My name is Julie Boyd Cole, and I am a domestic violence victim and survivor.
For those of you who follow my blog on Divorcedmoms.com, you already know that I have been writing about domestic abuse for several years. About a year ago, I dropped the alias that kept me anonymous when I wrote about the various horrors of intimate partner violence and the journey to safety and sanity. Today, I use my real name.
It wasn’t easy to make the switch from anonymity to my real identity. I was scared and ashamed. I didn’t know what would happen when I decided to use my name. No one pressured me. My editors here on DivorcedMoms were happy to allow me to protect my identity because they knew what was a stake and supported me that way.
No family member or friend thought I should be truthful about who I am either. They respected my privacy about such a difficult issue that involved me and my children. And in all the years that I used a pseudonym, not one reader called me out for not using my name.
There were several people who drew the understandable conclusion that I remained anonymous in order to protect my children from ridicule and shame. After all, my abuser is their father. Domestic abuse is dirty laundry. Society felt my shame and allowed me to stay in the darkness as a kindness I’m sure. Thank you, I say to all now.
But, I am a journalist to my core and was trained to get the facts. Hiding my name felt wrong. It also didn’t protect me and my kids from anything. It only protected my abuser from exposure and accountability.
Silence is the enabler of the abuser. Anonymity only fueled my shame.
I did come out to my family and a few friends at the time of my divorce, but less than 10 people knew that I had been strangled and beaten by my husband. Years after I left my husband, I began to open up and share my truth using the name that my parents gave me. I was tired of hiding it.
The first time I came out to my readers, I felt liberated. Yes, I was also concerned, mostly for my children, who are now young men. They assured me that they supported the use of my name without hesitation. A concerned family member asked once “aren’t you worried you will embarrass the kids” if you come out and tell the truth.
Funny, I used to think that way, too. No, telling the truth doesn’t make me worried. Worry is when you have to put your babies in a car with the man who beat you up and lied to you day after day. That is real worry. If anything, I worried more about what my children might think if I didn’t begin to express that abuse is wrong.
My children know about domestic abuse. They have lived it. Like anyone, I’m sure they would like to live in the fantasy, alternate universe, where abuse never touches our family. But, I’ve learned that talking about abuse and the pain it causes doesn’t hurt nearly as much as the abuse or the shame that builds within silence.
Now that I have been out for more than a year, my recovery from a 15-year plus abusive relationship is healing at a much faster clip. I’m not sure why, but I suspect that hiding anything that substantial is too much work. With the fantasy cleared away, I have more energy to heal.
I have also learned that most abusers are only comfortable in the darkness. I’ve learned through years of research that most abusers choose to harm their loved ones ONLY behind closed doors and under the cover of a false, public persona. I’ve never in my life met a person who told me they abused their partner or child. Research shows that abusers only disclose the truth when they feel trapped into doing so, like to the police or a new girlfriend, and always mitigate the actions and blame their victims.
The facts are that abusers love anonymity and victim-shame and fear thrive in silence.
Coming out was the right choice for me and I don’t regret it for a moment.
In the year since I came out, I’ve become an open advocate and voice for others who don’t feel so ready to tell their truth and mothers with young children still knee-deep in custody cases. I’ve written my first book and it quickly became an Amazon best seller in the divorce and abuse category. I’ve started a local support group for women and a worldwide online support group for victims of abuse after divorce.
I have also moved away from fear-based decision-making. I accept my reality that I was married to an abuser and we share children. That is not an easy walk, but no one gets through life unscathed. This is my scar to bare.
I am most grateful that my coming out has empowered others who hadn’t yet found their voice to use their real names. The more victims who can step out of the shadows and present themselves to society, the more society will see the epidemic. We can only fix those ills in our world that we identify. Domestic abuse can be found in 1 out 10 homes today. One out of every four women have experienced some form of physical abuse by a partner in their lifetime.
Do the math. This means we all know victims and abusers. They walk among us every day. And it needs to stop.
The collateral damage of this problem is enormous. Billions of dollars are spent EVERY year on the consequences of domestic abuse. Millions of children grow up in homes tarnished by abuse and it affects the rest of their lives. It is hard to even calculate the butterfly effect of domestic abuse to the future generations.
Change happens one step at a time. So, I took the step out and typed out my name on my first article more than a year ago and I’m so glad that I did. I’m as glad as when I made the difficult decision to leave my abuser.
Each time one of us steps out, we humanize victims. When you look at my picture, know that this is a woman who was shocked by domestic abuse, too. Horrified and ashamed. Scared and hopeless at one time. A mess.
Today, I know I am not to blame and I am no longer ashamed. I didn’t cause my abuser to hit me or spit in my face or choke me or lie to me over and over. Yes, it was dramatic, hurtful and very dirty laundry not fit for the faint of heart. But, I got through it. I am thankfully I am alive and more or less happy and grateful for the days ahead.
Julie Boyd Cole is a mother of two sons, a journalist, writer and business woman. She has written for the Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Yahoo.com among many publications around the country. She is the author of “How to Co-Parent with An Abusive Ex and Keep Your Sanity” available on Amazon.
Currently, she is the chief executive administrator of a non-profit in North Florida. And Julie is a survivor of domestic violence at the hands of her ex-husband, an NFL sportswriter, and today is an advocate helping other victims sort through the trauma of domestic abuse.
Julie also writes for bruisedwoman.com and @bruisedwoman on Twitter about the topic of domestic abuse, co-parenting with an abuser and the emotional damage caused by narcissists and personality disorders.
Surviving domestic violence wasn’t easy or the PTSD that followed, but Julie has found a path through the trauma and now encourages all women that they can too. Julie leads YANA support, speaks to church groups, community groups and women made homeless by abuse. She can be contacted at [email protected]