OK, it’s official. Right now is the most powerful point in my life (so far.) I was recently honored to be a guest speaker to raise awareness for the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, serving the greater Newburyport, MA area. Why was I asked to speak? Because years ago, I was one of their clients, someone who needed a place to turn, and who came to them seeking help putting my life back together after domestic violence.
For the past several years, it has been my dream to begin sharing my story — this was in fact one of the reasons I created this blog. Speaking up on behalf of the crisis center gave me an opportunity to fulfill this wish, to help shine a light on where I and countless others have been. Breaking the silence around domestic violence is essential if we want to remove the stigma and shame around this topic so that those suffering from abuse can speak up and get the help they need. It has also given me the chance to reflect on how far I’ve come and what a different place I’m at in my life these days. I feel empowered and successful, and I am so grateful for that.
I participated in two events, the first of which was at the beautiful new home of Rasamaya studio in Newburyport, MA, owned by my dear friend Carrie Tyler.* It was no accident when the universe matched me and Carrie up a few years ago, and she remains an inspiration to me every day. She is a powerhouse, not only as an incredibly knowledgeable and masterful yoga and movement teacher, but as a visionary entrepreneur, creative spirit, and champion of women’s empowerment in every form. She is one of the few people that understands my passion and excitement for feminist activism, one of the few who understand the word ‘feminist’ to be something alive with inclusion and possibility as I do.
With my notes (and tissues) in hand, I stood before the crowd, many of whom I’d known as neighbors, colleagues and students years ago, and told them that, unbeknownst to them at the time, I’d been fighting the biggest struggle of my life in those days. I told them that I’d been ashamed for them to know my life was such a mess, ashamed of the choices I had made that had led to that. I told them that it was food stamps and Christmas gifts donated to the Salvation Army that got my family through that first year, struggling not just with my own healing, but with single parenting as well. Despite the challenges, that was the year I enrolled in college for the last time (as a Women’s Studies major, and eventually graduated!), the year I began to teach, the year I met the partner who has been by my side ever since, the year I learned how strong my body could be, as I came back to the barre day after day and watched myself transform, inside and out.
I am grateful that there was a place I could turn to plant the seeds of renewal that would eventually sprout. That I was given legal advocacy at a time when I had no idea how I would provide for my family, a time when I lived in fear for my life, not just everyday worry, but truly fearing that I might actually be killed. It has been a long road, and all of that feels well behind me now. Maybe that’s why now is the perfect time for me to begin speaking up.
When domestic violence landed me on the x-ray table of an emergency room, our neighbors and friends would never have believed it. We seemed normal, even successful. We seemed to have it all. What I have seen to be true more and more in the years since, is that abuse happens EVERYWHERE, to every ‘type’ of person. I hope that my sharing will help put a face to this issue that is so much easier NOT to talk about. It is so important that we DO talk about it.
The response that I got afterward from those in attendance meant so much to me. To see how many in the crowd wiped away tears of empathy as I shared my story, and to have them thank me and shake my hand afterward was so rewarding, when I was asked to speak at a second event, I did not hesitate to accept.
I’ve had many years to heal from my experience, and I don’t doubt that the trials I’ve been through have made me stronger. I want to say, without belittling the severity of my experience, that I have made peace with this chapter of my life and with the abuser as well. I believe if there is no hope for abusers, there is no hope for any of us. We are all one. I look forward to continuing with this work that is so important to me. Not only to reach out to support those who have been victims of abuse, but to help solve the problem of how we can create a world that does not produce abuse in the first place. This is my passion and my mission, and I thank you for reading this post. By taking the time to learn more instead of turning away, you have already brought us one step closer.
Andrea Isabelle Lucas
Founder and Owner, Barre & Soul, LLC
*Barre & Soul is honored to include Carrie Tyler as a member of the teaching staff for our Spring 2014 Barre Teacher Training.