Last week, I was hosting a dinner party at a restaurant. As we were getting settled at the table, I saw the server and stood up to introduce myself. My mother was a waitress her entire life and I was a busser and waiter for six years, so I think in part my past motivates me to connect with people who work in restaurants.


After about a minute of talking, she pointed to the pendant I wear around my neck and said, “That’s an interesting pendant. What does it mean?”

I told her that it helps me keep top of mind the truths of my life – who I am. She then asked rather quickly, “What are those truths?”

I told her “these truths are not just mine, but rather are the truths for anyone who grows up living with a certain set of circumstances.”

She asked, “What circumstances?”

Instead of answering her question, I asked her one. I said, “Well, let me ask you, did you grow up living with domestic violence?”

That question is so much a part of me at this point that I don’t even think twice about asking it. But often, the reaction I get reminds me of how powerful that question is.

She looked at me directly and said, “Yes, I grew up in a home like that.” I touched her shoulder. She then said, “I still take it day by day.”

I would guess she was 55 or so.

After smiling at her, I looked into her eyes and said, “I am sorry. That must have been a very difficult time, especially being so young. But by now, you must relish each day in realizing that you are free from that experience, from being a child. And obviously, you are beautifully compassionate, because those who suffer during childhood in the home in which they live experience a deep suffering, and only those people can truly understand the suffering of another.”

She stared at me, then looked down. I then leaned over and said, “It’s true, you know.” As she looked up, her eyes were slightly glassy – not tearing, but just enough of a liquid coating over them so that when you blink, the next moment, everything is crystal clear.

The question, “Did you grow up living with domestic violence?” is the first step towards awareness. Awareness itself is more than 80% of change! The awareness leads to understanding. The understanding leads to sharing. These are the keys.

Did you grow up living with domestic violence?

Brian F. Martin
Founder & CEO
CDV-Children of Domestic Violence
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