By SHEYAHSHE LITTLEDAVE
I started a blog. Ironic really, for a person like me who spent so many years bottling up emotions, stuffing those feelings way down deep and being so cautious as to not let my face give away to what was going on.
Nevertheless, I started a blog called Ogadvnvisdi – “We are ready.” The idea was to empower Indigenous voices, make a safe space for domestic abuse survivors to speak out about their experiences in an effort to spark hope for those struggling that internal battle of shame that, they too, can rebuild their lives. Or hopefully, give hope to those who are still in that abusive relationship, wondering if there is life on the outside of it – and the answer is yes, there absolutely is.
I have faced a long battle dealing with the after effects of domestic violence. The toxicity of that relationship was the anchor pulling down the sinking ship that was my confidence, self-worth, my dream and my goals. The anchor never hit bottom, it just kept pulling and pulling until I looked myself in the mirror one day and did not recognize the girl looking back.
For this blog to work, it meant that, I too, must open up, be vulnerable in sharing my truth and be realistic about what moving forward looks like.
My saving grace will always the 2017 Remember the Removal bike ride. I was in what I could only describe as a dark hole. I couldn’t dig my way out, it was absolutely consuming. So, I threw myself into this program, not having ridden a bike in years, with a group of people I had never met before, committing myself to ride a bike for 1,000 miles being out of shape and overweight. The road gave me time to reflect, I cried a lot on that ride, I mentally beat myself up for not seeing those glaring red flags, for staying after the choking and hair pulling, for allowing him to call me weak and believing it to be true.
The day we crossed into Oklahoma I will never forget. It felt as if I had closed a chapter, that I had proven that my body was capable of great things and that my mind and will to not give up was stronger than I gave it credit for.
I guess my point is, we often don’t know what people are dealing with behind closed doors. My family certainly didn’t. I was ashamed, thought I was failure, thought they would be embarrassed by me. They weren’t. My family has walked with me, carried me, and loved me through my journey the last few years. Then, I woke up one day and said it’s time we start, as a people, to stop normalizing abusive behavior and break the silence.
According to the National Congress of American Indians, more than 4 in 5 American Indian/Alaska Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime. If you take that data and apply it to our community, then you will know there are more women among us that have experienced violence than we thought. It’s not okay. And it’s okay to speak out and say “this is not okay.”
The blog is that space. Whether it be a paragraph, a sentence, anonymous or not, we have a voice and a responsibility to break the cycles of abuse. I was ashamed for a long time, but I will tell my story and will continue to tell my story. I hope that those out there who are ready to help change the dynamic for our Indigenous sisters (and brothers, by no means are men excluded from experiencing domestic violence) would join me, share on this blog and help us take those small steps to give domestic violence survivors and voice and a platform.