first time speakingApril is recognized nationally as sexual assault awareness month, aka S.A.A.M. Throughout the month, I will be participating in a number of activities in support of the month, but it’s also quite personal for me. One of the worst experiences of my life was being sexually assaulted by someone that I loved. What I’ve come to learn over the years is that sexual assault/abuse within intimate relationships is common and often not reported, mainly because it is an intimate partner. Being in a relationship is not consent for abuse in any form. Rape is rape. Abuse is abuse. The relationship status isn’t a pass to mistreat another individual.

April 10th marks the anniversary of when I shared my experiences of domestic violence and sexual assault in a public setting. I’d talked about it to some degree with a person here and there, but I decided to go public with it at the Young Women of Excellence program for which I was a chairperson. At the time of my presentation, I wasn’t aware that April was a month of any particular meaning. I just felt that it was the perfect opportunity to share with the women in the audience about my experiences. My hope was that those mothers would hear what I had to say, think about what may be going on in their own lives or the lives of someone they knew, and have the courage to talk about it and of course, leave.

I never thought about what I’d do or how I’d feel after the event was over. But, the most amazing things have happened since I released my hurts, doubts and frustrations. I’m still telling my story. And, now, I have even more stories to share. I’ve been able to travel, teach and train. I’ve gotten remarried. I’m an author. I’ve watched my children become adults, and we have worked through many of our individual and collective hurts. We’re stronger. We’re better.

I’ve learned a lot from all of my experiences, and I’m dedicated to helping as many individuals, businesses and organizations as I possibly can to transition from awareness to action, become more educated, empowered and become holistically sound.