I didnt realize when i volunteered my time to Take Back the Night (in Tampa) how or if it would effect me. I didn't think about the women that would be there in the same sense as I did that day. I thought, This is a great event to help empower women of sexual assaults and domestic violence. Both somethings I am against and always for helping and empowering women. Let me back up my little voice by helping them out. So I said yes.
The day rolls around, I pack my gear and extra batteries along with a water and phone that dies on me due to my lack of remembering to charge it. (You would think I would learn.) Arrive around 3 even though the actual event starts at 4 and look for my best photo friend forever, Lucy, and we chat, grab a snack and start snapping candids of the surroundings. Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park s beautiful as usual, except today, there is a large stage and tents set up, tables for vendors who have purchased them to set up and lots of TBNT shirts everywhere.
"The Clothesline displays shirts that exhibit a great range of abuse. Despite the fact that each individual shirt has one-of-a-kind significance, a color code is used to identify the different forms of abuse:
- White is for women who died as a result of violent acts.
- Yellow or Beige is for women who have been battered or assaulted.
- Red, pink, and orange represent survivors of rape and sexual assault.
- Blue or green is for survivors of incest and sexual abuse.
- Purple or lavender represents women attacked due to their sexual orientation.
- Black is for women assaulted for political reasons."
*Source, Wikipedia-The Clothesline Project*
These shirts circled the entire park. When you stop to think about that, it is a bit overwhelming...
The tables start filling, I began walking around looking at the hundreds of shirts hung all over. Each hand made by a person with a message to other women who have survived, or to those who are in bad situations. Some remembering those who didn't make it out alive....and then it hits me-figuratively-I realize the WHY I needed to be there that day and the tears well in my eyes. You see a little over a year ago, a friend of mine was taken from the world in an awful and brutal way. Away from her family and her friends and community. Her life was stolen from her because of violence from a man whom to the rest of the world thought was helping her be better....and as she made awesome life choices and began the fantastic journey of self acceptance and a personal journey of loving herself, she was gone. I read a shirt that stated "You will never hurt me or my 2 sons again." All i could think of was Christina and her 3 children. The injustice of it all.
My mind wandered and began thinking about others in my life who have been affected by abuse of one kind of another, myself when I was younger encountered mental abuse, my mother, at least one of my sisters on a pretty extreme scale-though I knew it not, until a couple of years ago before her situation changed for the better. Another girlfriend of mine early on in her life in the wrong crowd with the wrong people around fell for love and believed it to be within a fist. I thought about the stories i hear from clients, from simply passing conversations where women bravely share their experiences and I got angry. I kept it together out side, i was so upset on the inside. I was angry for the strong women being taken down from confidence, to the level only those who are really afraid something bad will happen if they fight it, know. I was sad for the girls whom barely were women who were attacked and forced into things that you wouldn't do even married, and my heart broke for the girls and women whom didn't know the difference of being called a slut to being called beautiful because after so many years, they were the same thing. I was sad for every victim there was and that would be. The world doesn't have to be like this and yet, it is. I am thankful there are organizations and support for those who need it, places to go if you need to run.
After 'walking it off', so to speak, I looked around. This event, this 'safe haven' of sorts was a great step in the right direction. TO help get the word out there that there is a places or places to turn if you are in a bad situation. That the outcome doesn't have to be so sad or scary. There is hope and recovery for almost every victim. Reach out. Never give up.
The rest of the day went on without a hitch and I went to some of the tables, talked to some of the programs, took the pledges to love myself or others, and participated as much as i could being a photographer for the event. I loved all the different vendors who were there to give out information and just make it known that they are there if you need it. It was great to see men and women taking the pledges, to see the police officers lined up to let everyone know that they too are there to help. Its good to know that there are people who want to help you-if you are in a bad situation that is abusive to you or your family, and find this reach out. All of the domestic abuse websites have a quick escape button on their pages to shut them down fast, get help and get out. Love does not hurt-I assure you. Love is not allowing someone matter who it is-uncomfortable. Love doesn't touch you or do things to you that you don't want to be done. Love doesn't leave bruises. Love knows you are beautiful, Love accepts you for who you are and does not need you to change. Love knows you are doing your best. Love builds you up and believes in you. Love trusts.
When I wasn't checking out vendors and photographing the event, I was people watching and photographing what was going on with the people attending. Lots of people brought their pets. I happened to get a few photographs of these beautiful fur baby supporters too. The little fluffy dog-if i were to ever get another dog-I want this guy. SO very cute. To see the rest of the gallery, follow the link!
The Spring Tampa Bay is a pretty awesome local organization whose mission is to prevent domestic violence, protect victims and promote change in lives, families, and communities. I read their pamphlet and thought it imperative to share some information from them. Directly from their website (www.thespring.org):
Many people do not realize they are in an abusive relationship because they have not yet been physically hurt.
These are the most common warning signs associated with all types of abusive relationships:
- Is your partner insulting you, putting you down or blaming you for everything that happens?
- Is your partner telling you that you are not worthy or “not good enough” to be loved?
- Is your partner excessively jealous and/or overly possessive?
- Is your partner prone to an explosive or “bad temper?”
- Is your partner keeping you from having your own friends, or seeing your family?
- Is your partner keeping you from having your own opinions, or not allowing you to speak freely?
- Is your partner keeping you from carrying or spending money, controlling how much you spend or making financial decisions without your input?
- Is your partner threatening you in any way, which makes you feel afraid?
- Is your partner someone who destroys things or possessions when angry?
- Is your partner pushing, slapping, hitting, kicking, biting, or grabbing you at the neck, or pulling your hair?
- Is your partner forcing you to have sex when you don’t want to?
- Is your partner threatening to hurt or kill you, your children, pets or members of your family?
ANY of the following incidents are signs of increased danger:
- Abuse is happening more often.
- Partner’s controlling behavior becomes more obvious to others.
- Stalking, electronic tracking and checking phone for calls and texts.
- Physical contact or “sex-play” gets rougher.
- Partner tries to strangle you, puts hands around your neck or applies pressure to your neck.
- Partner has access to a gun.
- Partner abuses drugs or alcohol. Increased danger if partner gets drunk or high daily or almost daily.
- Partner threatens to kill self or others.
- You become pregnant and your partner becomes increasingly jealous or controlling.
- Partner is increasingly jealous, suspicious, or possessive.
- Partner hurts or kills pets.
- Partner feels as though he is losing control over you.
- Someone outside of your home becomes aware of the abuse.
If you need help leaving an abusive relationship, call the Spring’s 24 hour crisis hotline: 813-247-SAFE (7233).
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
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