By SFC Montoya Baylis
Topic: Eliminating Perception and Telling Your Story (Domestic Violence)
Since I became a survivor of domestic violence, the month of October (domestic violence month) has never held as great of a significance as this past year. I looked around and noticed that there wasn’t nearly enough media attention as years past. It could’ve been due to COVID or maybe because I finally realized that I was indeed a survivor that felt the need to become an advocate.
This year is the year that I’ve allowed the world to hear my story of that dreadful night back in 2013. Writing it all down on paper was the most relieving and courageous thing that I’ve ever done. I am no longer hiding it; I’m embracing it as well. I feel like I’ve broken the mold of that pesky sense of perception. Survivors try so hard to continue to live a life that is only perceived perfect from the outside looking in. Whether mental or physical, most outsiders will never be allowed to see the signs of abuse. It all remains hidden under the cloak of perception which includes some twisted, fictional reality that we want so bad to be true.
So why do we rely so heavily on how others perceive our relationships? Maybe the fear of giving up something familiar or failing at something, far outweighs any other obstacles. No one wants to begin again, start fresh, or be labeled a failure. Making a fresh start is perceived as losing time that you will never regain. It’s drifting out into the unknown without your security blanket and no safety net to brace the fall of possible failure. Starting over also comes with the guilt and pain from not listening to the signs and leaving sooner. We are often afraid of what might be perceived if we decide to take control of our life, thus allowing the world to know about our pain and struggles.
As females in the military, we must put on a strong front to be treated as equals within a male-dominated field. Anything less than that is often perceived as being weak or unfit for the rigors of a military career. I am that strong, independent woman that held her own with the guys who would have never thought that I’d feel hesitant to tell my full story until now.
After eight long years, I was able to put pen to paper and tell the story of the night that changed my life for the better. I never knew how upset I was about what people perceived occurred that night, until I began to write my truth. I then realized how others narrated my story without ever questioning what actually happened. There were also those that only knew one side of the story and ran with it for all these years. They assumed and speculated but instead of trying to disprove them back then, I removed myself from the area and made a fresh start.
I needed space and time to be an individual in order to process what happened away from anything that reminded me of that night. Then in 2021, I ran across an opportunity to co-author in a Camouflaged Sisters book, Behind the Rank Vol 5, and it was then that I realized it was time to tell my story. Seeing that announcement requesting women to tell their story was all I needed.
Of all the obstacles that I’ve faced in my life, my journey through and beyond domestic violence was now the one that I immediately wanted to tell. I told my story not only because it was time but also because I am now in a better place and in a position to assist others on their journey past what others perceive to be true.
I finally feel free and no longer need to worry about everyone’s perception of what went on that night since I’ve now given them a first-hand account. Don’t get me wrong, I was never fixated with what others perceived; moreover, as survivors, we are not the ones that should feel shameful or embarrassed. We did not commit an illegal act: therefore, our stories are honorable accounts of survival and perseverance.
I am not just a survivor; this event changed my life and is something that I have to live with daily. I’m not saying that all survivors need to put their story into a book; however, doing so for me announced my story to the world, which was something I’ve wanted to do but never knew how to do it. When we can finally realize that our stories have significance, the courageous act of telling that story becomes the best release whether it’s within a public or private setting. It can sometimes take years to finally be comfortable with divulging all the details, but trust and believe that erasing a stranger’s sense of perception about what happened to you can be such a rewarding and freeing feeling.
BIO: SFC Montoya Baylis is a wife, mother, Soldier, and entrepreneur. She has a master’s degree in accounting and owns The Piggybank Tax Notary, LLC.
Contact email: [email protected]