“Life’s Greatest Sorrow can be Your Greatest Purpose”
I am a mother and wife now living a joyful life. An advocate for victims and survivors of abuse after realizing I would no longer be stifled.
Starting advocacy with my son while he was in high school and both receiving, Speakers of the Year Award our first year is difficult to put into words. We transformed something so tragic in our own lives and have helped pave the way for others to find their voice.
Pure determination. Self-examination and the desire to be happy. A lot of hard work throughout the years. That is how I found my inner strength to help establish who I actually am.
I had to make the decision to heal. No one else could do it for me. So, for those of you that feel alone, just know you are not alone. I used to think so. There are survivors that you can lean on. But you have to want to be happy and heal for yourself – no one else. That is where it has to start.
I am an individual who has taken my personal story to thousands. I have helped those who are suffering and are afraid to ask for help; and I hope to avoid what happened to me from happening to others.
My life took an unexpected turn at the age of fourteen; my uncle raped me. For the next 11 years, my life became a living hell. Long story short, my parents did nothing about the rape, they divorced, and I was sent to a boarding school. I later married an alcoholic who was physically and emotionally abusive toward me. I then finally found the strength to divorce. I later found myself in another unhealthy relationship and was engaged to a man who almost murdered my son during which time he was also abusing me. That was my last straw – abusing my child. The cycle ended there.
I took these experiences and worked through them to reach the level of a true survivor. I became active in my community, which then led me to volunteering at a woman’s center with my son. I then started speaking at colleges, high schools, middle schools and church groups. I provide workshops at conferences and to several groups of “at risk” children throughout the area.
I am also dedicated to numerous organizations to the prevention of Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse and Child Advocacy. Some of these include, but are not limited to, RAINN – Speakers Bureau, Vagina Monologues Cast (2008, 2009), Healthy Families Planning Cmte, Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley, where I was the Sexual Assault Services Coordinator and also taught violence prevention programs to middle and high school students. My son and I were also graciously named the “Speakers of the Year“, 2003-2004, by Women in Distress in Broward County, Florida.
Everything happens for a reason.
“Thank you very much for giving presentations at both of our regional domestic violence conferences. Your workshop, “Domestic Violence Victims, Why Do They Stay?” helped us offer a rich mix of workshops on a wide range of subjects. I heard many positive comments about your workshop during the day. And a number of people, when asked “What did you like best? mentioned your presentation!
Buckey Boone ~ Director of Development, Southwest Virginia Legal Aid Society, Inc.
“Thanks for your powerful presentation at the Domestic Violence Conference. It was so powerful. I am a mature graduate student in the Social Work program. The timing for me to hear your story could not have been better for me. As a result of fear-based attitudes, I was forced to leave my home and community of 35 years overnight. The exhibit has been used as a teaching tool for psychologists, therapists and as a tool for individuals who are working with the issues of “who I was, who I am and who I may become”. It is the story of resilience and pursuing education and the changes that happen when people choose or are forced through life circumstances to individuate and/or change their world-view”.
Graduate Student ~ Radford University
“I had heard Ms. Diaz speak before at the Women’s Resource Center training and both times I felt captivated by her words and was moved by her experiences. I thought it brought the subject matter home to be able to hear from a survivor and see her strength and hear her story. I thought it was interesting to hear her advice for us if we end up in an abusive relationship or even if a close friend does. She had said nobody could have said anything to change her mind, however just offering the resources, such as the phone numbers, somewhere where she definitely would have seen would have helped her to start thinking about leaving. I thought that was a great non-intrusive way to help someone”.
Radford University Student
“I completely agree with the comment about how each person has her own breaking point and that was to you. I found it helpful to present that information so the women in the class can think about what their breaking point is.”
Virginia Tech Student
“Your presentation was very effective in showing that abusive situations often affect more than just one person.”
Virginia Tech Student
“I found your presentation extremely interesting and moving. Being in a class where we learn about violence from all aspects, from the perpetrator, to victim, to prosecutor, it was extremely interesting to hear a personal account and how you dealt with the experiences.”
Virginia Tech Student
“It was very heartfelt and touching, I greatly appreciated it”
“I liked the story she told. Showing and expressing what happened to her. Her experience, why people stay. Thank you for telling us your story”.
“Thank you for sharing and helping bring awareness to others”
“Was very touching and thank you for sharing. It means a lot. I am speechless. Thank you.
“I learned victims point of views”
“This was very heavy, but it helped me toward wanting even more to serve women in need!”
“I learned how each victim has a different reason for staying or leaving”
“I liked her honesty and willingness to tell her story, strengths, weaknesses.
“I learned the effects of trauma”
“I really admire you for having the strength to tell your story and to speak so openly about it”
Why I Help other Survivors
A Guided Path
At three years of age I searched for my doll, Kirsten with long brunette curls, to hug and feel safe.
Then tumbled down the stairs to the cement basement floor – alcoholic mother glaring down with a grin. My memories of my first seven years of childhood are hardly attainable. Snapshot glimpses far imbedded in my mind.
At fourteen I searched for family and my innocence was stolen.
Then tumbled into being stifled, keeping secrets of incest ~ after telling my parents. Being sent to live in a boarding school where there are more secrets to hide.
At fifteen I continued to search for love from family and friends.
Then tumbled upon my mothers insistence on bringing me to smoke-filled bars and disrespectful men followed us home. I hid the unhappiness well, showered smiles on the outside, forcing the pain deep down on the inside.
At nineteen I searched for love and married an abusive alcoholic.
Then tumbled into bruises, more hidden secrets and locked doors. Walking on eggshells, robotic behavior; afterall, my man was thirteen years my senior, shouldn’t I obey? That is all I knew. That is all I was taught.
At twenty-one I searched for love and independence once again.
Then tumbled into pregnancy and confusion. Divorced and single ~ a child about to raise a child ~ I felt I could do it ~ but repeatedly being informed differently. Determined to prove everyone wrong, I held my head high and conquered each day as it was given to me. I found strength and courage as the new life grew inside. I had reason to persevere.
At twenty-one I stumbled upon two loves of my life.
My newborn son, and a handsome police officer. My son is my Angel. He has saved my life on more than one occasion. The police officer would become my 2nd husband, but not until a few life lessons were learned for the two of us as the years continued. Many times I felt like selling out, but that could not be a choice, as I had a child to raise. I needed to be a positive role model. What I didn’t realize, at the time, was what a healthy relationship looked like; but I kept promising to myself and my son I would do everything in my power to raise him the best way I possibly could. I was learning from day to day.
At twenty-three I searched for freedom once again with son in tow.
Then tumbled into yet another horrific unhealthy relationship. I met another man I thought was “perfect”. At first, his actions were ~ then his true colors came through (as abusers actions do). The abuse started slowly with his words, then onto my body. Then more nightmares began. All I wanted was to be loved and have a family unit for my child and myself. Without having the understanding of red flags of abuse and what an healthy relationship was, I had no idea what I was getting myself into with that man. Or any, for that matter. I also did not realize I was unhealthy at that time. I should have worked on healing myself before seeking any new relationships. But I didn’t recognize I was unhealthy. You can’t find joy until you are healthy.
At twenty-seven I searched for the police department to file a report.
Because I tumbled into my son being abused by the man I was engaged to. He abused me for two years and then his hands touched my son. Once he abused my son, that broke the cycle of abuse. No one is going to hurt my child! This monster was then arrested.
At twenty-eight I searched for love again in all the wrong places.
Then finally landed onto the right path. All my life, I did not know what a healthy relationship was. No one educated me, nor did it “click” with me that I needed to learn. I just thought I needed to “get out” when my son was abused. I didn’t take into consideration “why was I continually having unhealthy relationships”. Abusers can “radar in” a victim of abuse – they can sense you. Unless you have self-respect, how can anyone have the same for you? I met many people in my life; would let them start to get close, then I would put the wall up and push them away just as fast as they came near me. I am sure some were good-hearted individuals. But I had no trust. I didn’t want to trust. Finally, I broke that pattern with the help of counseling and was reunited with the man to be in my future.
At thirty-one I searched for what I had ten years prior.
Then found that true love never dies. My current husband, whom I met 24 years ago, promised me when we met we would be together. I didn’t believe him then. I was not in a healthy place to trust. It took 11 years before we were married. “If by chance you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance!”
At thirty-eight I searched to use my voice for victims of abuse.
Then found my passion for life. My son and I volunteered at a Women’s Center in Florida and became members on a Speakers Bureau. We each spoke at schools, churches, civic organizations, etc. about our past traumas. I continued this passion after moving to Virginia. I have been an advocate, speaker, and educator for victims of abuse ever since my son and I walked through those doors together in Florida.
At thirty-nine I searched for information for Survivors.
Then found “48 hrs Investigates” and the Angela Shelton segment. Working with victims of abuse, and being a survivor, this segment drew my attention so deeply. Angela made such an impression on me years ago.
At forty I continued my search for information for Survivors.
Then found “Searching for Angela Shelton” on Lifetime. I was immediately drawn to this movie. How could I do more for my community? Angela was my driving force, an added inspiration, throughout my advocacy work daily. Realizing that Angela created this movie “because she wanted to”, and advocacy work was not her goal – and look what she has created for the world to see and benefit from!
At forty-one I searched for Angela Shelton on the internet.
Then found her websites. My oldest stepdaughter got me hooked on MySpace and I found Angela’s information. As I continued to work with victims of abuse through my employment and my passion with advocacy grew, I reached out to Angela and became involved.
At forty-two I searched for more ways to help Angela’s Foundation.
Then came The Army of Angels and Survivor Manual. Oh, the Joy Journey begins!
At forty-three I realized I did not need to search any longer.
I realized what I truly was searching for was within me all along. True forgiveness of myself was amongst those items. (After all, my unhealthy relationship led to my son being abused). But I had to make that happen, no one else could do it for me. Always searching for answers and apologies for my past traumas; and answers as to why some parents do not take responsibility for their children after they are abused. I found some of my answers and was able to move on with my life.
One of my answers was this: Not everyone is capable to help a victim ~ Education is so important for everyone in the community. Even if they are educated about abuse ~ not everyone is capable of handling the situation. If you tell someone you are in an abusive situation, and they do not help, continue telling others until you receive the help you need and deserve. Don’t give up. There are people that can help you and want to help you.
At forty-four I had reached out to approximately 10,000 students over the course of 3 years.
I realized I wanted to do more. This epidemic of abuse is worldwide and will continue to spread if our voices are not heard from across the world. There is more that needs to be done. We need to put a stop to this violence. Laws need to be changed. Funding needs to be more of a priority for victims of abuse. Violence Prevention Education needs to continue and be consistent throughout this world, and start at an early age in our communities.
At forty-five I reached out for even more ways to use my Voice.
I was asked to be on the Advisory Board for the Angela Shelton Foundation as I continue managing the Army of Angels. I have been involved in various organizations to benefit communities for the past 18 years; it has all been a guiding light to lead me to help other survivors of abuse. I am forever grateful to the Army of Angels.
Let’s be United, use our Voices and Strengths – Let’s make a Difference!
From Victim to Victory ~ Everything happens for a reason
Life’s Greatest Sorrow can be Your Greatest Purpose
How one individual faced multiple challenges of abuse – sexual, physical and verbal – then used these life experiences to help educate others to realize they are not alone. This individual realized how important it is to speak out about the violence and give others the support and the voice they so yearn for.
She suffered sexual assault at the hands of her uncle at the tender age of 14. After informing her parents about the abuse, she was then sent to a private boarding school to deal with the internal pain – alone. She suffered verbal abuse from her mother for years. Her first husband was an abusive alcoholic. During her divorce, she learns she is pregnant. Soon she is involved with another abusive man who is charged with Aggravated Child Abuse. The odds seemed against her…
This upcoming author has helped to prevent violence by educating students on various violence prevention topics, as well as speaking at local colleges and universities. She also is known for her emergency advocacy in the hospitals and police stations for the victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. You may also find her at conferences speaking on topics such as, “Domestic Abuse Victims – Why Do they Stay”.
Soon read how Ms. Diaz found the light and the courage to continue each day to free herself from the internal torture and evolved into a survivor, advocate, educator, speaker, and learned to live a joyful life.