I remember going into the notes app on my phone and writing out everything I wanted to say about myself, my abusive marriage, and what I believed the women in my hometown needed to hear. I didn’t know if I would ever share it publicly, but it was therapeutic to write down and get it off my chest.
I moved to Orange County from a very small, religious town in Northwest Washington where difficult topics are often never discussed, family is highly valued, and getting married young is normal. Now living in OC, I have found myself around similar circles. I knew there were countless people like me…living silent, violent lives because their society didn’t allow them to open up and be honest.
I had recently learned that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience some sort of physical abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime. I had also discovered that not one, not two, not three, but four women in my immediate family had divorced their husbands over domestic violence. Simultaneously shocked and angry, all I could think was: “Why wasn’t I told their stories growing up? Why weren’t people speaking up about this? If the statistics are so high, what are we doing to protect our children?”
I kept my thoughts in my notes for over four months. Finally on February 10th, 2019—my 24th birthday—I made it the day I would share my story and take my maiden name back on Facebook.
I believed that if I could just reach one person like me who thought what they were going through was normal, it would all be worth it. I never predicted what would happen next.
The stories started pouring in. Hundreds of people started commenting, opening up about the dark secrets they had lived or were living. I was getting messages from strangers, asking me for relationship advice or sending photos of their battered faces.
My post went on to be shared over 123,000 times.
On Valentine’s Day morning, I called my mom and told her I was incredibly overwhelmed. I realized these people needed a space where they could support each other through their shared experiences and encourage one another to take the difficult steps towards freedom. So, I created the Speak Your Truth Facebook group, a private space where survivors could start their healing journey.
This decision has changed my life forever.
Fast forward 2.5 years, Speak Your Truth now has a team of nearly 30 individuals nationwide who volunteer weekly to support over 18,000 members, and we have helped about three people leave an abusive relationship every single week.
We have the capability to help keep this group safe and supportive, and are also inclusive of all genders. We recognize the reality that any gender can be a perpetrator or victim of abuse, and this is why it is critical to encourage those who are even more silenced within domestic violence discussions to speak up. And we hope Speak Your Truth gives people the power to do just that.
To make real change, we must break the stigma behind these conversations. This is why we’ve made it our mission to amplify the voices of victims and survivors of domestic violence through creating a space for them to share their stories, engage in abuse education, connect them to resources, find emotional support, and celebrate freedom. From this, we are able to help them prepare for the difficult obstacles ahead, including taking those initial steps in seeking resources, leaving the relationship, and healing from abuse.
Speak Your Truth walks side-by-side with survivors throughout their entire journey out of abuse, and we have witnessed incredible stories of victory despite horrifying odds.
Now officially a nonprofit, we have formed partnerships with other local Orange County nonprofits who also serve survivors of abuse, such as OC United, Laura’s House, and Crittenton, and hope to become an essential resource for all nation-wide domestic violence organizations across the US. Additionally, we plan to develop an abuse education curriculum that can be taught as workshops in schools, churches, workplaces, and more to make this a narrative discussed within our greater communities.
I could have never dreamed of all this to happen from one Facebook post. The community I formed in the middle of my divorce ended up being the perfect space for me to learn and heal alongside thousands of survivors who were going through the exact same thing. I was no longer alone, and neither were they.
The cycle of abuse ends with us all. Everyone plays a role because domestic violence impacts all of us. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, a sibling, cousin, friend, or coworker will.
Listen, learn, and help lead the fight against domestic violence. The only way we stop this is by doing our part to educate ourselves and help survivors speak their truth.
Hannah Hollander is a graphic/web designer and Executive Director of Speak Your Truth living in Fullerton, CA. After her personal story about domestic violence went viral, Hannah launched the Facebook group-turned-nonprofit to amplify the voices of victims and survivors of domestic violence through abuse education, linking survivors to resources, providing emotional support, and celebrating freedom. Visit www.speakyourtruth.today to learn more.
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