Let us pick up the stones over which we stumble, friends,and build altars.-Pádraig Ó TuamaI keep…
I went back today to the courthouse where I took my abuser to court almost two decades ago.
It was the first time I’ve been back since that day in October when I walked up these enormous stairs alone into that rotunda to meet my attorney assigned by a STOP grant and the legal advocate from the resource center assigned to my case. My abuser was waiting for me at the top of the stairs, with his whole family and his new girlfriend surrounding him, and walking through them and their aggression took every bit of courage I had that day. I was 30 years old, had multiple degrees and my own consulting business, had taught at three different universities and could not understand how I had nearly died at the hands of a man who kept telling me that he loved me during the 17 hours that he terrorized me and threatened my life.
And even though I have given hundreds of speeches since, I went back today to clear the memory of that day and the months of terror that preceded it, before I go back to speak in this same courthouse, the Centre County, Pennsylvania Courthouse, for the first time tomorrow in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I walked up the stairs today with the sun on my back and I thought of the woman I was so many years ago and how afraid I was and I said “Thank you” out loud, as my boot heels struck the stones, for every step that I have taken that made coming back to this courthouse now even possible. He tried to kill me, and it is almost twenty years later, and I learned then how to stand for myself and for other survivors who feel voiceless and afraid and alone and unheard and, in my own small way, I will stand for all of us again tomorrow. I will use my voice one more time to say that we are not alone, that we are not voiceless, that we are not unheard and that the men who try to break the spirits of the women around them will have to learn to live in a world where we are all rising up, together.
Not even memory can hold us back now.
All peace to each one of you. Dora