I just finished watching the Lifetime movie, Reviving Ophelia, inspired by Mary Pipher’s book of the same name. Great movie. Made me cry like a baby. But great movie.
It’s not like I haven’t been thinking about relationship violence lately. I’ve spent every moment possible writing and researching for this website. I’ve dug up stories, dug up poems I wrote when I was sixteen, I’ve looked at pictures, I’ve read other people stories, I’ve read statistics, over and over. Not once have I shed a tear. I’m a survivor, after all, not a victim anymore. I am strong and I am above everything that happened to me, and I am beyond an emotional response to violence. And then, as life has a funny way of working, I was (metaphorically) knocked flat on my back as I saw myself, my own lifeless eyes, in Elizabeth’s face (the main character who get caught in an abusive relationship).
|Reviving Ophelia. mylifetime.com
Whatever percentage of my reaction that was a testament to strong acting is complimented and compounded with the realization that, not too long ago, this was my life. It was not a movie. It was real. I still believe that no one will ever understand what I went through or how bad it was, but this understanding helps me to realize that as much as I would like to say that I know what each victim is going through, I don’t. One of the most damaging parts of abuse comes in the moments when we are alone with our thoughts. Some of the worst words said are inside our own head, as we try to rationalize something that has no founding in sanity. Just as no one will ever know quite how bad things got for me, I have no way of knowing exactly what it is like for anyone else, but I do know that our similarities far outnumber our differences. If we all think that we are all alone, then it turns out we’re together in that.
Watching this movie also acted as a loud reminder of why it is that I am starting this website. I am so happy to see more websites and resources growing awareness for the topic of relationship violence. This wasn’t always the case. I spent hours, when I was in high school, trying to find some sort of answer, some sort of help. I googled “help me, please” about a hundred times. I sat on the floor of a Border’s for hours on end, flipping through books and trying to find myself in them so that I could read a way out of the hopelessness. And I put on an Academy Award worthy performance in front of the world. I was perfectly fine. My life was perfectly perfect. Perfectly. Perfect.
The saddest part of the entire movie, for me, was the end. In an effort not to spoil the movie for anyone who has not seen it, (I highly recommend checking it out,) all that I will say is that if time allowed for an accurate portrayal of how long it takes to get out of an abusive relationship sometimes, especially when you are enrolled in the same high school as your abuser and have to spend a few more years together until graduating, the audience would see the abuse dragged out for much longer.
It is not an easy process. It can’t be done pain-free. It’s not fair. In fact, it’s so unfair that it will shake your faith in humanity for a while. It has the potential to ruin your trust in the world. It takes a long time and every step of the way it seems completely impossible that things will ever get better. If anyone out there is stuck in an abusive relationship right now, trust me, I understand how impossible it seems. Looking back, I still have no idea how I got out alive and how I got my life back. But, somehow, I did. And somehow, you can too. I can tell you from personal experience, that thankfully, it is possible to survive an abusive situation. Things can get better. You don’t have to live like this forever. Keep reaching out for the help around you and keep taking it one day at a time. You deserve so much better and none of this is your fault.
So bravo to Lifetime for helping to raise awareness about the seriousness of teenage relationship violence. I hope that it encourages people to lift the cloak of silence from this global problem. And I hope it helps victims reach for a way out, know they are not alone, and find hope that they can use the people around them and the resources available.