I was recently commissioned to be a guest speaker at a Police Domestic Violence Liaison Officer training course. The focus was on using my own experience as context for:
- challenging the stereotypical views of domestic violence victims and abusive relationships
- how abusive relationships begin
- how the violence escalates
- why victims don’t just leave
- what the Police can do to help
- my experiences with the Police.
The speech was challenging for me because I had to view and discuss my experiences from a different perspective. My articles about domestic violence are written from an insider’s perspective. The intention is to connect emotionally with the reader to help them see the truth of their own situation and leave, so truth, empathy, and encouragement permeate my usual writing style.
My audience was completely different at the training course. I assumed I would be speaking predominantly to people who hadn’t experienced domestic violence first hand, so they would understand domestic violence from a theoretical, but not an experiential point of view. I was also trying to convey a completely different message. Instead of empathising with their experience, I wanted to impart an experiential understanding of domestic violence and the desire to respond to situations in ways that would change the life of victims for the better.
I got unexpectedly emotional at one point in my speech. I was describing the first time I was abused, what happened, and how alone I felt. I could feel the words catching in my throat as I spoke, but after a short pause I was fine. I shed a few tears while writing the speech, but was fine while practising. I wasn’t expecting an emotional reaction while speaking.
My speech got mixed reactions. Some people took up defensive body language with their arms and legs crossed. Some looked neutral. Others were looking at me intently, smiling and nodding in agreement.
This was the first time I’d spoken to a group about my experience, and the first time I’d spoken to people who hadn’t had the chance to get to know me personally. I am much more comfortable blogging about my experiences or sharing them one-on-one than I am discussing them with a group of strangers.
I’m glad I took the time to speak. It was a growth experience for me since it was a personal challenge and outside my usual niche. I wanted to do it because I saw an opportunity to make a difference and challenge the mindset of people who would be directly involved with victims. If even one person took something away from it that will help victims in the future, that’s a lot of lives they will affect throughout their career.
Like this article? Say "thanks" with a soy chai latte!