Social Awareness Social Empowerment Social Awareness Social Empowerment

We started out with a God-given personal power and hope for being happy and fulfilled. Our abusers didn't come into our lives with a scarlet P for predator on their chests. Just the opposite, they were often charming, charismatic, engaging, fun, loving and attentive. They appeared to be the perfect partner, parent, relative - and were masters of deception and manipulation.

More and more control was subtly exchanged. Boundaries started being crossed, and we found ourselves making concessions and excuses, embracing denial, and losing touch with reality as we clung to our ideals of hope.

The first incident was traumatic, and like all survivors of trauma, we experienced shell-shock. We became even more vulnerable with every abusive word or action. At some point, there was an unspoken paradigm shift in our concept of self. We became helpless Victims. We lost our personal power. We lost our hope for being happy or fulfilled.

Most of us were children when this happened, and we carried the broken paradigm of self as Victim into our adulthood. Victims attract predators, and so the sick cycle continued.

I came into the SEEDS program in Arizona (for victims of domestic violence) from Pennsylvania. I'd been extradited for safety following attempted murder. The case took a year to get to court, and my perpetrator remained free on bail while I was forced to flee my family, home and business with little more than the clothes on my back.

Through SEEDS and state funded programs, I received the services and support I needed to heal and grow. My fundamental concept of self was reborn, from Victim to Victor. I regained my personal power and hope for being happy and fulfilled. I learned to establish boundaries and define healthy relationships. I had an Awakening, and have a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment in helping others to achieve the same.

We spend our lives trying to hide our wounds and missing (stolen) pieces of self. Once they are healed and found, it's intimidating to Show and Tell. Many of us fear society will judge us broken and defective - albeit as compassionately as possible. Just think how the term "baggage" has carried into the description of people with painful histories. It's seen as something highly undesirable. Who wants to hire or have a relationship with someone with heavy baggage? No one...What makes it worse is the stigma of mental illness, and many victims of domestic violence usually suffer some extent of it, i.e., depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The best solution is to prevent domestic violence from happening. The next best answer is to help the victims become victorious members of society. I don't know how to remove a social stigma, but have heard 'knowledge is power'. Perhaps creating social awareness will lead to social empowerment.

Artist's Note: The best solution is social awareness and prevention when it comes to domestic violence and this wonderful and intelligent individual I've had the pleasure to paint says it more eloquently that I could. When she requested to have the Japanese Kanji symbol of the Female Phoenix in her portrait, I knew that she had reached a place within herself that understood how far she had come in life.