Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Coming out of the shadows
While watching the Emmy Awards this year, I was moved by the acceptance speech of Nicole Kidman, who won a best leading actress award for her role in the miniseries, “Big Little Lies.”
Based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, Kidman portrayed Celeste, the beautiful, smart (retired lawyer), mother of twin boys, whose seemingly perfect life contradicts the domestic abuse she suffers at the hands of her husband.
Upon winning, Kidman said in part, “Sometimes when you’re acting, you get a chance to bring a bigger message … We shone a light on domestic abuse. It is a complicated, insidious disease, and it exists far more than we allow ourselves to know. It is filled with shame and secrecy, and by you acknowledging me with this award, it shines a light on it even more.”
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Community Beyond Violence formerly the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition is working to raise attention and funds to combat this pox on society by bringing a live reading of The Vagina Monologues to the Center for The Arts.
I, along with ten other local women, will take the stage Friday at 8 p.m. to share Eve Engler’s compilation of interviews-turned-monologues on one specific part of the female anatomy. Yes, the vagina.
The stories are funny, sad, poignant, moving and enlightening. While just saying the word makes some uncomfortable, the show works to move past syllables and on to deeper importance. I am proud to be part of it.
When we were still dating, my husband sat of the board of directors and served a term as president of the then Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition, helping to get the struggling nonprofit on its feet and later invited me to sit on the board as well.
While he went on to serve other organizations, I spent the next decade chairing fundraisers, participating in strategic planning, recruiting board members, and serving as president myself before finally terming off about 10 years ago.
The mission was to put ourselves out of business, but no one ever really believed it possible.
Domestic violence is so much a part of the fabric of our culture that it will take generations to wipe it away. Even some of the most educated among us make casual comments as part of everyday conversation that boils down to an acceptance of abuse.
Another shocking study, according to the huffingtonpost.com, “An average of 21 percent of female undergraduates told researchers they’d been sexually assaulted since starting school in a Bureau of Justice Statistics-funded study of nine unnamed U.S. colleges and universities published earlier this year. At some of the schools, the rate of sexual assault was as high as 1 in 2.”
Kidman’s description of domestic abuse being one of shame struck a nerve with me, and it’s time for me to shine my own light.
Long before I chaired fundraisers, before I was president of the board of directors and even before I sat on the board at all, I came to know the organization as a client. I spent eleven years in an abusive relationship.
I have stayed quiet on the topic for a long, long time. I used to say it was because I needed to be mindful of my children since they do have a relationship with their father, but the truth is I have always carried the shame.
I was ashamed for getting involved and for staying. I was ashamed for falling in love with a man who could be so cruel and dangerous. I was afraid of how others would see me if they knew and how I would be treated among my peers. I did not think I would be accepted or respected.
My first marriage was not the stereotypical violent relationship — which is not to say it was not at times physical. But it was hard for me to come to terms with the reality of my situation.
It took courageous women like those at Community Beyond Violence to help me see what I had become accustomed to was not normal.
Listening to other women in support groups describe their situation or talk about something their partner said or did, it was like we were all with the same person.
Different faces, same manipulative behavior. The cycle of abuse, textbook. Having the support and resources offered by Community Beyond Violence helped me put an end to that cycle for my family.
I realize now by staying in the shadows, I allow others to stay in the dark. This societal acceptance of crime against women needs to end.
The best way to stop it is to educate our sons and daughters. They need to understand what is acceptable and what is not, and how healthy relationships look and feel. They need to understand their worth.
These programs cost money, but the return on investment is immeasurable.
Community Beyond Violence works to teach our youth before there is abuse and offers support and resources for those who need to find a way out.
I hope you will consider attending The Vagina Monologues and support the invaluable services provided by Community Beyond Violence. It’s okay to have a laugh. Squirm a little. Get comfortable with the word. Help our community be better.
You can find out more at cbv.org.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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