Words are powerful.
Writing has always been therapeutic for me. I received my first diary when I was in 1st grade. It was rose scented with kissy lips faintly scattered on the pages. I will never forget the sense of wonder I felt, that I could fill the pages with my innermost thoughts and only I would be reading it. Ever since then, I've known that if I'm at a low point in life, writing gets me through.
I was filled with a new sense of wonder when I was accepted to write for Odyssey. If this is your first time reading one of my articles, this is the fourth installment in my series discussing domestic violence in small towns narrated through the stories of Mae Matthews, Lynn Mitchell, and their abuser Cody Smith. The previous articles can be found here.
Prior to finding Odyssey, I interviewed Mae and Lynn and was gathering information relating to their stories. I had no idea how I would get their voices heard, but I knew it was my duty to make it happen. A month after our initial meeting, the first article was published.
Writing Small Towns, Big Secrets has renewed my love of writing and sharing Mae's story has been an absolute honor. My previous piece saw the conclusion of Mae's story and future articles will be chronicling Cody Smith's abuse toward Lynn Mitchell. But, for this installment, I wanted to give Mae the opportunity to share her own words.
Mae is no longer a victim. Mae is a survivor.
To the Girl who was in my shoes, is in my shoes now, or who will be,
Do not be quiet anymore. Please. Stop blaming yourself for staying.
Stop punishing yourself for loving someone so much (more than you could ever love yourself), that you allowed this abuse and tried to love this person through the hell that they put you through. Stop thinking you deserved this or brought it on. Stop thinking you weren't important enough to make them stop or change.
This is them. This is their demon.
There is nothing more you could have done. They did not deserve the love, time, and energy that you gave. Because that IS why we stay so long. We want to believe that they love us like we love them and that they will do whatever it takes to change. Because after they see you covered in bruises and in tears, this is what they tell you. You even start excusing it and blaming it on everything and everyone else. They are stressed, they had a bad upbringing. You even blame yourself.
Stop excusing their behavior. That is their choice, and here is yours.
Let this be the last time they put you down with their evil words. Let this be the last time they raise their hand to you, push you, spit on you. The last time they pull your hair, threaten your life, kick you, whatever it may be, let this be the last time you miss a family party or a day with your friends because of it. Let the seclusion stop. Let this be the last time you cover your bruises with makeup or clothing. Let this be the last time you have to cover up their outburst or lie about what your life and relationship really is. Let this be the last time you feel like you have to go back. Let this be the last time you ever let someone hurt you.
You deserve to be loved and treated with respect, to feel safe and happy.
I know you're scared. Scared they will hurt you, or those you love. Scared they will get away with it, and turn it around on you. Because God knows they know all the right people to make sure that they do. I know their charm has fooled many for so long, and that there will still be those who believe them. I know they will talk so badly about you, call you every name in the book. That you are the crazy one who they never wanted and that you're just lashing out because you're obsessed with them. None of this is true.
This is your chance. This is your chance to save yourself.
To cure your family and friends' broken hearts because this hurts them, too. You have to make the choice, never look back, and trust that the truth will fall into the right hands and that you will be protected and safe. And, if it doesn't, keep fighting and speaking the truth. Do not let them stifle your voice anymore.
I know you are broken and feel that you are unworthy... That no one will ever want you or love you again. I know that you feel this way because this is what they told you. This is what was engraved in your mind and heart. I know you feel like this is how you will always see yourself, but it doesn't have to be.
Free yourself from this dark and lonely prison.
There is nothing easy about this. You will have to be more brave, more strong, and more determined than you have ever been in your whole life. You have to take your life back and you have to speak up because your bravery could mean saving your life and the life of the next person they choose to abuse. It's a chain reaction. Your strength could make more of a difference than you know.
It takes patience, it takes raising the voice that was hushed for so long and speaking the truth so that this will stop.
So that these people are held accountable for their inhumane treatment disguised as love. So that our children do not have to grow up thinking this is how it's supposed to be. Whether it be abuse in a relationship, or in your family, sexual, verbal, mental, physical - it is all abuse.
And the change begins with you. Without you, we lose momentum in this movement.
You are more than what this person has done to you. You are more than this person made you feel that you were. You are strong, you are beautiful and you are brave. And you will be you again. It starts with you.
Mae put into words exactly why we're doing this series. Her words are true and her heart is pure. She is not looking for sympathy, she's not looking for praise, she's not even looking to hurt Cody. Her one goal for Small Towns, Big Secrets is that it touches one person. If her story, and the stories yet untold, help someone, somewhere, then it will all be worth it.
While Mae has been vocal about domestic violence, she hadn't talked about the abuse in detail outside of court precedings, until we began this journey. Talking about it on the record gave her the courage to share pieces of her story she previously omitted to her family.
I urge you to write your story. Get it all out on paper or your digital screen. I promise you this: your words carry weight, and writing out your struggles will make some room in your heart for healing.
Because, words are powerful.