By Bozeman PowerHouse Erin Schattauer
Five years ago, I thought I was alone. Leaving a physically and emotionally abusive marriage, I packed my car with what I could carry in one trip and drove away, unsure of where I was going or how I was going to get by. I had a job, but not a place to live. I had no family here in Montana and few friends. I thought it was the end of a story – my marriage was over. I would soon realize it was really just the beginning of a new, better story.
I stayed at friends’ houses for a few weeks until an acquaintance offered me a screaming deal on an apartment (I couldn’t afford to pay much because I was still on the hook for the mortgage at the home I left for safety reasons). A coworker introduced me to a realtor who helped me navigate the sale of my house. An attorney helped untangle me from a property issue with the home. Another coworker watched my cat when I couldn’t take her with me to my new apartment.
At first, these details made leaving seem impossible, but little-by-little my life started to take shape again thanks to the many people who offered help. Whether in their areas of professional expertise or through small, kind gestures, each one played a part in getting me back on my feet and giving me hope that the next day would be better than the previous one.
Since that day five years ago when I packed my car and drove away from my home afraid and unsure of the future, I have made new friends, met my partner and had a beautiful son. I’ve also started speaking publicly about my experience with domestic violence through a group called End the Silence, led by Haven, a Bozeman non-profit dedicated to helping survivors of domestic violence.
When I tell my story, I like to include the part about how I could not have gotten out alone. Maybe the people who helped me experienced domestic violence in their own lives. Maybe they just have kind hearts. Whatever their reasons, it is because of them that I’m here today sharing my story. And that is one of the things I can offer to others now – my voice.
By sharing my story, I hope to bring awareness to domestic violence. I want people to know what domestic violence looks like, that it is not OK and that there are people out there who are willing to help.
Other survivors felt this same calling and in the past two years we have shared our stories through community workshops, at TEDxBozeman, the Girls for a Change Summit and elsewhere. All of our stories are different but common threads weave them together. Our voices are stronger together and so are our talents.
That is how I pay it forward. My voice is my gift. I believe in sharing it I can let others know they are not alone.
We all have gifts, talents, skills. What are yours? Don’t keep them to yourself. Share them with the world. At the least, it may make someone’s day. At the most, it may just save their life.
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