will learn I am a SODA™.
SECOND: Susan is my first name, Sparks is not my last. From the time I could pick up a pencil I knew that one day I would write and share my writing with the world. If you told that little girl that she would grow up to be writing about domestic abuse, well, she would have thrown her pencil down and laughed and twirled around the room because she wouldn’t know what those words meant. Unfortunately, this grown-up girl does.
I was young when I fell in love – still in college. Fourteen years older and eminently charming, he seemed worldly. I wanted to please him. But he could not be pleased. The more I tried, the more it required narrowing my world. It set the pattern for our years together.
I sometimes wonder how I didn’t see it sooner; we dated for four years before we married. During that time I graduated and took leaps up the corporate ladder. Surely I was smart, surely I was savvy; yet, I didn’t see him for who he was, didn’t see the endless red flags.
You might wonder how women don’t spot abusers. Because they are smart, they are canny, they are convincing, and we are vulnerable. If you are in an abusive relationship, you will understand this. If not, you need to simply accept it.
For more than twenty years I lived a life that grew progressively more dark and sad and terrifying. Every day the sun would come up and show me that there was life around me and that I should keep living. I believe that was God lighting the way. Every night little sparks of light would shine through an otherwise ominous blackness. They were my family, my friends, and the two brightest stars of all, my children.
Not unlike you, I fell in love. Not unlike you, I was at first in denial about the abuse. And not unlike you, for me the denial ended when it could no longer be sustained. The strength of abusers tends to grow over time as they feed off of our weakness until we become so weak that we have nothing left to feed them; then, one of us will perish. Yet abusers don’t often perish do they?
It is often at this point that we SODAs™ become truly frightened; it is often at this point that we realize we are headed down a path from which we cannot turn back. It is also often at this point that we step away, too often without adequate preparation, to attempt to ensure our safety. This was my journey.
With respect for the privacy of those in my life, I use only my first name to ensure that I can tell my entire story. It doesn’t change the fact that this happened to me. It doesn’t change the truth that domestic abuse is real and that one in four women will experience it in her lifetime.
I write without anger. I write without malice. Every day I pray for the safety and survival of my fellow abuse victims. I wish that I may reach one and change a life. I dream that I could reach many and see those statistics start to crumble.
To ignore the past, pretend like it never happened, or shut the door on my history would be like ending a book in the middle. If my story has a purpose, it is to help you recognize yours and realize you are not alone. Do you see yourself here? Do you feel the pain that you can no longer turn away from? How will our stories end?
I am now several years past the time when I left. The physical violence my leaving caused was something I never saw coming. And how do you even compare that to the emotional violence? Visible bandages and invisible scars. I know the pain of both. Even today, with court-ordered rules for contact, his emotional attacks continue. But despite his anger – and it is now his to bear alone – I thrive. My life is good and getting better every day. I have reconnected to my core of strength and move forward in a life that reflects my choices. I now define myself as a mother and once again as a professional woman. I am free to choose my friends, spend time with my family, come and go as I please, manage my own finances. I recognize my value to myself and to others and live a life in which no one has the right to diminish me in any way. But it is still a daily struggle to be this new person and leave the old behind. I do it for all of us because it needs to be done.
If you are currently in an abusive relationship, I want to help you safely access this freedom; it is much closer than you realize. He will tell you it’s not there. He will tell you that you are too weak to access to it. He will tell you so many things. I am here to tell you differently. I am here to show you the truth.
If you have recently left such a relationship, together we will walk the path and re-enter the world as it should be.
These days I care for my children, work, volunteer, and enjoy every new day as I live a free life. I date slowly and carefully. A work-in-progress, I have come so very far yet know that I have miles left to go before I am completely healed. I also know that there is power in synergy and that if we SODAs™ support each other all of us will find the road to true healing in our lifetime. Why not start today?
If my life has a meaning, it is to be a little spark of light for you during your time of darkness. One that can shine on the path to your new life as you take your first steps away from abuse. I hope that you will follow me and know that I made it safely to the other side. I have so much to share with you.
Susan Sparks is a twenty year victim and six year survivor of domestic abuse (SODA™). Her reporting has been seen on national network news and her writing has been featured on national media. She is an Expert on YourTango.com and has been featured on The National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org). She has written a book about her experiences with domestic abuse, Sparks in Love, which she hopes will serve as both an educational and cautionary tale to everyone who reads it. She is the Principal of four enterprises, and one charity, all dedicated to helping people avoid, understand, and prevent domestic abuse. Susan is currently working on three other books to further the cause and hopes to bring Sparks in Love to television this year.