Every International Women’s Day, I think of a teacher I once had and I'm reminded why such a day needs to exist.
Here's a story I need to tell.
Growing up, I had a teacher and a mentor I was extremely close with. With only ten years between us, as an adult, our friendship strengthened and we have remained connected throughout my life. Although I spent much of my twenties traveling and living abroad, our friendship never waned. She was that friend who always got the call from the labour and delivery room when I had a new baby, whose daughter was my flower girl, and who is the Godmother of my youngest daughter.
Almost two years ago, she seemed to disappear. I never thought much of it – everyone gets busy and consumed in daily life. I never questioned it because our friendship has stood the test of time and circumstance. I got a little curious when she cancelled a trip we had planned. Next, she skipped my daughter’s (her God-daughter’s) birthday and finally, she didn’t turn up for our little girl’s First Communion. I certainly thought it was odd and she didn’t offer any real excuses, but I’m not a grudge-holder and never questioned her love for me or my family.
Shortly after the missed events, she turned up at my house one night after the kids were tucked into bed. She looked emaciated, having lost a ridiculous amount of weight since I last saw her. Her face was pale and her eyes looked lifeless. At that moment I truly thought that she was coming to tell me she was sick and dying.
I was wrong. Even though she looked completely vacant and she had lost a part of herself, she was not dying. Over the next several months, we spent nearly every night together talking through the end of her 31 year marriage. I discovered why she had become the shell of the vibrant and spirited woman she once was as she admitted to enduring years of financial, psychological, and emotional spousal abuse. These soul-destroying acts had taken a terrible toll on her.
A couple of years later, and after countless hours of abuse counseling and group therapy, my determined friend has faced her situation with bravery. Not only is she committed to her own successful recovery, she is passionate about advocating women empowerment for others who are living the same nightmare. This is her message of strength and hope that she will share with the world.
This International Women’s Day is a good time to remember that women like my friend are everywhere. They are living among us. They are us. And they’ll only share their stories when we are prepared to listen.